RISE IN METAL EXPORTS
THE INDIAN METAL STORY NOW HAS A GLOBAL CHAPTER
In August, at Wacken Open Air in Germany, one of the world’s biggest heavy music festivals, New Delhi’s folk metal band Bloodywood had thousands of Europeans singing metal-ised versions of ‘Ari Ari’ and ‘Tunak Tunak Tun’, along with their own hard-hitting compositions, peppered with doses of rap. These songs have been a part of the band’s YouTube success story, with over 125,000 subscribers since 2015. Bloodywood is among 11 India-based metal bands touring the world in 2019, a new record.
Before Bloodywood, Mumbai’s extreme metallers, Demonic Resurrection (DR), and Bengaluru’s oldschool metal act Kryptos had paved
the way for bands to reach the big market of Europe, regardless of the style of metal. Both DR and Kryptos debuted in Europe in 2010.
DR’s frontman and founder Sahil Makhija aka The Demonstealer says, “We mailed thousands of agents and got no reply, so we knew how difficult it was to book a tour.” The association with Norway came through a cultural exchange, set up by New Delhi’s Amit Saigal, owner of the publication Rock Street Journal. Over the next few years, metal bands like Undying Inc., Blind Image, Zygnema, Skyharbor and more trekked overseas, proving that you didn’t need to be playing flutes or tablas to interest an audience abroad. It helped that the bands had funds of their own, but it was also about being smart. “It’s not actually profitable, you make it profitable,” says Makhija.
Mumbai’s death metal act Gutslit have just returned from their third consecutive international tour in a year, performing in Europe and Asia. Founder member and bassist Gurdip Singh Narang says the most important thing to get agents and tour promoters interested is the music. “If they like your music, they’ll work with you,” he says. Gutslit’s ‘Brutal Sardar’ artwork features a skull with a turban, but the bassist says, “The Indian card is there to draw a crowd to your set, but how are you going to make them stay and bring them back for the next show?”
Bands like thrash metallers Amorphia from Kerala (who toured Japan in April) and Visakhapatnam’s heavy metal band Against Evil (currently touring Europe) feel metal has always had a bigger audience abroad. Against Evil’s guitarist Shasank Venkat says interest from labels to distribute their 2018 debut album All Hail the King worked in their favour. The record was distributed in Brazil, Germany and Switzerland, which led to a crowdfunded campaign for their Europe debut via a closed Facebook group called Heavy Metal Fans. “They called it #ProjectCurry, because I guess that’s the first thing that comes to their minds when they think of India,” says Shasank with a laugh. But unlike most bands heading to Europe, Against Evil let their label head at Doc Gator Records take charge of informally setting them up with venues and festivals across Germany, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland. “Usually, you hire a touring agency to do the job for you and they take a cut. There’s no money involved in this, they’re doing it out of passion,” Shasank says.
DR kickstarted a nine-city UK tour in August, Hyderabad’s deaththrash act Godless will head to Europe in September and Skyharbor, popular for their modern progressive metal sound in Europe, the US and Australia, will return to North America. The real goal, if you take Kryptos’s example, is to have everything ready to go each summer, especially for merchandise sales, which account for major revenue. Austria-based Madhav Ravindranath, Kryptos’s tour manager since 2014, says: “We do a full-blown merchandise plan before every tour and even sell locally in Europe via Bandcamp to ensure the brand is always accessible to fans […] All the guys have to do is to get on stage and play their music.” ■