Let’s get right to the point: The new album from Singapore’s Rudra is brilliant. From beginning to end, it’s one of the most engaging works of metal we’ve heard this year.
In the ancient Indian collection of Sanskrit hymns known as the Rigveda, Rudra is referred to as a god associated with wind, storm, and lightening. Rudra was also known as the archer and is associated with the hunt and with terrible power.
As noted, Rudra is also the name of a metal band from Singapore who released their first demo way back in 1994 and their debut album in 1998. Five more studio releases have followed, with the last two forming the first installments of a trilogy called Brahmavidya: 2005’s Primordial I and 2009’s Transcendental I. The trilogy is now complete with Rudra’s release on March 3 of Immortal I.
We will come to how these three albums tie together conceptually, but we’ll focus first on the music, as we hear it, on Immortal I. (more after the jump . . .)
The bells toll in the prelude to the album’s first song (“Now, Therefore …”), and an ancient horn calls out to signal the onset — just as the horn is heard again at the album’s end (“Advaita Samrajya”). What this band succeed in doing in between, in every song on the album, is to create music that is resonant and interesting, and also emotionally powerful. It’s dramatic without being pretentious, serious without being dull. It’s both mentally engrossing and physically commanding.
On the genre map of metal, the album stands at the dividing line between melodic black metal and death metal, though there are prog metal tendencies, too. I was reminded at different times of Behemoth, Rotting Christ, God Dethroned, and even Mastodon — but none of those bands are exact fits. The excellent mid-range vocals follow the caustic style of black metal, but the often intricate instrumental music is heavy on the low end, and the production brings the clarity and sharpness of modern death metal.
The generally fast-paced songs share certain characteristics: They’re built around dominant bass and low-register guitar lines that thunder and groan, and that together inscribe memorable dissonant melodies. The drumming is phenomenally good, working seamlessly with the bass and guitars to accent and enhance each song’s development. The drums drive the songs forward irresistibly, but the patterns and progressions are interesting; it’s not all relentless blasting, and the timing and use of cymbals is particularly effective as a counterpoint to all the thunder.
The lead guitar sometimes creates a swarming turmoil, sometimes follows catchy harmonic patterns, but typically uses a variety of tones both high and low, and in almost every song there are attention-grabbing solos, some of them entering the fray subtly and some jetting forward like a burst of white-hot phosphurus.
There’s an almost symphonic quality to the music despite the absence of keyboards. The melodies are dark but often soar skyward like the blaze of an anthem. Usually in subtle ways, but sometimes more overtly, they have an exotic timbre, what I think of as an Eastern influence — and on many of the songs, the vocals include baritone chanting (of what I assume are Vedic mantras).
How does this album connect to the first two in the trilogy, and what do they signify together? We put this question to the band, and here is the answer we received:
“Brahmavidya means ‘Self knowledge’. The knowledge of the Self according to the ancient Vedic tradition relies on three fundamental bodies of Sanskrit literature. The following would help understand the trilogy better:1. The first body of literature are texts that are revealed to ancient seers. These texts are called the ‘Upanishad’. ‘Brahmavidya: Primordial I’ was based on ten such Upanishads.2. The second body of literature are texts that are composed by seers. These texts are broadly called ‘smrti’. These texts help in explaining the first body of literature in a more elaborate manner. ‘Brahmavidya: Transcendental I’ was based on fourteen such Smrti texts.3. The final body of literature is a single text called the ‘Brahma Sutra’. This is a text that uses logic to prove that the Self is Immortal and non-dual. Normally commentaries on this text take a polemical stand and refute all dualistic doctrines. Similarly, ‘Brahmavidya: Immortal I’ takes the perspective of a modern day polemic. The album features the refutation of nine modern dualistic doctrines and two other songs that establish the sovereignty of the Immortal Self.”
I think it’s fair to say that most metal albums aren’t designed with this much thought in their conceptual construction. I don’t pretend to understand most of this, but maybe some of you will.
I’ll tell you what I do understand: This music has wormed its way into my head over many listenings. I get a fucking charge out of it every time I hear the songs. It’s the kind of music I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of hearing. I don’t really have a favorite song, because I like all of them. But here’s one that will give you an idea. It’s not as raging/rampaging as some on the album, but it well and truly hooked me.
Brahmavidya: Immortal I can be ordered from Sonic Blast Media (here) or downloaded from Amazon or iTunes. To learn more about Rudra, their official site is at this location. And now here’s a ReverbNation widget with one more song from the new album (“Ravenous Theories of Deception”) plus previous songs:
[reverbnation widget=pro_player artist_id=1224904 bgcolor=EEEEEE shuffle=false autoplay=false bordercolor=000000 skin_id= width=262 height=200]
There’s something about those Eastern influenced melodies that always gets me.
