Offend the Deafened

STATUTORY WARNING : This post may offend those who believe in organized religion. However, I wish that you read on. Because getting offended is what unites all of you.

I had gone on a weekend get away with my friends a week ago. It was to a hill station initially, but the lack of decent enough places to see and the “coolness” factor forced us to get out of the place a couple of hours after we reached there. We decided to do a triangle instead, heading for the “holy” city of Haridwar. The culture of the city is colourful and captivating. What I don’t like, however, is the abuse that the beautiful Ganges has to endure for the eccentricities of those who worship her. Humanity has this incredible knack of destroying what it adores anyway. The difference is heavily evident between the river at the foothills at Rishikesh and in the plains in Haridwar, hardly 20 km from each other. Of course, the damage starts at the former, with every Tom, Dick and Harry who has nothing to do in life attained enlightenment starting what is called an Ashram on the banks along with a bathing area, where people do all sorts of things. Except probably bathing.

We decided to have breakfast in a canteen associated with one of the “spiritual” tourism destinations, a mini-city of sorts where people can stay for a few days. What was appalling was the attitude of the staff there. First, they made everyone wait half an hour more for what is a paid service. Secondly, they really had that sarkari baby air about them. More like, “We get paid anyway. Who gives a heck about the service we provide?”.

While in a temple town, one is supposed to visit temples. We decided to visit one on one of the hills. I tagged along because it would be fun to see the town from so high up. And put my energy levels to test with the waiting in the crowd. There is a cable car service to get there, for the ones with not enough energy/time to get to the top. Normally, I will be comfortable inside a place of worship, irrespective of its origin, what people do there etc. The turn-offs for me however, are the signboards/messages that are posted for the ones who visit the place. Importantly, the ones which give instructions. To give you some samples :

  • Visit the other temple, hardly a couple of kilometers from this place. Isn’t this religious marketing, if I may use the term? As if it were wine and food. These two complement each other well, so we recommend that you take the two. Pardon me for the pathetic simile ever.
  • Beware of pick pockets. First of all, you are a pompous show off if you visit a very crowded place like a walking ATM or a jewellery shop. On second thoughts, I think the warning is for such people, who are not mentally developed enough to realize the consequences of such a risk. However, I thought that God would watch over them, at least in the places where they were installed.
  • Don’t Reuse the Offerings that have already been made. This blatantly declares that “We are a capitalist market. We need profits. Recycling can go and cry in a corner.” Alternatively, it could also mean that God hates recycling. Now you know why most of mankind is averse to that too, don’t you?

We had to wait a long time to get our turn at using the cable car, to and from the temple. Add to that, the time spent waiting to catch a glimpse of the idol amidst the sacred chants of the, wait for it, security staff “Chalte raho, chalte raho”(Which doesn’t mean “God Bless You” and in fact, means “Keep moving”). I have been called a crazy junkie for standing long hours to catch metal gigs. The longest being close to 9 hours for Metallica. The significant difference being that I get to see bands playing for 2-4 hours. And no one asks me to get out of the venue after one song. That, I pay for a ticket is a different thing. But then, I have one word for you. Tirupati.

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Pilgrimage

This past Sunday saw the giants of the metal scene, Opeth, from Stockholm, Norway(according to The Man himself) gave a demonstration of supremely brilliant musicianship at Bangalore. Watching them for the second time, I kind of knew what to expect, which was nothing but the very best. And they didn’t disappoint. Neither did the fans who did their best, given the small numbers that turned up for the show.

The opening bands were pretty decent. I missed most of Theorized. Eccentric Pendulum were good, the sound could’ve been much better. Nothnagel were good too, but the best of the four opening for Opeth was Suidakra. The Celtic metal numbers that they belted out were pretty nice and I am definitely going to check that band out in a few days.

Opeth started off with Devil’s Orchard from Heritage, the album which has split the fan base into two. Heritage is a wonderful record and they played the song to perfection. It helped that the section of the crowd I was in, knew most of the lyrics, which made it amazing. I was in the 2nd row for those interested.

They continued with I Feel the Dark. This is one of my favourite tracks from Heritage. The whisper and the transition in the middle is stunning in my opinion, even though it could be putting off for a lot of people. Mikael’s voice was perfect on the track. We got a sample of what was to come in the next few tracks by then. Mikael kept the crowd at their wit’s ends with some funny comments.

Face of Melinda is a poem and a painting and it couldn’t have been better rendered. The way Slither, a tribute to Ronnie James Dio was introduced, I shed a few tears remembering some of the losses I’ve had to cope with. A slight strain was evident in Mikael’s voice on the song, but the heaviness of the track remained in tact, just like in the album.

Credence is one of my favourites from My Arms Your Hearse and it was great to sing along to the track.

Martin Mendez played the bass to perfection on To Rid the Disease. I would’ve preferred Closure from Damnation, but I am not complaining because this is a very trippy track as well.

And the track I had been waiting for, all evening. Folklore is the best track on Heritage for me and I always knew that they would perform an extended outro for the track on live shows because the album version provides just a teaser to what could have been. Frederik nailed the outro with a  killer solo and I knew I had had a great evening already.

It was great on the part of the band to play heavy numbers just because they were touring India for just the second time, even though Mikael’s priorities had shifted to clean singing. This was the part where the beast in me was unshackled and I decided that my voice needed to get ruined.

