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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.” ■

—Anurag Ta­gat


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