death metal finds faith
by adam md yusop
pictures by maryann koh

 

Rudra was formed in mid-1992 as a trio comprising Kathi (bass, vocals), Shiva (drums) and Bala (guitars). Named after the Hindu god of destruction, Lord Shiva, the group is an epithet of Lord Shiva - they will violently snap you out of the trance with a brutal snap of the neck! At the time, they were one of the most active metal bands next to Impiety.

When describing Rudra, the term Death Metal may be limiting, but they have rejuvenated the genre by expressing their pagan spiritual side, one that is lacking in the local scene. They have recently release their second onslaught, The Aryan Crusade. Bala has since left the group and Rudra now include guitarists Kannan and Selvam, who doubtedly add more bite to the sound.

Rudra have received attention from all parts of the globe after the release of their debut album, which sold 4,000 units, making them one of the best-selling Singaporean death/black metal bands. The album opens with a traditional Indian-style musical intro, one that doesn't necessarily give you an idea what to expect from the rest of the album, but is pleasant just the same. Rudra introduce the Vedic philosophy to death metal, with a few Indian elements thrown in at the same time (translations of the Sanskrit can be found on their website).

The Rudra sound - deep, distorted rhythm with assaulting drums and bass piecing the Vedic transcripts together. More than just a continuous barrage of noise, the songs are filled with lyrics that stimulate intelligence. Musically, the simplified components either allow individual instruments to shine through on their own, or provide an atmospheric interlude to the otherwise kind of emotionless music. It may appear that the music is part of an overall atmospheric and emotional sound, but it also comes across as a technical adventure. ADAM MD YUSOP talks to the group to get the Rudra experience.


 

What happen to Alvin and Bala - the guitarists that played with Rudra on the debut full-length album?

Kathi: Alvin and Bala are no more with us. Bala has formed Kaliyuga (the band also includes Shiva and Selvam).They will be releasing their debut album very soon. Alvin is presently working and studying part-time.

You recorded the demo, The Past, at TNT? Do you think during that time, it captured your style?

Kathi: The Past was recorded at TNT. But that was totally a different era for us. We took a more melodic approach with typical death metal moments. But it sure defined the direction we were taking then. From there we could not proceed further therefore we broke up, and the birth of Rudra.

I believe that you have just finished a tour in India? How was it?

Kannan: The gig in India was awesome. The stage ambience and the crowd were nothing like we anticipated. The metal scene in India is small but growing rapidly. The bands there are talented and good. However, most of them are still listeners of the old Megadeth and Metallica and some old school heavy metal. And, of course, we enjoyed playing there.

Selvam: It was rather overwhelming actually. We were, dare I say, treated like stars and we were kind of uncomfortable at first. But it was an interesting feeling when people recognise your music and compliment you. The people were warm with their hospitality and we made some good friends as well. The music scene is far more alive than Singapore and the playing is of a much higher standard than we expected. Bands there do play like Dream Theater and we found lots of Petruccis and Portnoys so don't underestimate them. Metal wise they are not so evolved as they are starving for more metal bands to come there and boost the metal scene. Overall there is metal in India!

Shiva: It was great performing in front of the Indian crowd who headbanged and moshed and were very supportive to our music. The people were great especially in New Delhi where we had a "star-hero" reception. Bombay, on the other hand, was quite disappointing - the turnout was low due to exams! But we made new friends over there and would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who made this tour possible!

You have incorporated Vedic philosophy into death metal, with a few Indian elements thrown in. Was it a subconscious transition or planned? You could have easily stayed on playing death metal but you chose to play in a slightly different direction, why?

Kathi: It was just the latent impressions in our minds expressing themselves in the form of music that we play. We are sort of taking advantage of this natural evolutionary response and bringing out a different dimension to extreme metal music. Actually we are really not a death metal band and, at the same time, neither can we say we are absolutely not. We really don't know what we are doing but we sure know that it is not commercial s***. It is better to call it extreme metal or our preferred name, Vedic Metal.

Rudra is basically Vedic philosophy plus extreme metal plus Indian music.

Kathi: It is also an attempt to redefine ourselves with every release. For example, any listener who has listened to our first album would realise that the classical Indian music parts are almost non-existent on The Aryan Crusade. But if one were to listen carefully, most guitar riffs are laden with Indian music variations. But this wasn't planned. We just evolved. And there is one thing that I must say... I am really sick of the death metal that I am hearing right now. It is too clinical and doctored. It has become a platform to display how fast or brutal and, at the same time, how skilful the players are. I hate this trend and I believe this killed death metal. I still like the old school death metal. Of course, I am not dismissing the new bands who play their own stuff. It is just a matter of preference. But when it comes to Rudra, distinction is our keyword. We want to be different and do what represents us best. Not to imitate any other band

How did you got your name and what does it mean?

Kathi: Our band is named after the Hindu god of destruction, Lord Shiva. Rudra is an epithet of Lord Shiva. We were searching for a name that would best represent our pagan religious culture, our music and our lyrical direction. And we settled on this name.

How would you describe your music?

Kathi: We play death/black metal leaning towards the death metal genre. The unique aspect of our music is that it features Indian classical music and Sanskrit chants.

What are some of your favourite groups?

Kathi: My favourites are Slayer, Deicide, old Sepultura, Death, Obituary, Emperor,Marduk, Dimmu Borgir, Bathory and Kreator.

Being an Asian, it is interesting to fuse brutal staccato riffs with ethnic elements. But do you feel it is natural for you?

Selvam: Well, it involves a lot of brain work although at times it sounds primitive or s****y. What we are trying to do is to bring both worlds of music together without compromising their uniqueness! So I guess I wouldn't dare say it's natural. It takes some time to actually "visualise" the song as a whole.