Axe, who was very tight so far, showed us what he is capable of as a heavy metal drummer. The ending of Heir Apparent is one major Opeth moment for me and to listen to it for the second time was a beautiful feeling. Drapery Falls was performed to perfection. I couldn’t find any flaw in the rendition. Baying of the Hounds, from my favourite Opeth record was a treat for the ears.

I expected a longer encore, but the track they chose provided the ultimate ending to a brilliant show. Deliverance was delivered brilliantly. The outro is again, one of the brilliant Opeth moments for me and to hear them nail it was great.

Joakim looked like a pretty decent replacement for Per, though no one can compare to the brilliance that he brought in.

I left the venue feeling contented. The pilgrimage had been fulfilling. The music that I worship was elevated further. And I, am a few steps closer to liberation.

Riding the Lightning

After a wait of seven long years. Seven years after I started listening to the genre of music called Metal. I can finally say that I was there. I was there when one of the greatest bands in history played for the first time in my country. And they made up for the wait that has been endured by other metal heads in the country. Some who were older than my parents. Picture this, my most favourite album has been in existence longer than I have been. That’s three generations of fans rocking out to them when they did put out a night that every one will remember.

The wait started for me with a flight trip from the Capital City Region(whose show got cancelled and I don’t want to talk about that because there has been too much negativity in here for quite some time now). Bangalore gave me a warm welcome. The friends there, @zennmaster, @notfartingpen, @barkingbegum were very generous and kind hosts. A night of expectation later, we were up and ready to head to the venue.

If there was something called waiting, this is it. Don’t tell us about how you waited to get into a movie hall for 15 minutes. Or getting stuck in a traffic jam for 30 minutes. We waited 4 hours to get in. There was an ocean of people. Some camping outside the venue since the previous night. There couldn’t be a better definition for Pilgrimage. They were the Gods and we were the devotees trying to get a glimpse.

It started, as usual, with Ecstasy of Gold. That’s the part where 90% of the crowd lost their original voices. I was lucky enough to be in a noisier section of the crowd. The rituals that were to be done during Creeping Death were done religiously. There couldn’t have been a better opening to the show. Once it got over, the remaining 10% lost their voices. Creeping Death gave way to For Whom the Bell Tolls. Rob absolutely nailed the intro bass solo. They did mess up the timing a bit, but that was one of the few occasions when we felt they were human beings after all. The lights went off. The metal heads went wild for the next one because James screamed “Give Me Fuel, Give Me Fire..” and there were 10 feet high flames on the stage as part of the pyro. If the first two songs didn’t get the crowd wild, this one definitely did. This was the part where the fans got into that zone where they were extracting every last ounce of energy left.

Then they played Ride the Lightning. We knew the night was going to be a special one, if we didn’t already. The lights went out again. James was on the elevated section of the stage with an acoustic guitar on the stand. I choked on this one because this was a song that got me hooked on the very first listen that I listened to it 50 times on loop before moving on to other tracks on the album.

Cyanide was up next. The response wasn’t much to talk about. I would’ve been happier if they played Day that Never Comes instead of this one. I was complaining before the gig about this track featuring, but once they started, I didn’t. It sounded just like on the album.

Memory Remains was a track to remember. The crowd sang along during the whole track. The “Nananana” part at the end of the song had James smiling and just look at us in wonder. That was the high point of the night for me. We just didn’t stop singing.

Sanitarium followed. They were on a classics trip and we weren’t complaining. James asked us if we wanted a heavy number and proceeded to play Sad But True.

The next four tracks proved that we were watching four youngsters on stage instead of 50-somethings. The energy that they put into it was unbelievable. All Nightmare Long is one of the best Metallica tracks in my opinion. I was grossly disappointed, however, by the response it got. They absolutely nailed it, but all the crowd did was applaud in the end. We could have put in a lot more during the song.

Pyros were expected during the intro to One, which never happened. The explosion sounds were played over the PA however. It was an absolute delight to listen the double bass from Lars and Kirk do THAT solo live. One was followed by the track which is the most special track to most Metallica fans. I had trouble controlling tears and didn’t head bang to Master of Puppets. The song means something else to me.

Blackened followed, although James started out with the riff for Battery. How much energy does James have?! And like my friend @OldmonkMGM keeps asking, is there a way to clone that right hand? The downpicking on Master and Blackened was spot on.

The song that followed was the one which was the “Worth the Money” track(mind the sarcasm). Kirk started out with a clean guitar solo before hitting the 6th string. We knew what was coming and it was their most popular track. If I remember correctly, James did the solo and it was wonderful.

Enter Sandman was the last on the set list before the encore. The fireworks that went up from the roof of the stage can be described in only one word. EPIC!

The encore started out with Am I Evil?, the Diamond Head Cover. However, the next track was something that I never expected and perhaps, none of them expected it except this one guy in front of me. Battery! They played Battery live for us!

To top it off, they scanned the scene in Bangalore that night. Three simple words. Seek and Destroy. Boy, what a night. It was worth all the pain I had to go through in the recent weeks to make it to the show. The wait, a sprained neck, numb feet, a voice which bordered on the edge of a whisper, the money spent. It was all worth it. I hope Lars keeps his promise and they tour India again pretty soon.

PS : There are a lot more people to thank for making this an absolutely brilliant trip. I am not taking names because I don’t want it to look like a mass tweet that some of the folks do in the mornings.

PPS : Biffy Clyro were good too, but this trip was all about Metallica, so I skipped that part.

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