As vibrant, committed and increasingly varied as India’s metal scene is, it’s hard to imagine its development over the past two decades without the tireless energy of Sahil ‘The Demonstealer’ Makhija as one of its core motors. Having formed symphonic death/black outfit Demonic Resurrection at the turn of the millennium, he led them to become the first internationally renowned metal band from the country, winning the Global Metal award at Metal Hammer’s Golden Gods in 2010. He also started India’s first metal label, Demonstealer Records, went on to play in countless other bands and fronted the wildly popular online cooking show, Headbanger's Kitchen.
All the epic, galvanising qualities of Demonic Resurrection have been transferred into his solo project, Demonstealer. His latest EP, The Holocene Termination, is out on December 3 via Demonstealer Records, featuring a host of guest appearances from members of Fleshgod Apocalypse, Marduk, Gorgasm, Six Feet Under and more, and they’ve just dropped a new single, An Epoch Of Degradation, a dazzling, blackened death diatribe riven with technical finesse and untampered yet uplifting fury about the state of our planet. So who better to give an authoritative guide to the Indian metal scene than The Demonstealer himself?
“If I was asked to compile this list about 20 years ago it would have been much easier,” says Sahil ‘The Demonstealer’ Makhija. “Honestly even 10 years ago it would be easier, because while the Indian scene had plenty of bands it hadn't quite grown to what it is today. The sheer volume of bands is staggering. When I started there would have been no more than 15-20 extreme metal bands and today I feel like 10 bands to showcase the Indian metal scene isn't quite enough. The ones here cover the spectrum of subgenres and even time periods in the evolution of Indian metal as a whole.“
A name that most people outside India are familiar with. They are the band that, to me, found and defined the sound of 'Indian Metal' that the world was looking for. If you're looking for a band that brings in traditional Indian instruments and melodies, a band that writes and sings in both English and Hindi and hits you on an emotional level, Bloodywood does all that and more. I think they’re will in fact be the band that takes Indian metal further than it has gone before. The song I've picked is one of my personal fave from the band. It has high energy, infectious melodies and a touching subject.
The only active Indian metal band older than my own, Kryptos are a band I looked up to when I started out. Over two decades they have consistently churned out killer music and while they started out even more extreme, they found their brand of heavy metal in their later albums. With Kryptos it's all about denim, leather and beer. They breathe that lifestyle and their music is filled with conviction. The song I've picked is my favourite from their latest album, Force Of Danger, which is a homage to the music and movies of the 90s. Kryptos wear their influences of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Judas Priest on their sleeves, and deliver solid tunes that you can rock out to with your mates while drinking a beer too.
If there was an award for hard work, entrepreneurship and brutal death metal I'd give it to Gutslit. When it comes to showing others how it's done, I have nothing but admiration for how hard these guys work. They’ve been active for more than a decade, have done some of the craziest tours that any band has done, let alone an Indian band. When you think of brutal death metal and grindcore from India, these guys are the first name that comes to mind. An absolute unstoppable force and an absolute PARTY on stage when they play. This song is my pick. Comes with a killer animated video.
If there is a band who are championing traditional heavy metal with those air raid siren vocals among the death metal growls of most of the Indian bands, it's Albatross. They like to call themselves ’Horror Metal’ and tell elaborate stories through their albums and songs. They aren’t afraid to throw down four guitar solos in a song and write long, epic tracks. Their brand of horror metal isn't always what's popular in India, but they do a damn good job of it. With a decade under their belt, their latest offering Neptune Murders is my choice for you to listen to. Also comes with a cool animated video.
This band don't exist anymore, but talk to anyone who was part of the music scene in the early and mid-2000s and they will know this name. But even if they don't remember the band, they will remember the drummer, Yasmin Claire Kazi, who till today would be counted as one of the best extreme metal drummers to come out of India. This band was technical, precise and heavy AF! The reason I'm including them is because their debut album (which I released on my label back in 2008) has now been remixed, remastered and re-released on Subcontinental Records and definitely deserves a listen. Thirteen years later, the album has stood the test of time and still packs a punch. This is my fave song from the album.
One of the newer bands on my list that play death metal. Godless pull no punches with their brand of in-your-face death metal. It's a blend of the best parts of old school and modern. They've only released two EPs, but their debut album is scheduled for release later this year and I think it's going to be one of the top albums from the scene. As a death metal fan, I really enjoy their music, but I've loving the slight change in the sound on their newer material, which is why I recommend this song from their upcoming album. It's gnarly, heavy and in your face!
7. Heathen Beast
Heathen Beast are an anonymous black metal band that turned their sound to grindcore while their lyrics got more political. Every scene needs a band that just says 'Fuck off' to everything and everyone. That is the music of protest. I really enjoyed their raw black metal sound in the early work, which later shifted to include more Indian instruments and eventually did a 360 and turned grindcore. The track I've picked is from one of their EPs that took shots at Narendra Modi, the current PM of India and his role in the Godhra Riots in 2002 when he was Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat where the riots took place.
8. Inner Sanctum
Groovy, dark and heavy – that's the best way to describe Inner Sanctum. They’re one of the bands that always has the absolute best production for their music they have carved a name for themselves in the scene. Their new song and video is absolutely crushing. While most bands are speeding up their songs to crazy bpms, these guys have turned down the tempo and turned up the heavy. That's why this is my pick from them.
9. Undying Inc
This band are the epitome of extreme metal. They have been around for a long time and gone through a lot of line-up changes but what has remained constant is their uncompromising sound that's just chaotic, and I mean that in a good way. It's really like a sledgehammer. They’ve recently been joined by ex-Bhayank Maut vocalist, Sunneith Revankar, who is one of my favourite vocalists and that's why I've picked this latest track from them.
This band are taking the baton of thrash metal and carrying it forward. There are only a handful of bands in India that take their thrash metal seriously, think of Slayer, Kreator, Sodom, old Metallica and Exodus. Chaos from Kerala know how to put on a show with their brand of metal. They are unrelenting, they are fast and they frankly don't give a fuck. This is my song pick from them and they've got this crazy video for the song which included all their fans having a massive moshpit in the mud.
An Epoch Of Degradation is out now via Youtube. The Holocene Termination is released on December 3 via Demonstealer Records, and can be preordered either via the Demonstealer Bandcamp (opens in new tab) internationally or the Demonstealer Merch Store in India