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Originally published in the Hindu Metroplus, Bangalore on October 9, 2012:

http://www.thehindu.com/arts/music/putting-pedal-to-metal/article3981577.ece

Up until 2009, Indians who wished to catch their favourite metal or hard rock band followed Dubai Desert Rock, the annual festival which brought metal’s biggest names to perform in Dubai. In 2008, Rock in India was the new festival bringing the likes of Megadeth and Machine Head to India, organised by DNA Networks.

Its fifth edition takes place on October 20, featuring thrash metal stalwarts Slayer as the headlining band. Additionally, Megadeth returns for a performance at the Bacardi NH7 Weekender. Clearly, Indian metalheads need not look elsewhere for concerts and festivals any more.

Even better is the fact that most international artists – pop, rock, electronica or metal – prefer to perform in Bangalore. Rock in India has made the city India’s destination for metal, with appearances from Metallica and Iron Maiden topping fans’ wishlist. What Indian metal fans can relish is that DNA Networks aren’t the only organisers flying bands down to Bangalore. The Great Indian October Fest runs from October 12 – 14 and includes Finnish melodic death metallers Children of Bodom, and UK’s Cypher16, who are returning to the country for the fifth time.

Jack Doolan, the vocalist and lead guitarist of the London-based metal band says with a laugh, “We believe it could be a world record for any rock band visiting India!” He adds that the band prefers to tour India, rather than make a single appearance. After their set at the Great Indian October Fest on 13th, Cypher16 go on to play in Kolkata on October 16, followed by a show at IIT Delhi on the 21st.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to come back so many times to such a wonderful country and that we started to make our mark before the rock and metal scene exploded and everyone else began to flood in. It’s an incredible country full of amazing people – to be honest it feels like our second home,” Doolan says.

Poland’s black/death metal band Behemoth has just been confirmed to play at the Indian Music Conference on November 3.  Only Much Louder (OML), organisers of the NH7 Weekender, is also bringing down progressive metal band Periphery to Bangalore on December 15 and 16. Fans become spoiled for choice since French eclectic metal band Gojira will be headlining the first annual Indian Metal Festival (IMF) also being held on December 15, featuring a host of other international metal bands on the bill.

Somindra Hazari Jr, who overlooks the public relations and communications at Sweet Leaves, the event organisers involved with IMF says, “A lot of us at Sweet Leaves have always been metalheads. It’s our genre and so we wanted to do something big.”

After researching bands which were currently popular among Indian metal fans, they realised how varied tastes in metal sub-genres was a good sign for them. “Some people listen to black metal, a lot people are into thrash metal. But we also had to look at upcoming genres, and bands like Gojira, and Bloodshot Dawn, one of the other bands playing at the festival, are mellow death metal. Inner Guilt from Lebanon is more for the thrash fans. So they cater to their own audiences,” Somindra says, adding that “Gojira were also commercial in one sense, so it was cut clear to us that they had to be the headliner”. Being dedicated metal fans, Somindra promises that IMF will continue after its inaugural edition this year.

Vijay Nair, OML’s CEO in charge of the Bacardi NH7 Weekender, is taking the festival to three cities this year, including Delhi and Bangalore in addition to their home ground in Pune. Nair assures that it’s more about the bands and giving fans what they want more than ticket sales. Last year, the festival sold out all its tickets, with Basement Jaxxx and Imogen Heap for headline performers.

“Over the years, we’ve started to experiment a whole lot more with music, especially since the internet really allows people to explore music across the world,” Nair says, adding that it’s not just about the old school of bands coming to India, but also the newer breed of bands who need to know they are in global demand. “We’ve always got to watch acts in India when they’ve been past their prime, but that’s really changing now, and it’s great to be part of that revolution. We are fans of most of the bands we tour, so the incentive is much bigger than the ticket sales itself,” he says.

Nair has been known to have been on the lookout for bands he wants to see playing in India. He says, “It’s safe to say that every act in the world is open to touring India. It has a lot do with the timing of their tour and logistics though. It’s just a matter of time before all acts tour India regularly.”

Cypher16’s tour is being sponsored by UK magazine Metal Hammer, which promoted Demonic Resurrection in the UK after giving them the Golden God award for best International band in 2010. Regarding international perspective on playing in India, Doolan says, “When we first started touring in India it was very much a case of ‘Wow, you guys go to India? Why on earth would you go there to play heavy music?’, whereas now there is still a bit of shock and surprise attached to it, but people have usually heard a bit more about the scene and opportunities.”

Doolan says his band is proud to say they were “part of the international scene right from the beginning”. He hopes bands come down to tour India rather than playing one-off shows would be the next favourable step towards having a larger number of artists visit the country. “Obviously this year in particular you’re being inundated with almost more artists than the country can handle, but I think that it just shows that finally things are starting to take off in India,” he says. Till then, Bangalore gets the spoils.

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