Durance Of Hate III - The Habitat, Mumbai, India 24.11.19

Written by: Líam_Hughes
Published: 27.12.2019

Darkrypt photo by Anurag Sharma

When one thinks of the country of India, many things may spring to mind: food, yoga, hot weather, sprawling landscapes, colourful clothing, insane traffic, or perhaps even a rich and diverse ecosystem. Whatever comes to mind, a very unlikely subject to spring forward is extreme metal. Yet this is a powerful entity that exists throughout India, throbbing beneath the ever-developing society and creeping through its urban streets like a vine. It is one of the many pleasant surprises I have encountered along my travels through this beautiful and unpredictable country as an Irishman. Extreme metal thrives on waves of an emotionally charged thirst that courses through India's veins like a kind of sonic microbiome system. It provides thousands of individuals of this country (as it does across the globe) a release, an escape, and a chance to breathe. The drive for extreme metal in India is unlike anything I have seen thus far in my years following metal around the world. The metalheads of India breathe this extreme art form to a harder, more excitable rhythm.

So on a warm, muggy night in Mumbai, I decide to venture into the Khar district of this sprawling city to attend an event called the Durance of Hate III, where I would bear witness to four of India's many extreme metal bands. I enter the venue to hear the rumblings of noise, that familiar vibration that serves as a warm welcome, oozing from within the depths of the large complex. I follow the sound up the stairs and through some winding corridors until I reach a final door. Upon entry, I find myself within a spacious, darkened room that seems to be lit by only a fiery red glow on the opposite side. I can almost feel the sound physically hit me in the face. Raw, scathing, relentless black metal. It feels good.

Within the red glow onstage stand three looming figures smeared with corpse paint. Behind them is a drummer who sounds more machine than human. This is Stark Denial, one of India's definitive black metal bands. Their sound is firmly entangled within the second wave of '90s Norwegian black metal, yet is played with a tight and vicious ferocity that reinvigorates the style. The atmosphere that Stark Denial create is suitably satanic and the precision of the playing is outstanding. I look at the crowd and notice how easy it is to pick out those who are already fans of the band and those who are experiencing Stark Denial for the first time: the fans are notably expressive in their appreciation, while the first-timers stand in awe of the spectacle, their faces expressing a wondrous blend of fascination and sheer terror. The incredibly imposing frontman towers above the audience, releasing a barrage of blood-curdling screams that are backed by fiery, tremolo-picked riffing and a weighty, distorted bass. The sound is apocalyptic and fierce as hell. Stark Denial tear through an exhilarating set of Carpathian Forest- and Gorgoroth-inspired black metal, closing out their set with an impressive cover of Satyricon's "Mother North", which awakens some of the terrified audience members as if they finally understand what it is that they are beholding. Stark Denial create the perfect tribute to '90s black metal with the perfect infusion of Indian energy. The crowd is hooked. They're in for the long haul.

Stark Denial photo by Anurag Sharma

With barely enough time to catch a breath, the evening's second band takes to the stage and immediately starts to further shake things up. Mumbai's own Darkrypt launch into a vicious assault on the attendees with their electrifying brand of death metal. The sound is rooted in a style of technical death metal that recalls the likes of Suffocation and Decrepit Birth yet is peppered with progressive elements that sound akin to Gojira, sometimes more modern in its approach. It is brutal, tight, and invigorating. The highly skilled and suitably intense frontman holds attention and creates suspense; he seems like a man on the edge, as if he could snap at any moment. His vocal range is impressive, jumping from high screams to low growls with equal power and rage. Not only do Darkrypt feel what they are doing, they visibly enjoy it (the six-string-wielding bass player rarely breaks from his beaming smile, one of the happiest death metallers in the room). A mosh pit opens up and bodies start flying. Darkrypt intensely electrifies the room and puts the entire crowd through an audible meat grinder with no holding back and no remorse. The whirlpool of sweaty bodies gains velocity with every passing moment. Bodies collide and hit the floor, legs flail through the air, and stray fists circulate throughout. Yet there is a strong sense of camaraderie felt in the room. As wild as things appear at first glance, there is an exchange taking place that none outside this space could possibly understand. Darkrypt are the conductors of this energy, and hats off to them for such an impressive display of power.

