GIG REVIEW: Bangalore Open Air 2013

It was a just another end-of-summer weekend in the software capital of India with showers rampant across the city of Bangalore on the eve of India’s largest metal festival. The spirits were high, literally at the ‘Bak Bak Bar’, with The Score Magazine bringing together 5 bands- Fragile Silence, Nihilus, Providence and the ‘Wacken Metal Battle India’ finalists Devoid and Sycorax, the former being the lucky band to play at Wacken Open Air later in August. A night of growling, riffing and drinking conveniently missed by our staff with all due regret. Also coming along as a shock was Sodom cancelling their participation in Bangalore Open Air (B.O.A) 2013, which surely didn’t go well with the fans. Considering Sodom been topping the most anticipated band polls in the websites of the various media partners, it was a real heartbreak to all those fans when Sodom quoted organizational issues as the reason for backing out at the eleventh hour. With the slowly-fading gloom of a fan favourite missing for the second time running, B.O.A-13 went into D-Day with an impressive line-up of new-age instrumentalists Animals as Leaders, Norwegian progressive band Leprous, Black Metal legend Ihsahn, Swedish Melodic metallers Dark Tranquility and American thrash exponents Iced Earth. And blimey wasn’t it a day to remember.

B.O.A-13 was held at the Jayamahal Palace Grounds, a spacious grassy area behind the classy Jayamahal Hotel. Many considered it an upgrade over the previous edition’s venue in terms of the location and parking facilities. The latter deserve a special mention, with bikes and cars seamlessly flowing in and out of the parking area without any hassles, something virtually impossible in Bangalorean conditions. The stages were named in lieu of the passing and the anniversary of Jeff Hanneman, founding guitarist of thrash gods Slayer and Ronnie James Dio, the popular vocalist who collaborated with bands like Black Sabbath, Elf and his very own Dio. The gates to metal paradise were all set to open to the thronging crowds

By the time our correspondents could grab their passes and enter the venue after waiting on quite the never-ending line, the Wacken Metal Battle India finalists Sycorax and Devoid had finished their respective sets. Yet, from what they could hear from outside the venue, Devoid seemed to set the arena rocking to their power-driven riffs, ferocious drumming and pounding growls for the limited time they were given. Not to be judgmental, but they sure have it in them to improvise and become a force to reckon with in the budding Indian metal scene.

Speaking of forces to reckon with, the gig officially began with our very own Demonic Resurrection taking stage at The Dio. A band that has been prominent in spreading the wings of metal music in the country and its equally prominent front-man Sahil Makhija a.k.a The Demonstealer had the attention of the burgeoning audience with tracks that combined brilliant guitar play blended with a really distinct sound on keys in the background. Although sometimes branded over-the-top, The Demonstealer’s interactions with the crowd were genuine this once, with his expressing his honour to perform on the same stage that was going to host the likes of Iced Earth and Ihsahn. A limited set list was still enough for Daniel Rego to solo his way into the bobbing heads of the crowd, with bassist Ashwin Shriyan sometimes swaying his dreadlocks in an unmatched frenzy. In terms of musicality,  Demonic Resurrection played at a typically pacey tempo with Demonstealer going gung-ho on the harsh vocals but sometimes falling flat on the cleaner sections. Viru was simply superb behind the drum-kit, complementing the others upto the tee, especially during the interludes in ‘Apocalyptic Dawn’. On the whole, to quote The Demonstealer, the band made sure the crowd ‘was cheery and demonic’.

SETLIST:-

  • Where Dreams & Darkness Unite
  • A Tragedy Befallen
  • Dismembering The Fallen
  • Apocalyptic Dawn
  • The Unrelenting Surge Of Vengeance

