We landed at the Bangalore airport only to be received in the welcoming arms of our metalhead friend, Sandesh. We had been in contact with him for several months, when he asked us to play the Trend Slaughter Festival – opening for ABIGAIL and DYING EMBRACE. He came to greet us at the airport, and then dropped us at Ganesh’s flat, another friend – who would be our session bass player for the gig. Ganesh thoughtfully invited us to stay at his place and made us feel at home for a week. We spend many good nights with him, drinking beer and listening to doom metal. (Yes, there is a small, but good doom metal scene in India!!!)
Bangalore (formely known as Bangalore), located in the South East of India, was the kind of place you went for a nice, peaceful retirement. In fact, it used to be called the City of Gardens… until the computer/IT industry boomed. The city now attracts young Indians from all over the country to work there, and has thus grown as fast as a shark and reaching a population of almost 8 million. I haven’t traveled long enough in India to say for sure, but apparently this is the most “western” of all Indian cities. Perhaps it’s a good thing for us to land here, in order to have a nice slow transition into the real India! What I liked about Bangalore is that everybody spoke to each other in English… it made everything so much easier!
Bangalore is also known for having the country’s best extreme metal scene, with a rich spectrum of killer Black Metal, Doom and Death metal bands. I even spotted a metal car in the middle of a traffic jam, one evening!
I really couldn’t wait to try Indian food, so my friends brought us to Guzzlers’, a rock/metal pub that played really good classic stuff like RAINBOW, DIO, BLACK SABBATH, BLUE ÖYSTER CULT, URIAH HEEP, JUDAS PRIEST, SAXON and IRON MAIDEN. A fun place, with some killer finger food!
We tried tons of food, but my favourites were these:
At the beginning of the week, we hung out at Ganesh’s apartment, waiting for him and everyone to finish work. I was trying to clumsily cook some Indian food, when Ganesh’s maid came along, and showed me how to do True Indian Cooking. I totally messed up the first dish, adding yogurt at the beginning (it started curdling to my great horror!!!)
I bought tons of spices and a nice spice dish so I can make some at home, when I come back.
A few days later, on the day before the gig, the ABIGAIL guys landed (they had previously played Dhaka in Bangladesh!!!) and we were all welcomed in the true Indian way:
They brought us to this huge rock star suite, which had a sofa and a fridge (for beer and leftovers). I swear, it’s the biggest hotel room I’ve ever slept in! It just screamed metal party!
In late morning, we headed to Kyra, the venue, to do the sound check. The venue was very professional, and had great sound guys. The show will kick some serious ass!
Before the gig, the club offered us some quality Indian food, in the form of a buffet. There was something like 10 different types of curries, 5 different types of rice and a huge dessert table. Apparently, the food was more in the style of North India… and I loved every bit of it!
The doors opened around 3:30, and more than a hundred Indian headbangers poured in the venue. Some rushed in at the merch table (records are very hard to get in India!) and we actually sold out of our records before we played!!!
The first band that played is called DJINN & MISKATONIC. I had listened to some of their songs beforehand, and was very curious about seeing them live… They play an original doomy style of metal, with highly distortioned bass and Lovecraftian lyrics. The bassist’s style would kind of remind me of CIRITH UNGOL, but played much heavier! The vocalist had this haunted voice that fit tremendously well with what they played, and sometimes his vocals leaned more towards a death metal style. The last song of their set, “Weird Tales” was the highlight for me. Anyway, this new band is a true gem, and I certainly hope to watch them grow! I will be buying whatever they release, that’s for sure.
Next band playing were Dhwesha, who had just released their first demo for the occasion. This band was a total surprise for me. I was talking to a few people near the merch table, and when they started, I had to cut the conversation short and run to the front to watch them… They played very dark doomy black metal with melodies, reminding me of the MORBID ANGEL/ARMOURED ANGEL style with lyrics in Kannada (the local dialect). Very solid stuff, and the guys were young as hell! I loved how the vocalist sang with absolute hatred.
Afterwards was a local two-piece gore-grind band called GORIFIED. In fact, they have a drummer but he’s in France, so they just use a drum machine instead. I am FAR from being a gore-grind band, so I can’t honestly criticize their set, but I can say what they did, they did it well. They had the usual pig squeels and blast beats, you know. A strange addition to the line-up, but it gave me a well deserved beer break. You need those bands sometimes!
