Only the gullible believe that the glut of popular metal bands that have made their foray into India will improve the quality of the native heavy metal scene. Over the last eight years, bands the likes of Iron Maiden, Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer, Sepultura, Kreator, Rotting Christ, Destruction, Enslaved, Testament, Carcass and a few others that I am missing, have all played shows in this once-arid landscape for heavy metal. Cannibal Corpse, Napalm Death and Inquisition are due in the months to follow. Even relatively obscure bands like Wormrot, Putrid Pile, Defiled, Obliteration and Nekromantheon have graced these ancient shores in recent years. All this is obviously great news for metal connoisseurs who finally get to watch professional, legendary bands in their own city with their own friends. No amount of live gigs seen abroad can rival the festive feeling and the buildup that takes place before seeing a big band that you have grown up hearing play on your own soil. To that end, this is a wonderful development for metal fans in the country.
Mainstream metal publications and ignorant foreigners are only too glad to latch on to a virgin territory that they haven’t had the chance to whore out before, and what better way to sell platitudes than by invoking venerable India, land of ganja-smoking rishis and the holy Ganges that The Beatles once visited? But when this leads people to think that the local metal climate is in robust health, it can only imply a complete disconnect with ground reality. Even a cursory look across the country in search of metal bands, or an observation of the newer generation of so-called metal fans, reveals the absence of any kind of unifying thread that could tie into a scene. While an open-minded attitude to new ideas is no bad thing, and is something that has allowed this land and its philosophies to survive and even thrive over thousands of years in spite of repeated outsider aggressions, a scene or a movement requires quite the opposite: an ability to look inward and be self-centered about the process concerned to the exclusion of all else. A scene is not formed by loud exhortations to goodwill but by a mutually shared yet unacknowledged commitment to the same ideals. This simply does not exist in India. The nearest approximation of a genuine scene to unknowing eyes might be found in the eastern city of Kolkata but time will tell whether this is only a chimaera based on mindless idol worship.
What appears to be missing the most, and sadly too, is the obsessive banter over heavy metal of even just fifteen years ago. Over the internet, in person, and at concerts where the most one could expect was some band pulling off a good Metallica or Deicide cover, people would converge and just plain talk heavy metal. With obnoxious energy to many around, sure, but the music retained its preeminence. Internet forums teemed with bullshit but also with insightful contributions and hashing out of arguments. The onset of social media like Facebook, unfortunately, shifted the focus away from the music to the self, with its overt appeal to vanity. Not a platform for carrying on extended conversations in a user-friendly fashion, it instead reared a new kind of music fan subsisting on “likes” and monosyllabic, sms-esque expressions of “sick” and “\m/”. Words came to be at a premium, to be used only for inane, socializing chatter and not for any intense conversation lest you be labeled a serial bore. Is it any surprise then that this same herd of metal fans creates music so soulless and lacking in direction?
For a scene to truly exist, metalheads in India need to rediscover the art of purposeful communication. It is only through an active and healthy discussion of the music and its peripherals that metal fans here will come to appreciate the philosophy of heavy metal, and the idea of its underground, as it has evolved over the last forty-five years.