Right when Demonic Resurrection were done propagating their ‘Unrelenting Surge of Vengeance’, Animals As Leaders just began churning out their brand of technical brilliance, with Tosin Abasi strumming, riffing, picking, tapping…pretty much doing all that one can to make music with a giant 8-string electric guitar. With a majority of the crowd expecting them to be just another instrumental band, this trio of technically like-minded musicians not only made them jump(read mosh) in joy, but also enjoyed playing out to a crowd, as evident from Tosin’s toothy grins. The other guitarist Javier Reyes was sometimes found to actually hum the notes he was strumming on his own 8-string, his enthusiasm curtailed by the relatively inept sound settings for his guitar. Keeping up with the trend of modern drummers using a tad smaller kit around them, Matt Garstka made up for the lack of numbers with the sheer vigour with which he kept pace with his band mates’ rapidness and dynamism. Into their third number, Matt’s kick simply couldn’t take his force and much to everyone’s surprise, Matt included, simply tore out. Yet, this only pumped up Animals As Leaders, with Tosin and co. belting out track after track, each one standing out for its sheer technicality and the cohesive brilliance in sound. After around 45 minutes of having the audience spellbound with their tunes of magic, Animals as Leaders gave into repeated demands for their most popular track ‘CAFO’, signing off in style. This is an experience they are surely bound to remember, so would the lucky guy who managed to catch Matt’s torn drum head that was tossed into the crowd.

SETLIST:-

  • Wave of Babies
  • Tempting Time
  • Earth Departure
  • Do Not Go Gently
  • Point to Point
  • Cylindrical Sea Thoroughly at Home
  • Isolated Incidents
  • Somnarium
  • An Infinite Regression
  • Weightless
  • CAFO

Just about when a rather inebriated fan was bemoaning, yet again, the absence of Sodom, a distant moan ebbed from the Dio stage. Upon rushing there did we behold Leprous, one of the many modern progressive bands to emerge out of Norway, Europe’s metal capital. A young, modern band making waves across the world with their live acts, Leprous surely saved their best for their performance at Bangalore Open Air. With the onus of having no sorts of expectations riding on them, Leprous played songs from their first album ‘Bilateral’ and one track from their latest release ‘Coal’. Characterized with the kind of intensity that is rarely seen in live acts, Einar Solberg and his band of merry men came up with 4 electrifying songs, each containing this distinct blend of haunting vocals and synths, groovy guitar riffs that gets one to head-bang subconsciously and excellent underplayed drumming that synched with the overall music. This was evident while ‘Chronic’ was being played, with Solberg rhythmically head-banging to the playing off between guitarists Tor Oddmund Suhrke and Øystein Landsverk and simultaneously dabbling on the keys for some really dark undertones that fit each track like a glove. Solberg’s vocal skills are simply amazing, with his high pitched wails complementing his smooth, multi-octave voice. Evidently, he had the Leprous flag flying at full mast throughout the gig. And of course, Suhrke’s being the other fluttering component.

SETLIST:

  • The Valley
  • Chronic
  • Restless
  • Thorn

Those expected thorns at the pathway out of the stage after ‘Thorn’ were in for a pleasant surprise. With a few lucky ones getting a glance of him during the Animals As Leaders act, Ihsahn walked up the Dio stage and greeted the crowd with a simple yet accented ‘Namaste’. In what was either a mere coincidence or a proof of Satanist symbolism, there were darkened clouds over the grounds, with a hint of drizzles upon Ihsahn taking the stage. He was joined by is backing band, Leprous again and with no further ado, they went about their business of having the crowd awed. The man who has been a musician throughout his life played music that most in the crowd hadn’t heard even once. Ihsahn played tracks mostly from his 2010 album ‘After’, conjuring some amazing technical black metal. He was amply backed by Leprous, with Einar Solberg again exhibiting his very wide vocal range, sometimes even growling along with Ihsahn. Everything from the lighting, the drizzling at the start of the set, the tone of the songs had a very dark and gloomy feel to it. Yet, the response was a tad disappointing with the crowd mostly dormant throughout Ihsahn’s act. Evidently, his is one for the aficionados, thoroughbred black metal listeners or atleast some good old Emperor fans. One couldn’t simply but notice the rock’n roll feel to the intro of ‘Called by the Fire’, which was simply the stand-out track out of the whole set.