I’d like to extend well wishes to Phro, hope all is good with him over there in Japan after the events of earlier today.
Also, Islander, good luck there on the west coast this morning.
OMFG! I just woke up and hadn’t looked at the news. What a horrible development. The biggest earthquake to hit Japan in recorded history? A 10m tsunami? 4.4 million homes without power? This is awful. I assume things are OK where Phro is in the Tokyo area — but dude, let us hear from you.
This shit is scary.
I’ve been watching the news for about an hour and a half and they’re showing lots of scary looking footage. It should be on Hawaii in a few minutes or so, at least thats what they’re predicting. Seattle area in about three hours. It should be alot less powerful by then though.
Seattle will be fine. We have a whole mountain range (the Olympics) between us and the Pacific coast. What’s really scary is that the tsunami’s waves are higher than many Pacific islands in its path to the east. This is going to be a day of bad news for a lot of people.
Yum yum, I’m liking it, and I’m with Byrd on the oriental sounding melodies.
I’m also with him on wishing Phro well and hoping he and his girlfriend and friends are doing fine.
Yikes that sounds really bad. When I read the news, the first thing I thought of was Phro. So I stopped by here to wish he and his freinds well and to hear some awesome music.
The earthquake and Tsunami could have been much worse, but whether it killed 300 or 300,000, it still sucks. Maybe Augury’s re-released Concealed playing in my car caused the tremor. I’ll look into it.
Augury certainly causes earthquakes in my head when I listen to them. No word from Phro yet . . .
Some of the vocals weren’t my cup of tea, but I’ll definitely be listening to RUDRA again.
Hope to see Phro comment soon.
Glad you like Rudra! As for Phro, I just read that the entire Tokyo system of commuter trains and subways have been shut down and cellphones in the city have been rendered largely useless by service outages. He may be stuck somewhere . . .
It’s fucking insane, I thought the floods we had over here in Aus not so long ago were bad, not that they weren’t, but this Tsunami makes the the Toowoomba floods look like a paper cut.
I’m crossing my fingers for Japan and all others effected.
Thanks for thinking of me!
For a fun time, look at the tsunamis in sendai….
Water is terrifying. And metal.
Here he is!
Just wanted to ask, If or How much did you shit yourself?
What Leighton said. (I’m glad to hear you’re in one piece.)
Hahaha! Not much, actually…tokyo is pretty far from the epicenter…
But at 8 floors up, it seemed like we were there…
Still, it was fun for the first few seconds. Then annoying and then frustrating and then just goddamn terrifying!
Yeah I bet. I like to think I’m tough, but I know I would’ve needed a new pair of pants!
Here’s a weird piece of news: I just got a press release saying that High On Fire was in Tokyo, set to perform tonight, when the earthquake hit. They’re unharmed, but what’s weird is that they were also in Christchurch, NZ during the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that happened on Feb 22 — which was the worst one to ever hit NZ, just as the Japan quake today was the worst one ever to hit that country. If I were in charge of immigration in a foreign country, I’d start to think twice before letting HOF into the country. 🙂
HOF must be counting their lucky stars that they’ve survived two record breaking acts of devastation.
But if your a devastating act (Band) yourself it’s understandable, what a coincidence huh!
Is no-one else thinking what I’m thinking?
That HOF are clearly the CAUSE of these disasters? Obviously they’ve been sound-checking with the metal equivalent of “the brown note”… a riff so powerful that the earth itself trembles!
That thought did cross my mind. This is a legend-enhancing kind of experience for band. Probably had something to do with the press release. I still wouldn’t let them in my country if I were in charge of immigration. In fact, I’m not sure I want them playing in Seattle any more.
Good to know you’re safe and well!
Good to hear you’re alright mate!
I’m sold. This sounds pretty interesting. Thanks for the heads-up, brocephus!
Glad you liked it! And thanks for stopping by.
I’m really scatterbrained today. I meant to mention this in the original post, but better late than never I guess. I first discovered Rudra about one month ago when we included a video of a song from the band’s last album before this new one (“Primordial I”) in a post called “East Meets West”. Through that post, we made contact with the band and got a chance to hear the new album, which led to this review. If you missed that earlier post, the video is worth seeing — it took two months to film and is loaded with CGI effects, and the song is another good one. Here’s the link:
The album is available for $12 plus shipping from the RCR website.
These have been added to my list of bands whose entire discography I now need to collect.
Wow! Very nice to hear.