My band, CAUCHEMAR, played next. We were backed up by two great local guys, Ganesh on bass (from the kickass doom metal band BEVAR SEA) as well as Deepak on drums (also from BEVAR SEA and DYING EMBRACE)! We played the five songs from our EP, as well as a cover… I don’t recall too much from our set, except that I remember feeling fucking possessed while singing! I did hear people sing along to our cover and headbang like hell for “Le Voile d’Isis”. It was incredibly special for us to play in India, and I really hope to come back with the rest of the band! Here are some photos, kindly sent from the kickass photographer Uday Shanker:
After us was DYING EMBRACE, the first extreme metal band from India – who luckily had just reformed last year. Seriously, although I really loved most bands of the night – and been wanting to see ABIGAIL for a long time, I think DYING EMBRACE are the ones that left the most lasting impression on me… probably because I didn’t know them before. They played an amazing, deep style of black doom, mixing elements of weird early 90’s Black Metal, BATHORY and CANDLEMASS together. They had no bassist, but even then – it sounded absolutely great. They previously released a few 7″’s before disbanding in 2001, and like I mentioned, reformed in 2011. Vik (vocalist) seemed absolutely taken by Jimmy (guitarist)’s melodies, and kind of reminded me of an Indian Bobby Liebling! Jimmy played guitar like it was the extension of his body – flowing through solos as organically as humanely possible. And Deepak had some really original drum beats, which I think is really essential in this type of metal. They played songs raging from 1991 to 2001, a brand new title, as well as a cover of AUTOPSY’s “Twisted Mass of Burnt Decay”. Fuck yes! A true discovery! Sadly, their EP’s are long sold out, but Shaxul (Legion of Death records, France) will be re-releasing all of them on a compilation. Support!
After all that crushing metal finally came ABIGAIL, whom I’ve been following for more than 10 years (time goes fast huh!) and never even saw live yet!! As you read before, I was really impressed by the live performance of DYING EMBRACE but for ABIGAIL, I think I totally went fucking mad. You know, when you totally, intensely get drunk ONLY by the sheer power of the music? I lost all control during ABIGAIL’s set; it was just that good. They played my absolute favourites from their first album, “Intercourse and Lust”; Attack with Spell and Hail Yakuza (with the ultra long part and all! Arghhh!!) as well as some more stuff from later albums, like Violence, Kill and Destruction, Bitch! We Gonna Kill You, Satanik Metal Fucking Hell!, Prophecy of the Evening Star, Hells Necromancer and the most recent classic, Metal Evil Metal! I was also very impressed by Jero’s guitar playing. It was so fucking cool to hear total heavy metal solos and riffs (he also plays in MELUCIFER/GORGON) in all that evil metal punk hell! And Youhei didn’t stop beating the shit out of the drums from beginning to end… he literally broke my neck, trying to follow his beats, that bastard! And Yasuyuki was insane, going right up to the front of the stage, playing amidst a totally chaotic mass of rabid Indian headbangers… his vocals were as powerful as usual, and, really, the whole band totally blew away the whole of the crowd!!!
They finished with a cover of SODOM’s Outbreak of Evil and then… Yasuyuki called me to play bass and Vik to sing the chorus of Rocking Metal Motherfucker (BARBATOS –I had played session bass for them in Montreal 4 years ago.) It was really fucking cool and a total honour to play with the ABIGAIL guys – especially after such a crushing set!!!!!!
ABIGAIL played a full hour, and after that, I was completely done and satisfied with the evening… until Sandesh and Vik announced us that there was a whole table of kickass Indian food set up for us. ARGHHHHH!!!!! Best way to end a show ever!!! (OK a whole table of poutine would have given me the same effect hahaha).
It’s weird, I thought we were totally somewhere else until we got our plates of Indian food, and my Indian buddies started eating with their fingers around me. It’s so funny how metal unites us, but food is what takes us back to our own cultures…
Speaking of food (like usual with me haha), we got invited the next day to eat breakfast by Vik, who’s not only a kickass organizer and vocalist, but also a RESTAURANT owner!! Him and his father owns Ullas Refreshments – which is one of the landmarks of Bangalore. It is so well known and good, that it is even featured in my very own guide book of India!! Apparently, it’s known in the metal scene as the metal restaurant because that’s where the headbangers meet to organize gigs and exchange metal information. In fact, that’s where our very own Vik discovered IRON MAIDEN when he was a kid; a long time ago, one of the clients of the restaurant had forgotten a tape with Maiden recorded on it, which young Vik picked up… and which totally blew him away!