SETLIST:

  • On the Shores
  • Arrival
  • Called by the Fire
  • Frozen Lakes on Mars
  • Unhealer
  • The Paranoid
  • The Barren Lands
  • A Grave Inversed
  • The Grave

If Ihsahn had sung ‘The Grave’, then Dark Tranquillity got about CONSTRUCTing one. For the newbies, ‘Construct’ in Dark Tranquillity’s latest album and promotions for the same were evident as as much as three tracks were from the same. Right when most people were chilling out at the stalls by the stages, the characteristic hum of the intro to ‘Terminus’ was heard from the Jeff Hanneman stage. As everyone flooded into the arena, the lights came on and Mikael Stanne’s rasping voice blared out. The perfect start to the most anticipated act of the evening. Any band would feel bogged down with a member leaving them, but Daniel Antonsson wasn’t missed. Not one bit no! With Martin Henriksson and Niklas Sundin, both sporting new looks, playing off against each other and Martin Brändström dutifully working his magic behind the keys, Dark Tranquillity were one band who enjoyed playing to the crowd. And the crowd-didn’t they liven things up. With frequent chorus shouts for requests and even singing along for most songs, this was perhaps the most energetic act of the evening. All this would have been perfect to the tee but for Henriksson’s sound apparatus failing in the middle of the act. Stanne saved the day with his absolutely delightful crowd interactions and regularly beaming at random sections of the crowd, a few times at our photographer too. His vocals were just as expected, his quintessential pose of bending down at the edge of the stage and vigorously head-banging to his screeching making a big impact with the audience. Drummer Anders Jivap was clearly enjoying his time behind the glistening kit behind him, his drumming filled with the punch and vigour every Melodic Metal band would dream of having along during their live acts. Perhaps the only band of the evening to have either a slideshow or the music video playing in the background,  Dark Tranquility’s eleven track set came to an end at around the hour mark, with Stanne stating that his second visit to India was even more special that the first. Every member of the audience would share the same feeling too.

SETLIST:

  •  Terminus (Where Death Is Most Alive)
  •  Zero Distance
  •  The Wonders at Your Feet
  •  The Science of Noise
  •  Endtime Hearts
  •  Lethe
  •  Lost to Apathy
  •  Misery’s Crown
  •  Therein
  •  Uniformity
  •  The Fatalist

Right about when the fatal impact Dark Tranquillity had made at the end of their last song, the speedy riffing of ‘Dystopia’ filled everyone’s ears. There was chaos at the entry to the Dio stage, yet again, as people rushed onto the grassy arena to catch a glimpse of American thrashers Iced Earth, who had finally made it to B.O.A this time after the visa fiasco during the previous edition. With long-time drummer Brent Smedley leaving the band exactly a couple of months prior to the date of B.O.A, expectations were high from the new guy Raphael Saini. Again, blow to any band, Iced Earth were absolutely professional in handling their internal issues and came up with a show to remember. With Stu Block screaming and growling his lungs out to match guitarists Jon Schaffer’s and Troy Steele’s high tempo. Handling the drums for a band that has been playing pure heavy metal for the better part of two decades for a gig within a month is no small feat, and Saini showed some brilliant work with his kicks, clearly being focussed on what he is to do best. The focus although was on Stu, who has impressed both die-hard fans and the new wave of Iced Earth with his usually energetic self and his ease at interacting with the crowds. Gimmicks like frequently climbing onto the drumkit, flashing a Guy Fawkes mask in lieu of the track ‘V’, hinting at the movie of the same name. Considering the substantial changes made to the line-up over the years, Iced Earth managed to fix onto a setlist that covered tracks from all of their ten studio albums and playing them as to suit the current musicians’ style at the same time. Kudos to the band! The lead guitarist that he is, Steele underplayed himself and yet managed to belt out some amazing solos as and when he had to, without taking the adulation for the same. Schaffer kept chugging along, his facial caricatures being a delight, for every different tune had an equally vigorous expression. Such is the effect of playing pristine heavy metal over such a long time. At the end of their set, after playing their ever-popular title track, Iced Earth earnt all the respect they got as they took a bow and tossed drum sticks and guitar picks to the crowd.

An evening of noise to all those around the venue but to those inside, it was 6’th metal heaven, the next level being denied by Sodom’s absence. With the fest ticking on pretty much everything, right from parking, food and beverages to merchandize and crowd handling, there were quite a few things that left a bad taste in the mouths of many a people. The entry to the Dio stage being chaotic during every single time the crowd had to switch stages, volunteers who were as much as in their pre-teens selling alcohol coupons and the media personnel given only restricted entry into the pit were just a few minor issues the organizers need to iron out as they embark on mission B.O.A-2014.