This summer is all set for a blazing start as India’s premiere death metal festival, Domination – The Death Fest takes over the capital. For it’s New Delhi debut, the organizers have put together a line-up that will focus on slow, crushing doom metal. Featuring home grown prog death metallers Fragarak, the old school death metal Winter Gate, miasmic sludge metallers Dirge, Bangalore based sludge / stoner trio Shepherd and the mighty death doom of Primtiv, this fest will likely be one of the loudest and heaviest gigs in the Indian metal circuit. We, at Transcending Obscurity, took the opportunity to talk to the bands and let them tell you why you should be at the gig.
Dirge (Interview by Vidur Paliwal)
Transcending Obscurity (Vidur): Welcome aboard! What was the idea and thinking, behind the name Dirge?
Dirge (Tabish): A mournful song, is how the dictionary would define a dirge. Our understanding of Dirge is that of it being a ballad of death. A piece of poetry that adores, explores and adheres to a dark theme is what Dirge means to us. As this resonates well with the style of our music compositions, we call ourselves Dirge.
TO: In a sea of modern death metal bands popping up across Pune, it was quite a surprise to hear of a doom metal project. How did this come about? Has the fact that the band hails from a city that loves its grooves and growls, in any way influenced the band over the course of time?
Dirge: We have always been big fans of doom / sludge metal and wanted to make music in the particular genre. This actually had very less to do with the state of the contemporary metal scene of Pune at the time. With the behavioural characteristics of the band members, doom was inevitable.
TO: The social media posts of the band indicate that an album is in the works? How are things progressing on that front?
Dirge: Indeed, the album is on its way. We have finished the compositions of all the songs and will be starting to record soon
TO: Also, there seem to be a whole lotta love for the Aztec, Incas and Mayan civilizations? What is the story behind that (and how is age of empires involved!)?
Dirge: Harshad, our bassist, while studying architecture was fascinated with the ancient civilisations of the Yucatan peninsula. The true stories of the Mayan and Aztec civilisations which have been documented by archaeologists are already extravagantly violent. With human sacrifice as a centre piece to their society, these civilisations rose to the zenith of human achievement of their time. Through our music, we have woven a tale around the this omnipresence of death and sacrifice in an extremely advanced society of the time. The story speaks about the paradoxical nature of life and how a life cannot exist without the unavoidable implication of death.
TO: After the debut single ‘Swamp’ last year, the band has indeed gone places playing Bangalore Open Air, Echoes from Beneath, along with a whole other bunch of gigs in Pune, Aurangabad and Mumbai. How has the experience been so far?
Dirge: To be on stage is why we do this and there is no better feeling and we are ecstatic on getting all of these amazing opportunities. Having said that, the Indian metal scene is not quite used to the genre we play and songs with really slow tempos and long durations might not be everyone’s thing. Yet the response has remained to be overwhelming. I guess further evolution of the scene is in order.
TO: Next stop: Delhi! What do you think about Domination Deathfest initiative? Any message for the fans in Delhi?
Dirge: We are playing a specially revised set this time with more originals, fewer covers and a new song. Get ready to be crushed by a wall of fuzz and eat feedback Delhi, we are coming.
Shepherd (Interview by Peter Kotikalapudi)
Transcending Obscurity (Peter): You performed at the Indie March festival last month after a short break. How was the gig? How does it feel performing live again?
Shepherd: The gig was a lot of fun, as expected. We hadn’t played an open air festival in a while, and it was great to get back onto a bigger stage. We think that Indie March was the perfect festival for that. We played a very impromptu set, with extended jams on most of our tracks, so it was definitely a special set.
TO: Your debut album ‘Stereolithic Riffalocalypse’ received positive reviews from around the world. Looking back is there anything you would change about the album?
Shepherd: Not really. It’s a masterpiece!
TO: The album artwork won the ‘Best Album Artwork’ at the Rolling Stone Metal Awards earlier this year. What was the main idea behind the artwork? How was the process of executing it?
Shepherd: Basically we sat down with Sonali (Dangercat) on this idea, of a massive amp in the middle of nowhere. We had a few initial sketches and Sonali just took over from there. Turned out pretty damn great if you ask me, and it does give the listener an idea of what he’s going to get when he sees that artwork.
We also screen-printed a massive poster of the extended artwork, which was definitely a task. But that came out really well. We still have a few of these left, they were limited to 30 pieces. So if you’re a collector, or just want a really sweet piece of art on your wall, get in touch!
