Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Gospel Night at Unwind Centre

Unwind Diary: Gospel Night
Saturday 31st March



Last Saturday was Gospel Night at Unwind Centre. Performances by the following gospel rock groups:

Beneath the Blood – Bangalore/Mysore
Holy Vengeance - Bangalore
Blood Covenant – Chennai
Godspeed – Bangalore

Lots of great hard rock with a Christian theme to the lyrics: most of it drowned out in the horrible growling of heavy metal singers, so it didn’t make much of a difference one way or the other. Loud cries of ‘Jesus Rocks!’ and ‘Glory to God!’ between the songs. Gospel rock concerts are meant for the faithful. If you have landed up only for the music (as I had), that’s your problem. Anyway, it is nice to see the touching faith and the sincerity of the bands and the audience in this age of cynicism, and it was devoid of religious chauvinism.

All the performances were good. There were two outstanding performances:

Firstly Aubrey of Beneath the Blood ended their set with an amazing bass solo. Most of their set was extremely good, but this solo was the icing on the cake. It was a hard funk piece, with lots of intricate fingerings, tapping effects and lots of inventive riffs. I have rarely heard such a long bass solo which also managed to keep one’s attention riveted the whole duration.

Aubrey was earlier with the well known hard rock group Moksha, which wound up. He joined a gospel group as it held more meaning for him. His bass playing is influenced by Marcus Miller, amongst others. The other members of the band are Anand on rhythm, Jyotis on drums, Jonathan on keyboards and Naveen on lead.

The big performance of the night was of course Blood Covenant. This band from Chennai has started making waves in the Indian music scene. They almost didn’t make it as their car was stoned while leaving Chennai- a part of the state sponsored bandh in Chennai to protest against a recent Supreme Court ruling. Anyway, they made it and played a magnificent set.


Blood Covenant play loud headbanging death metal, but with a Christian theme. They describe their music as ‘Intense Christian Metal’. They are Ed Bull on vocals, Thorn on bass, Wolf on guitar, and Hurricane on drums. They live up to their fanciful names, and are all amazing strong in their respective departments. But their star is clearly their drummer Hurricane, who whips himself into a frenzied dervish of flying hair and flickering drumsticks while playing, viciously attacking the high hats and the snare without a trace of Christian mercy or losing a drop of the milk of human kindness. He was especially brutal and murderous on their last piece, ‘God rules’. I could see Ram, the manager of Unwind Center, looking distinctly worried. It was the Unwind Centre drum kit.

I spoke to them after the set, and Hurricane looks strange off the stage. With his hair tied into a neat pony tail, and without the drum sticks, he looks surprisingly thin and small, with a shy and diminutive smile on his face. He looks….normal! When he shook my hands politely and introduced himself as the drummer with a pleasant smile on his face, I was thunderstruck. I couldn’t believe it was the same maniac I had seen on stage minutes ago.

I was also surprised when he told me he has been playing the drums for just three years. He started about two and a half years back with the Mumbai based guru Irwie. I would have thought he had been playing for over a decade.

The guitarist Wolf is into Jazz, Blues, and has even experimented with Country. I asked him if he wasn’t frustrated playing in a Death Metal band, where his role is restricted to strumming a limited set of chords, albeit at a blazing speed. He said he found this a challenge as well: Death Metal emphasizes the right hand technique to an extent unknown in other genre.

The vocalist Ed Bull has been around he longest. He was earlier with Bonesaw, the death metal pioneers in India. He started in ‘91, one of the first death metal singers in the country.

Blood Covenant have big plans: they want to come out with an album in a years time, and tour intensively around the country, and hopefully abroad as well.

Their focus, they say, is to bring the message to the people.

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