Heavy mettle

As Metallica makes a big-bang comeback, TNIE speaks to some hardcore fans of the thrash metal band

Published: 18th April 2023 08:43 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th April 2023 08:43 AM   |  A+A-

Scenes from Metallica tribute concert by Severed in Kochi | Nishad T Ummer

Express News Service

KOCHI:  In the night of Vishu, while Malayalis were exhausting their leftover stock of firecrackers, some Kochiites gathered near Vytilla for a small explosion of a different kind.

A young Bengaluru-based band, Severed, was performing a cracker of a tribute concert to Metallica — the legendary heavy metal band known for its aggressive, intense and explosive music. People of all ages, including children, youngsters, the elders, made up the enthusiastic crowd — some head banging, grooving and screaming out the lyrics.

Incidentally, the concert was organised at a time when Metallica made a surprise comeback last week, with a new power-packed album titled ‘72 Seasons’.

Two women nearing their sixties came with a friend for a nostalgic trip to their headbanging days. Their friend, Mathew Joseph, 42, is an ardent fan of the thrash metal band. “The crowd was great, though low in numbers,” he says.

Mathew wasn’t aware that a bootleg band was performing Metallica songs in Kochi. “I don’t think many were aware. The two older women with me are the ones who found out about the concert, booked tickets and brought me here. It was fantastic, it would have been a loss to miss it,” he says.

The businessman recalls watching Metallica perform twice. Once, in Germany as a 12 year old. And then, the ‘historic’ Bengaluru concert of 2011.

“What a night it was in Bengaluru!” he adds. 

Mathew is not alone in his love for rock and metal. A budding musician, 19-year-old Shiva Saran and his band Thyaag performed the opening act on the Vishu night with a 90’s punk and classic rock songs.
“I’m a big fan of metal,” proclaims the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of Thyaag. “Metal got me out of depression. For me, metal has aggression, an energy that helps you release your emotions. That energy is very rare to find in other genres, at least for me.”

Shiva adds that he started learning guitar inspired by Metallica frontman James Hetfield. “The way he handles guitar and the vocals… the gruffy and bassy voice of his... That’s why he is my role model,” Shiva adds.


‘Melody wrapped in metal’
Popular DJ, music director and actor Sekhar Menon is another hardcore Metallica fan. “One of my favourite heavy metal bands of all time. I even used to play their live-stage recording video at the pub I used to work back in the days,” he recalls. 

“‘Enter Sandman’ remains one of my favourite tracks of theirs. I love the arpeggiated guitar lines that gradually grow on you, and it gets really heavy, which is the band’s signature. The classic ‘Nothing Else Matters’ is my go-to track if I feel a little low.”

Will there be any music lover who has not been moved by ‘Nothing Else Matters’, wonders HR personnel and guitarist Jobin M F. He, too, gushes over Hetfield. “It is not easy to maintain that kind of vocal intensity for so long,” he says. 

“Also, what I really love about Metallica is the melody at the core of their tracks. Melody wrapped in metal.” Besides the music, he adds, Metallica is a great example of sustaining a collective, a friendship. “They consistently churn out quality stuff. There is some magical charm, else they would not have such a wide fanbase across the world even today,” he says.   

‘Kicks you in the face’
Well, the reception to Metallica’s latest album does underscore that point. The track ‘Sleepwalk my Life Away’ launched on Friday night has notched about 10 lakh views on YouTube in two days.  
Into their 40th year as a band, Metallica’s 10th studio album, ‘72 Seasons’, has received rave reviews. 
And it’s been a helluva journey since they released their first album, ‘Kill ‘Em All’, in 1983. Legend has it, the proposed title of the debut album was ‘Metal Up Your Ass’. However, the record company vetoed it. And then came the title ‘Kill ‘Em All’ — quite possibly an in-your-face reply to the label.
Soon followed three other albums – ‘Ride the Lightning’, ‘Master of Puppets’ and ‘…And Justice for All’. For many, ‘Master of Puppets’ remains the ultimate in heavy metal history. For some, it’s the ‘Black Album’. 

The latest album by the band, whose members are approaching their sixties, manages to pack a punch as much as they did in its heydays. “The new ‘72 Seasons’ comes close to Metallica’s bone-crushing, skull-f%$3ng, ire-clinging peak, with more raging guitar solos courtesy of Kirk Hammett, if just a hint of the lyrical anger management by James Hetfield that we’ve heard since the therapy sessions contained in 2004’s ‘Metallica: Some Kind of Monster’ doc,” writes international journalist A D Amorosi in Variety magazine.

He adds that the “pulse of ‘72 Seasons’” … “kicks you in the face and leaves a mark”.

The now four-member band — Hetfield (vocals, guitar), Kirk Hamett (lead guitar), Robert Trujillo (bass guitar) and Lars Ulrich (acoustic drum kit) — has also included their longest song so far, an 11-minute masterpiece. Rolling Stone says, “The track (Inamorata) is a masterclass in melancholy”. It’s Metallica’s longest-ever song, but it never feels boring….”

‘Metal is an attitude’
“That’s what makes them different, you know,” says George Peter of 13AD fame. “They still keep their grunge alive.” George recalls a video of a Metallica concert he watched on YouTube. “Hetfield still has that voice, he is phenomenal. They are rocking it, and his voice has that art of grunge and attitude. That’s what metal is all about — the attitude,” says the popular singer, who was known for belting out rock classics, and songs by Metallica and Iron Maiden during his 13AD days, and later went on to associate with A R Rahman.

“Very few got to hear and see them in the flesh in Mumbai and Bengaluru. But to the rest of the country, we covered the big bands. And every singer had to sound like Axl Rose, Hetfield, Freddie Mercury or Brian Johnson.” 

The crowd at the Metallica tribute concert in Kochi 

Bass guitarist of popular Kerala-based thrash/folk metal band The Down Troddence, Nezer Ahemed, has just listened to Metallica’s latest, ‘Sleepwalk My Life Away’. “Classic Metallica! Very, very Metallica,” he chuckles.

“It’s the earliest metal band I have listened to, loved. They are one of the big four of thrash metal, one of the most influential metal bands.” Nezer adds that Metallica has had a huge influence on The Down Troddence. “Their songwriting is simple. That doesn’t mean there are no complexities, but even a beginner listener will be able to connect easily,” he says.

“Then, of course, the melody. They have also done ballads, they have collaborated a lot with other artists. Movies such as Mission Impossible have used their work, and they are still going at it.”
Members of Severed, the Bengaluru-based band that played the tribute, are all Metallica devotees. “They are the greatest metal band of all time,” says the vocalist, Akshat Karnwal. 

Akshat and guitarist Shubham Sharma founded the band in 2014 in their first year of engineering college. “We forayed into performing outside the college in 2017 when drummer Nirmal Paul joined the party,” he recalls. 

“When we rebooted in 2022, with Karthik Hari joining us in bass, we decided to cover a couple of Metallica songs to get warmed up. There has been no looking back since then.”  It just hit right and the band created a tight two-hour setlist with the greatest Metallica hits. 

“Since then, we’ve gotten a lot of opportunities to play Metallica tribute shows across south India,” says Akshat, adding that they would be playing in Bengaluru on April 29. “We’ve always received a very warm reception wherever we’ve played, but the Kerala experience was something surreal! A bunch of hardcore Metallica fans gave us their all, and we truly had a kickass time on the stage!”

Inputs from S Neeraj Krishna


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