Elysium Lawns, Koregaon park was host to one of the most intense events of this decade(fuck you, World Cup) as Noiseware, TesseracT, Enslaved and Meshuggah unleashed teh black metalz and the 8 string weapons of mass destruction on a metal-starved Indian crowd on 17th December, 2010. The blast of European metal seemed to go down rather well with the eventually neck-raped audience, and here is a detailed description of the show from my point of view:
Me and a friend are outside and “getting ready” for the concert, expecting it to start according to IST. And then suddenly, I hear Noiseware getting ready to blow. “Maut Ki Ungli” is in progress. Me and friend run inside, and join in the happy headbanging, though we’ve missed G-string, but no major complaints, have heard em play it live before. They are sounding a lot tighter with respect to the guitar sound than I last saw them at some competition, but the guitar levels still a little lower than what I’d think optimum. The breakdown drives everyone crazy, as the whole crowd shouts out the profanity that is at the tip of every Indian’s tongue. This is followed by a song that has ambient clean guitar going in the background, everyone chills out a bit and rests their necks. And then they break into their cover of MJ’s “Smooth Criminal”. Nice tight set, and a decent sound, which has us warmed up for the next band. TesseracT.
This is where I exit the present tense, because what follows are discontinuous memories from a chaotic, mind-numbing display of technical virtuosity and Norwegian black metal played in a slightly progressive vein.
I’d never seen live vids of TesseracT, so when they came on stage I was thinking of sitting down and listening, conserving my energy for Meshuggah and Enslaved, since from what I’d heard of their songs they were more like a band you analyze and listen to peacefully rather than headbang like heck to. But the energy the band themselves seemed to exude right from the first note made me stand up. They played songs like Opening, Deception, April, Sunrise, Lament, Sadness… well executed ambient progressive/math metal. And the sound was perfect. The bass was doing some pretty crazy stuff, and thanks to the good soundcheck was just audible enough to concentrate upon when necessary, and to ignore if need be. Dan Tompkins on the vocals slayed, his range, his variation and his rapid switches from clean vocals to those somewhat thinnish screams were smooth, almost perfect. The downtuned ‘chug’ could be heard a lot better with TesseracT than Noiseware, which would be a good thing for Noiseware to pick up – playing alongside established 7/8 string bands should do wonders to their live sound.
Enslaved next. My neck was already more or less disabled, and the cold and the night were beginning to make their presence felt. Putting on my sweater, I patiently waited, and was rewarded when Cato Bekkevold, the drummer(and a monster of a man) took his place on the drum throne. The tightness of the snare, and the thump of the kick drum hit us in the chest, and we realized this was going to be something else. And indeed, the first song, “Ethica Odini”, also the first song of their latest record ‘Axioma Ethica Odini’ ripped the place apart. The dual vocal assault of Grutle Kjellson(growled vocals, bass) and Herbrand Larsen(clean vocals, keyboard) transported everyone to the Scandinavian mountains, and the chilly Pune air did nothing to lessen the effect. Ivan Bjorson’s guitar was detuned midway, but they continued playing while he quickly re-tuned it and joined in the fray. The guitars were just raw enough for black metal, yet each riff was quite clearly distinguishable. The progressive transitions in their newer songs like Ground from Vertebrae or Ethica Odini were brilliantly done, and the bluesy solos by Arve Isdal fit the bill. They later went on to play older songs like “Violet Dawning” and “Isa” from Isa, and ended their setlist with one of their oldest songs, “Allfadr Odinn” from the 1992 Hordanes’ Land EP, when they were lesser of viking and more of unadulterated norwegian black metal, and this was probably the song I enjoyed the most. Only complaint – Bjorson’s guitar was a bit too grainy at times, blocking out Isdal in some sections.
Enslaved left. It was time. Me and friends started chanting for the Swedish madmen. “Mesh-u-ggah”, and the entire crowd followed. But I realized that they would take some time, and was patient. I had waited a long time, and a few more minutes wouldn’t make too much of a difference. They put up the backdrops – two hands on the sides, and an alien face in the middle. The soundcheck guys did a rather weird and elaborate soundcheck, but they did know their shit, because when Haake claimed his throne, and Thordendal and Hagstrom started with “Rational Gaze” of all songs, the place exploded.
The mosh was insane, though I avoided it as successfully as I could. People were headbanging in polyrhythm, and each note was crisp, and hit you like a bullet. The sound was grand, epic, and all other similar adjectives you can think of. And as soon as Rational Gaze ended, they started Bleed. From here I could barely analyze what was happening. I couldn’t even talk, and yet I screamed out the lyrics – ‘Heed, heed my will. Bleed, you will.’ After which they played Pravus, Stengah, Sane, Combustion, Electric Red, Lethargica…it was a never ending assault on the senses. The song selection was near perfect for me, they seemed to know precisely which song would take the crowd to the next level of insanity. When we were all wishing both vocally and mentally for “Straws Pulled At Random”, they played it. The Meshuggah solo patch is probably one of the trippiest guitar patches made by man, and the solos on Bleed, Rational Gaze, Straws – all had me floating in ecstasy, even though they were different from the studio versions. I couldn’t really make out the bass at all times, and some of Kidman’s parts seemed like he was having a slightly tough time, and was straining to maintain that demented metallic shriek.
And then, when it seemed like they were done, and everyone was screaming their heads off saying “Don’t leave”, the chant for Future Breed Machine started. And Meshuggah, bless them, responded with “beep, beep, beep,beep…”. Once again, the crowd exploded, and the collective headbanging reaching a crescendo at the breakdown. And as they faded out, and thanked us all for being crazy people(that we were, trust me), going on so far as to promise that they would be playing in India for a second time, I fell down on the grass(pun not entirely unintended), unable to stand, speak or indeed, respond to any external stimulus whatsoever.
It had been a tiring experience. An interesting one. As I puked my Jumbo Chicken Burger outside the venue(fine, you didn’t really need to know that), a slightly unpleasant one as well. But the fact remains – For me, this was a dream come true, and all doubts I had about shelling out the cash for this were scattered and obliterated by the choicest lineup a person like me could’ve hoped for. (The other would be Necrophagist, Gorguts, Decapitated). Kudos to the GIR team for managing this so well, the event started pretty much on time and ended on time as well, and was spared from any technical glitches. And a big fucking thank you to all the bands for making this one of the most memorable evenings of my life. Thanks to Chris Cross for the photos.
P.S – I’d hoped to get the review out at night itself, but needed some time to recover and gain limb control. Sorry for the delay, and if you’re reading this and deciding whether its worth it, I hope this review helped you cement your decision either way.