Darkrypt photo by Anurag Sharma

Next up are Hyderabad heroes Hostilian, who continue to push the flurry of energy upon the Bombay crowd, hammering spectators with their hard, groovy breakdowns and air-tight riffing. Their stage presence is energetic, as each band member stands still for barely more than ten seconds. The feral frontman bounces around the stage consistently throughout the entire set, a human cyclone of primeval energy. The drummer is thrashing his heart out while also displaying most impressive footwork. Their sound is akin to the Bleeding Through era of early-'00s metalcore, albeit with some modern touch-ups, particularly with the creative time signatures explored within their breakdowns. Hostilian interact with the frantic crowd superbly and even induce an impressive wall of death, creating a collision of bodies that converge to the sound of a juggernaut breakdown. The atmosphere in the now sweaty and electrically charged room is akin to one within an intimate MMA cage in its final moments of life as a host. There is a sense of urgency as members of the audience scramble to catch their breath before hurtling themselves towards each other. Hints of Lamb Of God at their very best shine through, although tweaked for a fresher sound. Hostilian smash all preconceptions I may have had of this genre while pushing out its boundaries that little bit: this is metalcore done right.

Hostilian photo by Anurag Sharma

The night's headliners, Atmosfear, take to the stage to great applause. These Bombay veterans are about to drive a stake through the heart of tonight's festivities and finish off the beaten crowd once and for all with their brand of old-school death metal that recalls the glory of Florida's early days. Through their whirlwind assault of Morbid Angel- and Deicide-flavoured death metal, Atmosfear demand the last of the audience's energy. In turn, the crowd willingly gives the last of itself to the carnivorous sound of chugging riffs and lightning-fast blastbeats. While the three-piece does not physically move with the same energy as some of the previous bands tonight, its music instead does the talking… or growling, as the case may be. This is the kind of death metal that does exactly what it says on the tin, and the room laps it up. It is the perfect finish to the evening, the final blow. By the night's end, the scene is a bloodless massacre, a cathartic exercise akin to a mass exorcism. This third edition of the Durance Of Hate was nothing less than an expression of love.

Atmosfear photo by Anurag Sharma

This emotive flair that is surging through the Indian underground is particularly striking. Be it a side effect of the social or economic environment of these fans, perhaps indicative of a burning desire for that cathartic release, or simply just an involving art form appreciated by a passionate people, heavy metal is very much alive and well in the country of India. It is forging its very own individual path that constantly hints at great things to come. After what I've seen in the Indian metal scene so far, I strongly believe that there will come a time when the rest of the metal world will look to India for inspiration. As we have in the past looked towards Norway for black metal, the US for death metal, and the UK for doom, India will one day offer up its unique flavour of heaviness to the world's table, served on a silver plate of this special blend of enthusiastic aggression.

Keep an eye on this development and explore some of the bands that this exciting country has to offer; I think you'll be hearing from India in the not-too-distant future.

Interview: Stark Denial.

I got to exchange some words with the ghouls of Stark Denial while in Mumbai. Here is what they had to say…

When/Where was the band formed?

Stark Denial is from Mumbai and was formed in 2006 but we got our first strong line-up in 2009.

What was the mission or goal when you started?

When we started it just me (Kunal, vocals) and Ruark (guitar) and we used to jam on death metal covers of bands such Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Vader, etc. but we wanted to do something different - hence we took up the direction of being a black metal band and we decided then to set a path for this genre in our town. When we started jamming as a black metal band we did have keyboards, but then we wanted to create fierce and aggressive songs, hence we cut the keyboards and just went with the straight in-your-face black metal attitude, just keeping in mind that even if a metalhead might not be into black metal by listening to our songs we for sure as hell will make them bang their heads, which is what we have been doing to date.