What totally ruled is that François and myself got invited to visit the kitchen. I love Indian food so much, but yet, have never seen behind the scenes, you know, stuff like tandorii ovens and spices in huge quantity. I was really excited, it felt like I was a kid!!! The kitchen was really clean and the main cook looked old haha, a sign of experience and good food!
So, the first thing we tried are puris, which are huge puffy balls of bread, which you dip in different thing – curried potatoes, spicy tomato sauce, coconut chutney and garlic chutney (this was my favourite!):
Some local guys call them “boobies” because they are so big. Jero had to demonstrate:
We also had a dosa, which is some kind of crispy crêpe that you dip in the same kind of sauces. Yasuyuki put out his finger in order to show how big the crêpe was compared to his hand!
And I wanted to try his naans so I had one of them with three different kinds of curries. Ahh, what a treat!!!
We finished with some fresh fruit salads, but Yasuyuki had ice cream on top of it. “I love sweets”, he said!
We also came back to Vik’s restaurant a few weeks later to have a lunch thali, which is a very typical South Indian dish. It was really good, especially the sprouted moog bean curry. So healthy, arghh!
We had one last goodbye drinking party in the evening, at the clubhouse where we stayed. They had Kingfisher (Indian beer) on tap, but for a club member price… 100 rupees (2$) for a pitcher! Can you imagine that? We drank about 12 for the whole of us, closed the place down, and had more in our hotel room…
And we finished the night by Youhei and Jero teaching me the basics of karate. I now know how to punch and kick in a drunken way! Drunken master 666!
So, we said good bye to a hungover ABIGAIL, and a day later, we were off with Vik to Goa, an old Portuguese colony beach place located about 12 hours of bus from Bangalore…
So here is a little surprise for all of you guys… a mini-metal compilation featuring only Indian metal – all bands from Bangalore! You can download it here: Indian Metal mini-Compilation
The province of Goa is quite different from the rest of India. For years, it was nearly inaccessible due to being surrounded by mountains and the sea. In the 1500’s, the place got invaded by the Portuguese who were attracted by the local industry of spices, and eventually, they Christianized the area by doing an Inquisition! It was either conversion or death!!! So, many Hindus fled the place… among them were Vik’s ancestors, who went to establish themselves at the border. Nowadays, Vik has a small but beautiful flat in the village of Calangute, which is in North Goa.
Apparently, the village changed a lot back in the last 30 years… in the beginning, there used to be naked hippies rolling around on the beach, and then tons of drugs, and then raves, and then the government banned loud music from 10:30PM to 9AM. The word still spread around that Goa was THE place to go for partying, but now it seems that mostly retired people go there to get away from the cold European winters. The beach was full of over-tanned 50-something British and Russian women in tiny bikinis, and men with guts that were hanging out like skirts… but of course they also had hot Swedish chicks, which made everything even! A part of the beach was really popular with Indian locals (some who came to see the hot chicks) and it was especially crowded on Saturday afternoon. In fact, I’ve never seen such a crowded beach before! But the other side of the beach was nice and relaxing. I spent every day just listening to metal and relaxing in the sun…
Vik showed us the way of the Goa party. First of all, he popped these babies out… the ayurvedic way of partying:
And then he introduced us to the best Indian beer we’ve had so far, King’s! A real pilsner, European style. Very good beer, and you can only find it in Goa, unfortunately…
Like I mentioned, during the day, we hung out on a beach shack, and at night, we’d go back to Vik’s apartment for metal listening. It was really fun!
We even had the chance to taste some very potent home-made cider, at this English pub! I haven’t had cider in the longest time, and it was absolutely mind-blowing. Argh! Thank you “party smart”!!!! And thank you Vik for this awesome 4 days in Goa!
We arrived in Hampi after a crappy bus ride with broken air conditioning (it was so cold, I was dreaming that I was sleeping in snow!) But the absolutely mystical scenery stunned us, and made us forget all negative thoughts:
Hampi is a small village located within the ruins of Vijayanagara empire’s capital, which dates from 1335 to 1565 (although there have been human settlements here since 1 CE.) In the last years of the empire, the town was destroyed by a six-month Muslim siege. It has always been a sacred site (you can feel the magic in the air), and meat and alcohol are forbidden in the main city.