TO: Are you’ll working on new material? Can we expect an album/EP release before the end of the year?
Shepherd: Well, we are writing new material, but that’s it. We like to take our time with an album, and when it’s good enough to be released, you will know.
TO: You will be playing your first gig in Delhi at the Domination Deathfest next month. What are you looking forward to at the show?
Shepherd: We’re looking forward to playing to the Delhi crowd! There have been quite a few people wanting to see us in Delhi and nothing ever worked out, until now. So cheers to the guys at Domination Deathfest for putting together a killer line up.
TO: What can fans expect from your set at the Domination Deathfest?
Shepherd: The Riffalocalypse!
Winter Gate (Interview by Peter Kotikalapudi)
Transcending Obscurity (Peter): Jaipur is not a city known for metal bands. How did you meet like minded musicians and form the band?
Winter Gate: I don’t think we ever succeeded in doing so for quite long, eventually we have 3 guys from different cities trying to make it work. Although, Jaipur has metal scene in hints, where most fans are not musicians unlike other cities where I believe, at least 50% of the crowd are musicians, it’s difficult to find people who want to take this seriously, as in put time, money and sweat in it.
TO: You have been recording your debut album in the past few months. What is the current status on it? Tell us a bit about the recording process.
Winter Gate: The recordings happened in periods mostly because of inadequate resources, arrangement and management problems. We even went back and re-recorded some stuff after better equipment made a bit more sense to the sound, but on the brighter side we are nearly done with the record, it’s a long album. We are sorry but it took us sometime to put something that we can stand tall with.
TO: What is your upcoming album about?
Winter Gate: The album is around a phase in a farmer’s life, and his road to redemption. Concept with simple song titles that make the order simpler to relate. Above all the experiments we did it’s still sick and dark.
TO: The album will be released by Transcending Obscurity India. When can we expect it to be released?
Winter Gate: We will definitely release the record via Transcending Obscurity India. It is nearly done, we will put it out later this year.
TO: It has been 4 years since the release of the “DisIllumination” EP. Looking back is there anything you would change about the release?
Winter Gate: There were a lot changes that were brought before and during the recordings. It definitely has hints of disillumination but with regards to our new album titled ‘Pathway Through Redemption’, there is a lot to look out for like live drums, more aggression and wickedness.
TO: What can we expect from your set at the Domination the fest next month?
Winter Gate: At Domination Death Fest, we intend to play a mixed of old-new set list along with a special request that came in lately, we were delighted to have it included.
Fragarak (Interview by Ani)
Transcending Obscurity (Ani): It’s great to see some fresh progressive death metal emerge from Delhi of all places. Tell us something about the inception of the band. What does the name ‘Fragarak’ signify?
Fragarak: Thank you for your kind words! Fragarak was initially formed in early 2012 by Ruben and Kartikeya with an intention towards having a different approach in writing death metal. Fragarak, as a name is derived from Celtic references, which underlies the band’s concept of redemption of music through an introspective journey of thoughts and perspectives, which grows in with certain listens through the song structures.
TO: Coming to the first studio album ‘Crypts of Dissimulation’, which was released back in 2013, it received great reviews in India as well as in the overseas. Take us through the writing and recording process.
Fragarak: We are overwhelmed with all the support we have been getting throughout the years locally and internationally! Most of the ideas for the songs off ‘Crypts of Dissimulation’ were formulated sometime before the entire formation of the band. Arpit joined the band thereafter in 2012 and took over all the lead guitar duties for the band and brought a lot of valuable inputs to the table during the polishing phase. Supratim completed the foundation of the sound through his lyrical themes and his fitting range on the vocals department. The album was recorded at the now called ‘300 BPM Productions’. Our producer, Rahul Mehalwal, played an important role in shaping the tracks the way we wanted it to sound like and helped us capture the vision we were aiming to achieve with our music.
TO: Tell us something interesting about the China tour. How did that happen and how was the reception for Fragarak amongst the Chinese metalheads?
Fragarak: The most interesting part of the China tour was getting to witness a totally amazing musical culture in a region we treaded for the first time that too in a scene that we hear very little about. It happened over a period of time when our good friend and promoter Chen back there, invited us on the bill for the annual music festival and hooked up on shows across Shanghai and Zhenjiang to set up our first international tour. Words would be less to describe the warm hospitality we received there and the response of the Chinese metalheads was much beyond our expectations. It was very special in its own way to play there, making this tour immensely memorable for the band!
