Make way for the metalheads

May 31, 2015, 06:05 IST | Anju Maskeri

As India’s biggest metal festival, Bangalore Open Air, opens today in Bengaluru, Anju Maskeri speaks to founder Salman Syed and participating bands such as Undying Inc and Escher’s Knot

In the land of classical music and Bollywood, heavy metal seems to have carved its own small, yet solid space. A watershed moment in the indie scene came with the Iron Maiden’s visit in 2007, thus making way for many more international bands.

Undying Inc. Pic/PlanetTabrezPhotography
Undying Inc. Pic/PlanetTabrezPhotography

Today is the first day of the seven-day long Bangalore Open Air (BOA) festival, which is in its fourth edition and will see a crowd of 3,000 metal fans. Inspired by Germany’s Wacken Open Air, the largest open-air metal festival in the world, BOA not only provides a platform for homegrown bands but also brings international acts of repute to India.

Salman Syed (extreme left) with the band Millennium
Salman Syed (extreme left) with the band Millennium  

The idea of organising a large-scale metal fest in India first came to Salman Syed, who heads an artiste management company called Infinite Dreams, during a visit to the Wacken festival in 2010. “I was overwhelmed watching it and wondered why something on these lines had not been tried in India. I decided to collaborate with the promoters of the German festival, who has a different perception of the music scene in the country. They felt it mainly consisted of people playing the sitar. It took a lot of convincing to get them on board,” says Syed, who is also the band manager for metal band Kryptos.

Escher's Knot
Escher's Knot

Another big challenge was getting sponsors and partnerships for the fest. “To be brutally honest, it is still very difficult to get sponsorships because metal is a niche, growing genre. But the fact that we are in our fourth edition proves people are taking a keen interest in metal,” says Syed.

Touring for bands
Now, every summer, Syed heads to Europe to book international bands to play at BOA. “The selection of bands depends on their availability and our budgets,” he reveals. The event was nominated as one of the Top 10 Emerging festivals to look out for by the magazine, Metal Hammer last year. “The Wacken logo has helped us garner international recognition. We are the only festival which has 30 international bands playing for us,” says Syed.

What’s in store this year?
This year, BOA will see international bands such as Napalm Death, Inquisition and Belphegor. “The British grindcore/death metal legends Napalm Death are like the Smithsonian Institute of Grind and an encyclopedia of brutality. Many of us have grown up to their music,” says bassist Reuben Bhatttacharya of Undying Inc, one of the many Indian bands that will play at the fest. “We plan to play tracks from our last release IRONCLAD and also the 2010 full-length Aggressive World Dynasty,” adds Bhatttacharya.

Another band, Escher’s Knot, a four-piece metal band from Chennai which was formed in 2009, will also strum three new songs at the fest. “All five of us were in different bands before and our influences range from Tool to Decapitated, Jamiroquai to Chick Corea. We look forward to performing our latest hits, Of Theories and Conspiracies, Convolution and Mechanical Eye,” says Abijith Rao, the vocalist of Escher’s Knot.

Indie scene
Bhattacharya feels India is in a ‘weird’ place when it comes to the metal scene. “It’s like that Clint Eastwood movie, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. The ‘Good’ being that its gained international recognition and Indian bands are being taken seriously. The ‘Bad’ is that the local scene has stagnated due to lack of dedicated venues that support metal. This brings us to the ‘Ugly’, which is that metal has become a trendy bandwagon, where bands join the fray for the wrong reasons -- to look cool or get peer points rather than to contribute something substantial to this industry,” says Bhattachary

Meanwhile, Abhijeet of Escher’s Knot believes the trick for a metal band to succeed is to stick together. “As long as we are creating great music, we can keep metal alive in India,” he says.

Mecca for metal?
Syed wants the BOA, which concludes on June 6, to be the mecca for metal heads in Asia. But there is one road block — the process of getting visas. “It’s an agonising wait. There’s a band from Bangladesh that has been waiting since the past 23 days for their visa. The issue is that different countries have different laws,” Syed signs off.

31 May 1522 the pub
1 June Humming tree
2 June Big Pitcher Bangalore
3 June The warehouse
4 June The Indigo Live
5 June The Vapour Pub
6 June Royal Orchid Resort

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