THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Prateek Rajagopal’s introduction to the Indian metal scene in 2013 was rather dramatic. Enlisted as the new guitarist of Mumbai-based band Gutslit, this ‘barely-legal’ guy looked unconvincing to be let into a pub, let alone play death metal. But, once on stage, there were hardly any musicians who could master relentless and brutal chops like this Muscat-raised guitarist who traces his roots to Palakkad.
Skip to 2019, 24-year-old Prateek has done multiple Europe and Asian tours and founded projects like Minerva Conduct alongside other musicians like Nishith Hegde and Ashwin Shriyan. This year also sees the debut album from his solo project, Hoia (named after a supposedly haunted forest in Romania), a whole new listening experience in comparison to his earlier musical output.
“I’m too comfortable with making death and progressive metal now. My idea of being a musician is about pushing myself to experiment, and express whatever I feel,” says Prateek, when asked about five-track release named Scavenger, which talks about emotions like nostalgia and anxiety.
What distinguishes this release from Prateek’s previous efforts is not just its treatment of horror-aesthetics, but also the difference in approach from the musician. “Earlier, I used to write music on guitar and drums but, with Hoia, I was purely thinking about the song first and had no restrictions on the use of instruments. I bought a hardware synthesiser to work with and even used my vocals for the first time in a production,” says the guitarist, who has brought in popular musicians like former Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin and Polish-drummer Wojtek Deregowski to play his music.
The record opens with the track Write Across that sets a mood with gloomy guitar melodies, and fades with a retroistic piano tone. The longest song, Escape Orb, has guitar passages that drown into an eerie atmosphere, yet has a headbang-able rock riffing in its second half. Piano and synth play out together with ecstatic drumming in Electric Wizard, followed by an interlude, Part II. The title track gets a little drony but is pulled back with a bluesy solo towards the end.
Reflecting on experience from past bands, Prateek has no intention of taking the project live. “Composing for Scavenger has opened up new paths for me as a producer. Currently, I’m exploring the scope of creating soundtracks for visual media,” he winds up.
Available on Apple Music.