Shiva: I guess we always wanted to do something original and something-in-your-face kind of thing! We are proud to be Indians and we have a rich culture! We do not wish to be another Antichrist or satanic band out there who claim to burn churches and kill/rape women.

And what about Shatriya?

Kannan: Shatriya is something like a project band. We experimented with the idea of combining the heavy metal scene in the Western world with Tamil lyrics. Shatriya was formed two years ago. We approached a label with this idea and they found it innovative so we are now signed to Dhanosh Productions. Well, I have to say that the acceptance of this kind of music within the Indian community is still slow but it's growing.

Do you think Tamil as a language can be applied to heavy metal? For example, Malaysia's Kashmir Stone...

Shiva: I guess there is no language barrier for metal music or in fact any music! I think you should check out Shatriya. We kick more ass than anyone else!

What is the future for Rudra? Do you plan to tour Europe like Impiety?

Kannan: We will be working on our EP this year. This is going to be more awesome than the present one. And we are scouting in Singapore to perform at gigs. There are plans for another Indian tour as well as a gig in Milwaukee... maybe this year.

How about merchandise?

Kathi: So far nothing yet. Check our homepage for updates.

Your album, The Aryan Crusade - how did you decide on the title?

Kathi: Yeah... it has caused enough raised eyebrows since the Sept 11 incident and the war against terrorists. People thought we were supporting the redneck s*** and the white power regime. But please... why would we Asians want to support white power? Although our ancestors could have been Aryans according to our so-called intelligent historians, we have to understand what the word Aryan actually means. The funny thing about this whole KKK and white supremist movement is that they use the word Aryan so indiscriminately and without even knowing its meaning.

"Aryan" is a Sanskrit word. So the best bet is to understand it by not consulting Nazis or Hitler devotees but the ancient Sanskrit text. In Sanskrit, the word Aryan means wise, intelligent, righteous or noble. In the context of Sanskrit literature the word Aryan is used for a person who is wise. Perhaps a philosopher is a better equivalent in English vocabulary. But these fools have used the word to such an extent that it has been misunderstood and distorted. The word Aryan is presently used to denote a race - which is totally bloody stupid. So The Aryan Crusade is the crusade to wipe out fools like these‚ not by killing them, but through knowledge and wisdom. It is like the Dawn of Wisdom. This is the chorus to our opening track: "Watch us invade, invading your minds/Destroying the weak by the sword of wisdom/Removing the darkness from your minds."

And you recorded it at Myx Studio...

Selvam: Well we've done our previous album there. Furthermore we got a new engineer there named Ragu. We thought that perhaps we could "tweak" this engineer more to give us the sound we want. It's always good to test ourselves with new engineers in the hope of finding our sound. Ragu had no prior experience in engineering metal sounds and that was a boon for us as we often find engineers biased towards a certain sound where metal is concerned. There is no room for experimentation or exploration. This is where Ragu's freshness comes into play!

What's your general opinion on death metal? Is it supposed to remain in the underground?

Selvam: Death metal is dead in Singapore as far as we are concerned. Singapore is more trend-oriented, be it music or fashion. People are more into Linkin Park, Limp Bizkit now. I guess they are more prone to change.

Shiva: Before I answer this question, we are not a death metal band! We are a vedic band with metal influence. The scene has changed alot since the early days of death/thrash metal! its not up to us to decide whether should it remain underground or not...in the 1st place we did not decide death metal to be underground instead of mainstream! its up to the them! as far is it concerned for us, it does not matter to us!

What's your concept on your death-metal vocals? Deep growl, mid growl, the grunt, high shriek (black metal), or Obituary style... these have always been in vogue. So which are the ones you are comfortable in utilising most? I tried the black metal shriek and I can't talk for a day! Do you think there's a technique that can be learnt in singing this genre (death/black/thrash)? Chuck Billy is a good example of a classically-trained death/thrash vocalist.

Kathi: Actually I never considered Chuck Billy a good example. He is one confused guy who tries to sound like James Hetfield at times, although Testament rock! Actually I don't know how to call it... my vocals, I mean. It is harsh but it is not the average monstrous vocals that you normally find in most death metal bands. In fact, you can clearly make sense of what I am singing. After the gig in Delhi, this guy came up to me and said that my vocal wasn't really Death but at the same time it was aggressive. That kind of made me feel good that I am not imitating anyone else. I like it the way it is right now and I am damn comfortable with it. I don't lose my voice after recording my vocals or screaming for one to two hours in a gig. (laughs)

Playing bass and singing at the same time, which do you feel or think you can focus more on?

Kathi: I really want to focus on my bass but just that I don't have the time to do it. I really wish that I can have my own distinct basslines that stand on their own among the guitars. But I just don't have the time to really concentrate on them. Hopefully I can accomplish this in the next release.

Any thoughts on the underground and commercial music scene?

I consider underground music to be "a serious tone in mundane life." Commercial music has got only one theme. And that is sex or love, something I'm not interested in writing. Underground music questions the validity of many beliefs that the masses blindly believe. Sometimes it shocks the average man with its directness and freedom of expression. This is sometimes good because it sets the listener thinking. So underground music is important to life. It is just the other side of the coin. We need both underground and commercial to distinguish one from the other.

And as for the scene now... the thing that happened to our scene is that every man is for himself... or rather every band for themselves .We should start working together for gigs and promotion like things were when you guys were with Anesthesia, OP, etc. I can't believe that the metal scene is dying here because most bands gave up. If three men can start a Norwegian metal scene why can't we? Just that we lack the drive and dedication... we give up so easily.... but even if I die in the process let me die as a martyr.

Note: The above interview was published in BigO #193 (January 2002).
Click here to order a copy of the issue (S$4.80). Overseas readers can email
singbigo@singnet.com.sg for rates.


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