HYDERABAD: Ask any metalhead: “What is the first thing on your bucket list?” The response, accompanied by a rock hand sign that is synonymous with rock/metal music, would most probably be: “To attend Wacken Open Air (WOA).” The adrenaline rush is guaranteed to escalate if they get to perform on stage at arguably the biggest heavy metal festival on the planet.
Held each year in the German village of Wacken, which is about 80 km from Hamburg, the festival attracts many bands belonging to the top echelons of the genre. This year, a city-based four-piece band named Godless was also there, enthralling the thousands that had come visiting from all corners of the World for the fest (August 2-4).
They got the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity after winning the Wacken Open Air Metal Battle, a competition which had bands from all over the country. However, that ‘opportunity’ could have just been rendered a lifetime regret since they were short on funds. State IT minister KT Rama Rao came to the rescue as he made arrangements to sponsor the whole trip.
Temporary impediments aside, the music group’s growth has been phenomenal, considering it was formed only about three years ago. Other than Syed Abbas Razvi, Founder member and Bass Guitarist, the band has Bengaluru-based Kaushal LS as the vocalist, Aniketh Yadav on drums, and Rajiv Nidamarthy strums the guitar. Kaushal flies down once every month to jam with the rest of the band.
The lyrics predominantly hover around topics such as fear of the unknown and ‘zombiefication’ of the world.
From gaining critical acclaim for their debut EP, Centuries of Decadence, in 2016 to a 20-minute set on the Headbanger’s Stage (one of the many stages at Wacken), Godless have come a long way in a relatively short span. In one of the founding members, bassist Syed Abbas Razvi’s own words, they never thought they would attain that level so soon. “When we started, we did not even imagine that we would perform at WOA. We just wanted to create some intense, hard-hitting music. That’s all,” Razvi told this newspaper after returning to the city.
The fact that the boys from Godless rubbed shoulders with the bands that they have worshipped ever since they were in their teens, only compounded the joy. “In the green room, we could see giants such as Cannibal Corpse and Judas Priest right in front of us. We did not want to disturb them, so we just ogled,” Razvi said with a laugh.
The metal band did not know what to expect, moments before they were supposed to jump on stage as they could not see the crowd. What followed gave them goosebumps. “We were backstage, and skeptical of how many people would eventually turn up since there are so many stages. When the curtains went up, there was a sea of metal enthusiasts probably running into thousands. After our set ended, the crowd started chanting,’We want more!! We want more!!’. They did not even know who we were. We took a moment to soak it all in. The passion was just otherworldly,” Razvi recalled. A clip of what transpired has been uploaded by the band on its Facebook page.
Despite all the adulation and admiration, Godless faces a ‘hurdle’ that has forced disbandment of many metal acts in India: it cannot be regarded as a career option. Asked where the root of the problem lies, Kaushal said:”The biggest hurdle is the lack of venues supporting this kind of music. Most of the venues are more open to EDM shows since it has a mass following, and looks glamorous. Metal can also become very popular in the country. Bands just need more gigs. And if it was not for Bollywood, metal would already be popular.”
When it comes to the ‘City of Pearls’, it is an ebb and flow story, Razvi says. “Hyderabad had a vibrant metal scene a few years ago. When we started we were repeatedly called to perform at Hard Rock Cafe. Nowadays, there are almost no metal shows there. There is a pattern of the scene picking up and then going down here. But, there are few other places like The Moonshine Project and HCC AltSpace that support metal acts,” the bass guitarist, formerly of another city-based metal band Skrypt, revealed. Many promoters have agreed in the past that metal is tough business. When contacted, a Hard Rock Cafe supervisor said that all the decisions are taken by the franchise owners based in Mumbai.
So, just like other top bands in the country, the members go for day jobs/businesses. The remuneration is not enough to be solely dependent on a band. Razvi owns a sound rental company, Kaushal is a senior editor at a financial information firm, Ravi designs sound for games and Aniketh is a drum instructor. “It is difficult to even break even in the industry. People have to look towards other avenues to earn a decent living,” Razvi said.
However, Kaushal seemed optimistic about the future, saying more and more people are thronging to concerts. “The attendance rate at shows/concerts has been increasing steadily. All the fraternity requires is an echo system. If music show organisers come together and provide us a platform, this genre could definitely be taken to the masses. The people need to be informed about it,” Kaushal, who also dons the cap of lyricist for Godless and does vocals for three other bands: Gutslit, Eccentric Pendulum and Orchid, opined.
The death-thrash (an amalgamation of thrash metal riffs with death metal vocals and drum patterns) band’s next release, Swarm, is supposed to be out in October.
The overwhelming response at Wacken notwithstanding, the quartet does not intend to get back to the mecca of metal. “We achieved that now. Our plan is to do a tour across Europe next year, and play at festivals across many other countries. And we have some offers, too,” Razvi signed off.
Many Indian bands have set foot on the hallowed stages of WOA. However, Godless does not wish to be in the category of ‘also ran’, as their thirst for greatness seems insatiable.