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1833 A.D. – My Dark Symphony

  • Review by: Ishaan Kumar

Black metal has always been a hit-and-miss culture in India. After seeing tonnes of bands more focussed on painting faces rather than making music, a whole new generation of Indian black metal bands have finally started making sense. 1833 AD is leading the charge. They hail from the capital city of New Delhi, and are one of the few bands in India actively putting an Indian perspective into a western genre of music.

The band comprises of Nishant Abraham Varghese as vocalist/guitarist, Rahul Mehalwal on lead guitar, Sushmit Mazumdar on bass and drummer Raghav Sehgal. They donot possess any other stage names and that can come either as a surprise or a breather (depending on whether or not you’re fixated on the imagery of black metal). The format of the album is an interesting one as a concept album: 12 songs, broken up into 3 groups of 4 songs. Each ‘group’ starts with a dialogue/sound effects track, each of which talk about a ‘Creator’, ‘Preserver’ and ‘Destroyer’.  Most will assume that they speak of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh respectively but one look at the CD’s liner notes confirms an original tale, combining the paganic thoughts of the Vedas with the orthodox teachings of the Abrahamic religions (not to be confused with the vocalist’s middle name). Now musically, it is the most groove-laced form of black metal one can get to hear. However, it is not bastardized to the point of having shrieks over essentially pop music. The grooves are latent and subliminal, being juxtaposed to drive bludgeoning heavy sequences and abrasive tremolo melodies. The most satisfying aspect of their music though are the vocals. Nishant has managed such a powerfully-throated shriek that it could almost be matched up to the bloodcurdling hate sermons that Varg Vikernes delivered during Burzum’s early days.  And while the drums are unfortunately programmed, the band has managed to make them sound organic enough to fool the untrained ear. The beats themselves are not dogmatic about being only blast beats or the D-beat but manage to be variant and yet consistent with the song itself.

There are songs like ‘Empty Shrine’ and ‘Wiser than the Wisest’ that use the clean breather sections, there are others like ‘1833 AD’ and ‘Ten Gods’ that have sections containing an uncompromisingly epic tremolo sections over furious blast beats and then there are the songs like ‘Sephiroth’s Curse’ and ‘Ma Nishada’ that sound like an epic story in themselves. Each song has variation in the tunes to keep the listener hooked. The guitar solos are well placed and structured and actually matter to the song. As a consequence, every song does not have a solo just because a song should essentially have one. There is a genuine attempt overall, at writing music that is heavy, dark and yet narrative at the same time. Most importantly, the band clearly aims at writing tunes instead of just embarrassingly generic palm-muted sequences. The tunes themselves draw from both Indian and Western styles of music, making for very interesting and original music.

It is safe to say that this album is a rare gem of a debut album, which took all of nearly 5 years to release. The wait was definitely worth it, the band has made its mark and, like hinted at before, the world should prepare to hear a fresh Indian perspective on the controversy-ridden genre of black metal.