The site is located near a river, which we had to cross on a tiny boat in order to reach our guest house. This area gave me shivers… it felt like I was in ancient times or something! People were purifying themselves in the river at the dawn of the day, washing their hair and clothes in the holy river water. It was one hell of a sight…
People cleaned everything in the river, including their clothes – which they laid out on rocks for them to dry:
Finally, we reached our guesthouse, which was chosen for us by our friend Ganesh. We had no idea what to expect, really, but we were surprised when we arrived. A cute little bungalow with an outdoor hanging bed was waiting for us:
This side of the river is really calm, and we had some really nice sleep. People told us how India was fucking LOUD and how it never slept. I guess they haven’t had the pleasure of discovering Hampi!
We mostly went to touristy restaurants, which usually implies they have better hygiene. The food served here is a mix of north Indian cuisine (I wonder why?), Israeli (falafels and humus), Indian, Chinese, Tibetan and continental. We mostly tried to eat as Indian as possible… and 100% vegetarian in order to be as safe as possible. It’s so good anyway!
During one of our meals, the cooks started becoming all agitated and were trying to kill something. I thought they had found a rat or something… but no! They were killing this gigantic 3-inch scorpion!!!!
What is really weird here is that people visiting from all over the world are dressed up as pseudo-hippies. They wear some kind of colourful puffy elephant pants and 50% of them have dreads. Restaurants seem to cater to them, and most of them have hippy/spacey decorations and paintings. François snapped this shot of myself, which kind of looks like it would come from a HAWKWIND live gig!
Anyway, enough of all of that… let’s get to business and visit the ruins – which is the real reason why we came here (besides relaxing).
Spread over 26 square kilometres, the ruins of Vijanagar are mostly concentrated in two groups which we have visited; the ruins of temples around the Hampi Bazaar (the main street, full of squatted ruins turned into homes, restaurants and souvenir shops), and the second group is the royal enclosure – consisting of palaces (or what remains of them), elephant stables, guard houses and a few temples.
The most famous of all Hampi temples is the Virupaksha temple, which we have seen earlier. It dominates the village by its size, and attracts tons of pilgrims every day. Inside is a cute female elephant who let me pet her trunk.
East of the chaotic Bazaar is the Boulder Hill, which becomes Matanga Hill. We happily climbed its beautiful boulder-filled path in order to discover more ruined hidden gems…
West of Matanga Hill is the Achyutaraya temple complex which dates from the early to mid 1500’s and is dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu. It also boasts some quite interesting erotica stone carvings! They are a bit erased by now, but you can still figure out what’s going on with enough imagination.
A little walking later and we arrived at the famous Vitthala temple, which is protected under Unesco as a monument of high importance to the heritage of the world. The temple, which was also built for Vishnu, possessed small musical pillars which resonates to a note of the scale when struck! Everything has been built from huge granite boulders, and it looks really, really cool:
In front of the temple is a representation of a wooden processional chariot. The wheels are now cemented but they used to revolve apparently!
When coming back to the Bazaar, we have to go through a riverside path which is absolutely beautiful! There were some funny signs along the way, as well as the Agni temple on the other side of the river… you could reach it by jumping on a small hand-made round boat thing.
The other set of ruins was further away, so we had to take a rickshaw to get to ‘em. We found one that would take us for 1$, but a poor non-English speaking French couple we met were cheated in paying 10$ for the same thing! I guess they didn’t try ripping us off with the way we look hehe. Anyway, we first visited the Lotus Mahal, which is where the queen and the women of the court could relax. I think you call that a harem or something!
A bit further away are the royal elephant stables, which reflected the high status accorded to elephants, both ceremonial and in battle. There was also a bunch of kids sitting on an elephant that were really excited that I take a photo of them!!!
Walking towards the royal palace is the private palace shrine, which features nice detailed friezes. Unfortunately, it seems all the women on it were decapitated!
Finally, we reached the disappointingly ruined royal palace, or what remains of it. It had remains of a really cool aqueduct system anyway!
So, that’s all of what we visited of Hampi! We’re going to take a night bus back to Bangalore, and then fly to Delhi to keep exploring this intriguing country that is India!
One last day in Bangalore
On our last day to Bangalore before we headed to Delhi, I went to get some henna tattoo done by Vik’s wife, who is super talented! I always wanted to get one of those, and it turned out awesome:
And then we had this amazing St-Valentines dinner which I cooked to thank Ganesh and his wife for their hospitality (and friendship)! Goat Steaks with Chocolate Red Wine Sauce, Roasted Caramelized Vegetables!
OK, too much wine. Time for bed. See you in Delhi!