Album Review | Dying Out Flame – "Shiva Rudrastakam" (Full length, 2014, Xtreem Music)

[Originally intended for]

Vedic metal is not a terminology unheard, used aptly by its progenitors, the Singaporeans, Rudra, who, while bands throughout the world were eventually and progressively cutting their teeth to assimilate traditional exotic sounds with heavy metal, whittled their own brand invoking Hindu and Vedic ideologies. Exclude them, and there is a grim dearth of groups falling under this template. A simple Encyclopaedia Metallum search results in only eight bands with ‘Hindu’ as their lyrical theme, and four more will show up when you replace it with ‘Vedic’. However, only a few of these bands actually conform musically to the paradigm of their lyricism or have any parallels between their music and themes; examples being Rahu, Cult of Fire, and Necros Christos (see: “Doom of Kali Ma / Pyramid of Shakti Love / Flame of Master Shiva”) to name a few. On the other hand, few bands that remotely incite Indian classical instrumentation and riffing-patterns do not necessarily fall upon the Vedic metal categorization, two bad examples being Weapon (Canada) and Lykathea Aflame. The fact that I am attempting to address is, there is no definitive explanation of Vedic metal based on the music per se, but the term encompasses wide ranging musical styles with a similar underlying thematic tone connecting them. Likewise, the band at hand, Dying Out Flame from Nepal, does not share much musical semblance with most of the aforementioned bands (don’t get mistaken with the ‘Similar Artists’ recommendations), but has its own signatory flares altogether, still dubbing itself as ‘Hindu/Vedic death metal’.

Dying Out Flame comes as an unprecedented contender from the southern frontiers of the Himalayas, for the world domination (being the first Nepali band to sign in a well-establish international record label, after UgraKarma, but who are yet to release their album through Legion of Death). “Shiva Rudrastakam” is primal, and although loaded with atavistic ingredients, also edges with the modern dispositions of extreme metal. Starting out as a jazzy technical death metal outfit, they soon ventured into an ideologically somber and profounder territory of the non-duality philosophy. As Aabeg Gautam, the band’s frontman, in an interview I took with him last year, puts, “Our thought process eventually changed [from being a mere technical death metal band in the starting phase], and we became much more positive. All of us had this common feeling that we do not want to become just another band added to a thousand others with nothing new to the table.” And truly, this debut delivers the ingenuity factor. The songwriting varies conspicuously between tracks, each offering a zest of distinctiveness. However, in general, the album sounds like an uncanny coalescence of early-Fleshgod Apocalypse, later-Behemoth, Hate Eternal, Nile, and Krisiun. The riffs span from the mid-paced opener of “Eternal Mother of Great Time” that sounds to have purportedly resulted from certain Vader-Slayer influences (think “Mandatory Suicide” or the majestic intro of the “Welcome to the Morbid Reich” title track), to “Maisasura Maridini” with “Pierced from Within” era Suffocation meets early-Decapitated technicality, and everything in between these. In addition, Indian instruments like sitar and dholak, and the penetrating female ragas in the classical Indian tenor, mark the confluence of the two worlds; and I concede what Twin_guitar_attack mentioned below, that the transitions from death metal to traditional instrumental parts do not come with the change in the atmosphere, but they seamlessly weave their way into the songs. Melodic lead guitar solos come frequently, generally acting as the rites of passages between the two varieties, as preceding the hymnal anthem-like chorale of the title track, howling, “Om nama shivaye, Om nama bhagwata rudraye”.

Talking about the individual instruments, the bass guitar has a robust presence in the album, played by the man-in-charge Gautam himself, and while his growls are lurid, the gentle, alluring female vocal has its pretty bland moments. Speaking of it, a slight glitch for me would be how perfunctorily placed (wait… I didn’t say that lol) the traditional portions and the female chants are. Perfunctory, because, firstly, the song structures make it sound like these parts are obligatorily put in the otherwise generic toss of pseudo-technical death metal (which is not actually the case here), and, secondly, because most of these traditional parts including the mantras are simply alike to one another. A tad bit more variation would have been splendid. However, the subtleties of the songwriting are exquisitely explicated by how the guitars are executed, including during those artful acoustic parts. In general, with the hard paced death metal that the band plays, the fury of the primordial metal is well-balanced with consummated technicalities like that of Fleshgod Apocalypse and the Indian folk elements like that of Rudra. The climaxes are plentiful, more effective as each track has its own particularity, as I said above. One place where the band’s jazz past could be traced back is in the middle of “Trinetra Dhari (The Three Eyed One)”, but which is engulfed by its own Vedic relish, making it a more amalgamated track in the record. However, this ‘fusion’ of some sorts could also be spotted in the intro, “Praise of the Omnipotent One”, that commences with an exotic flute work and transgresses into the delirious female vocals, as double-pedaling drums accompany them. Drums, overall, is superbly done by Prachanda Amatya, with frequent ultra-blasts and crafty variations, and which are more salient when accompanied with the tribal percussions (like in the intro or the opener of the title track).

Candidly speaking, I almost overlooked at the band when they were initially beginning to make waves in the local scene (I also happen to be from where they are from) thinking they were ‘just another band’, but eventually their songs were being communicated in the internet, and I could not resist from applauding their colossal effort in putting forward something that has not yet been done by many international acts. “Shiva Rudrastakam” is vicious to its core, and while endeavoring to connect the disparate worlds of the East and the West, the old and the new, the old-school and the modern, and all these dichotomies, it has come up with a very bonafide material that cannot be simply described through what was available before them. You can listen to the entire album in Xtreem Music Record’s Bandcamp, but surely, it is worth your 8.95 €.

Favorite tracks: “Vayuputra” and “Maisasura Maridini”

DMN Rating: 4/5

Related article:
Dying Out Flame interview