TO: How audacious and challenging is the decision to play progressive death metal as it demands intelligent song structuring and unconventional detailing, and given that failed attempts at odd time signatures or technicalities might receive some criticism?
Fragarak: We agree with your point. However, the one thing we do as Fragarak is that we write music for ourselves first and lay down what comes good to our instincts. Not concerning much about critic expectations or genre-adherence, helps to avoid forced writing which personally hinders with our creativity process. What we try is to maintain an onset of changes in emotions and expression of sound towards the musical direction and flow of our songs. Working on the next album, our intention is to challenge the band’s musical boundaries and come up with another approach in forward thinking music writing.
TO: It’s been a while since you guys started working on the next full length. Enlighten us about the progress. Transcending Obscurity India is going to be releasing that one, so when can we expect it to be out via the entity?
Fragarak: The writing of the new album is almost in its final stages, and we are hopeful to enter the studio for the production phase very soon. It should be not be long before the album sees the light of the day this year, if everything works according to the plans we have set.
TO: What are your views on the Delhi metal scene at this moment? What do you think about the Domination Deathfest initiative that’s taking place in your city for the first time?
Fragarak: Though Delhi isn’t the first place to come to mind with respect to the Indian metal scene, the city has been retaining its sense of underground music through these volatile years. Over the past few years just when it is approaching its burgeoning point, the saga of Domination Deathfest couldn’t have had a better moment to strike Delhi! This would be a memorable night for the city’s scene and we intend to contribute to the occasion with an all new set-list live for the first time!
TO: Thanks for answering this interview and good luck to you guys, have a blast!
Fragarak: Thank you too for the interest in our work, we look forward to having one!
Primitiv (Interview by Shrivatsan Ragavan)
Transcending Obscurity (Shrivatsan Ragavan) – Hi guys. Firstly, tell us how the world of Primitiv took shape? Who came up with the concepts and story lines covered in ‘Immortal and Vile’?
Primitiv (Nitin): It’s all the evil handiwork of arguably the most talented lyricist and creative mind in the metal scene today – Riju Dasgupta. He has come up with all the lyrics, concepts, and catchphrases for the Primitiv universe, created various Gods – Taurus, Gonrod, Wen etc and stories around each of them.
TO: Nitin recently won the RMA for best vocalist. (to Nitin) How did you develop this deep vocal style?
Primitiv: The objective for us was to reach out to more people, get our music heard, so it feels good and motivates me to strive for more. Well a lot of credit goes to our producer Ashwin Shriyan for bringing out the best of me. He is a great guy to work it. As for the style, i try and go all out on stage and studio every single time and lots of practice.
TO: Tell us about the new spoken word single Primitiv released.
Primitiv: We wanted to make the concept behind Primitiv, crystal clear in the heads of our listeners. And a spoken word single attempts to do that in an interesting and non-taxing way. It’s also our way to connect to those fans who may not have put as much effort in reading the lyrics (no harm in that). Now, when you go back to hearing the album, it might just be an altogether new experience, hopefully.
TO: Primitiv is all set to make it’s Delhi debut with Domination Deathfest. How excited are you guys? Also, which has been the gig that you guys would call your best?
Primitiv: We have never played in the capital before and this is a rare death doom billing, so we are mighty thrilled. Playing a new city, gets you pumping as you really want to make that first, big impression. So yeah, all guns blazing!
(as for the best gig) Quite a lot, difficult to pick one, but our recent album launch gig in Bangalore at Vapor was a belter, great stage, sound and packed audience. Also Strength of Steel in Kolkata and Insurrection Vol.2 at Vashi, two back to back gigs where the audience energy was incredible.
TO: What is in store for the fans at Domination Deathfest?
Primitiv: Five top class bands with varied sound, including three outstation bands who have never played in Delhi before. As for Primitiv, the original line-up live is what Delhi can expect , which is rare, considering the hectic work schedule some of us have.
TO: Which band are you guys most excited to see?
Primitiv: My personal favourite is Winter Gate, looking forward to see Fragarak too after a long time, with Dirge an Shepherd we have shared the stage recently and they always bring their A game.
Domination – The Death Fest is set to take place at Antisocial – Hauz Khas, New Delhi on May 1st 2016.