(In this post India-based guest writer deckard cain reviews the debut album by an Indian group named The Down Troddence.)
As the world turns a year older, as the cosmos realigns itself, as darkness dusts off its latest guise, humanity shall once again usher in a new age of depravity and violence. Sometimes faith is not always associated with religion, but in the gradual degeneration of the human race. 2013 bore witness to tyranny, unilateralism, despotism, and general wanton disregard. Just another page in the book of nations crumbling, economies entering concentration camps, diplomatic acrobatics, and brazen aggression. The passing of the year is just another point of reflection on human unity/irony. How we’ve all joined hands in lighting the fuse that burns ever so slowly, yet moving forward to that eventuality of lasting peace, with a scent of gunpowder.
But amidst all that unappealing chaos is this likeable and harmless variant. A manifestation of notes, tones, and patterns that has grown to become our lifeblood. Heavy music has forever kept our frustrations at bay and in a way made them enjoyable masochistically. It did so in 2013 and it will do it again in 2014, hopefully.
Despite listening to all those international releases, sometimes one does ache for something entirely homebred.
The Down Troddence’s debut album How are you? We are fine, Thank you, released on the very 1st of January, was understandably the first thing I heard this year. The band undoubtedly draws its name and ethos from the inimitable underbelly of the Indian classes, the lowest strata, the weak and the marginalized. The country has always been a breeding ground of exploitation, slavery, and overt condescension which still rears its ugly head from time to time. And yet the land is a magnificent blend of cultures, beauty, and economic power. A dichotomy that evokes anger and admiration. A double-edged sword.
The band’s music addresses these, but in a more localized manner (from their city of origin: Kannur, India), through the eyes of the downtrodden. Finding anger where it deems fit, they use it to picture and voice protest against several social issues, citing several local incidents, individuals, and iniquitous practices as a springboard to do so. What it calls for is a mishmash of different genre styles. But they primarily resort to thrash, groove, eastern folk, and a bit of that much despised (not here though) core.
The folk influences, specifically the indigenous art forms of Kerala (a State in India), hold a definite bearing on the record, and are in fact what truly keep the album afloat and make it sail. They manifest themselves as serene interludes, Carnatic leads, and chimes, and piece the rest of the music together. At the forefront of this rather tasty conjuration is lead guitarist Varun and keyboardist Sushin, deft at their craft. Vocalist Munz’s venom-laced delivery further invigorates the already charged-up lyrics. The rhythm section doesn’t do anything substantial for the most part, except for Nezer’s bass work, which can be heard rumbling away, at times prominent (checkout the track “Shiva”), reinforcing the grooves.
Nonetheless, there are a few personal qualms that I’d like to point out. For instance, the snare beat has a rather hollow, buffed-up sound, which is at times too much in the mix. That’s one issue I find with the otherwise above-par production of Keshav Dhar (of Skyharbor fame). In addition, there are a few tracks, such as “Hell Within Hell”, “Death Vanity”, and “KFC”, that for me falls a tad flat in terms of groove and general sensibility. They sound more like a tepid metalcore effort with the eastern sound almost entirely absent.
But tracks like “Forgotten Martyrs”, with its absolutely surreal and catchy-as-hell lead work, “Shiva”, with its war chants, “Nagavalli”’s crushing groove, and the ethereal closer of “Chaapilla”, are all laced with that ebullient eastern coating that truly does truly. It’s the reason why people will come back to listen to the album once the dust of an initial album release excitement settles down. And it is hopefully the way they forge ahead.
Bottom line: A breath of fresh air in the still nascent Indian Metal scene.
P.S. The album has some godly pencil-drawn artwork by Abhijith VB.
Note: The video of the song below was an earlier recording of the song “Shiva”.
Nagavalli is tasty for sure =]
I had no idea this was coming out New Year’s Day until I logged into my facebook and saw their post. Mechina and TDT on the same day!
I got the album on the strength of Nagavalli (which I only knew of thanks to NCS), and I’d have to say I’m not disappointed by the remainder. I think you’ve summed it up well, a seriously classy mix of Indian traditional music and various subgenres of metal. I got to thinking that between the sound and the lyrical themes, that this isn’t no much a ‘eastern/world music-meets-metal’ album, but a metal album from an Indian band, with their place of origin firmly stamped on the outcome; a subtle distinction, perhaps, but when seen under the lens of the latter the more straight-out metal tracks come as no surprise, rather than tracks with “the eastern sound almost entirely absent”, if you see what I mean?
The other thing that struck me was the use of wah pedal on the lead guitars, some seriously tasty notes! It seems wah is just out of fashion these days or something, because I really noticed how I hadn’t heard that sound in what seems like ages.
All in all, a very solid debut, I’m definitely going to be spinning this a lot in the year to come.
Oh, I forgot to add for anyone else reading this keen to pick up the album digitally you can get it in MP3 format from that site oklisten.com linked above. I’d never heard of the site before, but it seems legit and for 199 rupees the album’s a steal.
‘a metal album from an Indian band, with their place of origin firmly stamped on the outcome’. I am inclined to agree with you there and frankly, i was caught in between actually calling it an ‘eastern’ influence or just metal with a few Indian leanings. Unlike say ‘Orphaned Land’ which has much more of a pronounced eastern influence.
OK Listen had a few other artists on it, for instance Bevar Sea’s debut album last year. And like you said for just 200 its a steal.
this sounds amazing, and i love that artwork!
Yeah the artwork rules. Heres’ the link to the complete stuff.
“Shiva” sounds to me like a mix of Lamb Of God (specifically As The Palaces Burn and “Ruin”, my personal favorite album and song from the band) and Children Of Bodom – musically. Dunno what to compare the vocals to off the top of my head.
And the vocal style does seem like an Amon Amarth song in particular but then again i am pretty sure the band were unaware of the influences creeping in. Also LoG and CoB are likely to be their influences as well. I still found it to be good though, especially the carnatic solo towards the end of the track.
It was still great though, and really quite original. They made the combo seem fresh (to me at least; I’ve strangely never heard LOG and COB put together like that), and the subtle eastern influences give them an extra bit of originality and flair.
The version of the song on the album gotta few changes and complete overhaul of the production. Sounds better in fact. Glad you like it.
Excellent review. Going by what you say, it can’t be as bad as One expected upon reading the silly album & song titles.
Additionally, One thanks you for the heads up on the preorder for the physical on Flipkart. [Stupid Facebook…]
Mighty thanks old man. And no it isn’t.
Thanks for the post. I liked the band so much I bought the album. Very affordable, 199 rubles is only like $3.
Shiva is a rip off of a ‘Transmetal’ song.riff to riff ! mexico barbaro i think. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BPKQNrIq37U. There. uncool.as fuck.
haha. I must admit, that does sound similar. Although i do feel there is only a slim chance that they’d heard about transmetal.
One can’t hear that much similarity. And the riff seems simple enough to come up more than once in the history of heavy metal music. So, One doubts it’s really a rip-off.
That said, one can’t really disprove it.