What would be your greatest aspiration?

Things happening around are the biggest inspiration for us as a band. We are not a fictional band with fictional stories. We write our experiences through anger and agony. And if we will try to be something else, then it wouldn't be Stark Denial. At the end of the day music draws inspiration from personal experiences. Everybody in the band listens to black metal and its subgenres and you'll see a lot of '80s inspiration in our music, especially the second wave of black metal. So our biggest aspiration has to be being real and not compromising in what we feel. We've been playing the same kind of music from the time we came into existence and we still do. There has to be no compromise in art and we consciously and unconsciously make sure that we stick to our roots.

What are the lyrical themes/concepts behind the music?

We have released an EP that is titled War, which basically revolves around the entire concept from the inception till the end once all enemies have been wiped out. For our debut full-length, titled Covenant Of Black, we took a different approach and the lyrics are more personal experiences-driven and with a lot of hatred inherent in them.

How is your musical style viewed by the general public in India?

In India the reception for black metal is decent. It's growing with time. We are not a cold country, unlike Western bands that draw inspiration from atmosphere and their surroundings. I think that is one of the major reasons for people to relate to this type of music in the West. India did have a good number of black metal bands, but from the past few years we've been the only black metal [band] that is still active and making music. People are getting exposed to this genre through us and they have started digging it. They're curious about how we paint our faces and the kind of sound that we create through our music.

What do you see for the future of Indian metal?

The future for Indian metal looks bright. A lot of Western bands are making sure that they play in India every couple of years. India has seen metal bands like Iron Maiden, Metallica, Slayer, Testament, Gojira, Behemoth, Animals As Leaders, Septicflesh, Immolation, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, Abbath, Satyricon, Meshuggah, Enslaved, Rotting Christ, Nile, Overkill, Napalm Death, Belphegor, Inquisition, Enslaved, Alcest, etc., and many more acts that I can't think of right now.
Metal is a major part of music festivals these days and in spite of all the changes that happen with time and the trends that do come and go. Metal always stays in spite of what if and may. A good number of bands from India do tour in the US and Europe regularly and people in the West are indeed getting familiar with Indian bands. Recently Bloodywood, a band from New Delhi, was invited by Wacken this year. An invitation to play? At Wacken? Sounds cool. Doesn't it?

What other Indian bands should people be aware of?

India has a big number of bands. And it does have a diverse metal culture. Depends on what kind of music you dig but one should definitely checkout bands like 1833 AD and Heathen Beast, which are black metal bands. Bloodywood is a nu metal band that is influenced by Indian sounds. Dirge and Shepherd, which are sludge bands. Amorphia and Chaos from South India are two major thrash bands from India.

...Any final words?

We would like to thank all the metalheads over the years who have supported us and liked our music. We will keep doing it as long as we can and keep the black metal flag flying high in India.

Stark Denial photo by Vikas Salgia

Thanks to Anurag Sharma and Vikas Salgia for the photos and Stark Denial for the words.



Comments: 3   Visited by: 24 users
27.12.2019 - 18:51
i c deaf people
That was a very interesting and highly enjoyable read, thanks a bunch!
To my great shame I have to confess that I never really bothered checking out any metal from India, three or four songs by Bloodywood being the only exception.
But I just can't believe that a cover of "Mundian To Bach Ke" was all that a nation accounting for 20% of the world's population had to offer....

However, may I recommend an article that covers a similar topic?
Cynic Metalhead's Guide To The Metal Scene Of Nepal
signatures = SPAM
28.12.2019 - 14:02
Please check out Heathen Beast if you can.
07.02.2020 - 00:40
Really interesting article, man
I'll check out the bands mentioned in it as well as Heathen Beast

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