I’ve always held the notion that the Indian metal scene is doing pretty well, considering it’s entirely DIY, but sadly there are only a handful of bands that come out with entire albums worth listening to. Of course, the scene is still in its infancy and big name bands such as Scribe, Bhayanak Maut, Undying Inc. and Skyharbor are really the only ones worth mentioning for this reviewer. But a fairly new band from Chennai, called Blind Image, with their 2nd album More Than Human recently caught my attention. What I heard was quite possibly one of the most polished metal albums from India I’ve heard in a while. The production – crisp; the compositions – complex; and the writing – mature.
This thrash-metal group has been getting a lot of praise, and rightly so considering the amazing musicianship on the album. What’s more startling is that the album is entirely self-produced! According to their soundcloud page, “This is a concept album based on a fictional character – Dr.Alvarez Olaf. It is closely associated with (the) Large Hadron Collider”. Being a concept album, it utilities a cyber-punk theme and as the album title suggests, hints that we are all “more than human”. In a world where people have become more robotic in nature and lost all humanity, the album asks for humanity to “give new meaning to existence”.
Starting with the vocals, the band takes the whole “screamed-verse and clean-chorus” approach that we’ve all come to love in metal. The screaming-vocals are done pretty well and are consistent throughout the album; I only wish I could’ve said the same about the clean-vocals. Though the vocalist is no Howard Jones, on quite a few tracks the clean-sung chorus really drives the point home, case in point, the stand-out track ‘Decipher’. But honestly, the guitars are really the strongest feature of the album. The guitar tone is so thick that it channels every Ibanez-wielding Meshuggah-clone out there. It’s also a good thing that the album is not a straight-forward chug-fest. ‘Ominous’ has a tasty solo that sounds great and shows that the guitarist really knows his chops. Even that sweet little jazz intro on ‘Axioms of Synergy’ was especially cool and caught me entirely off-guard.
This is not to say that the guitar over-shadows everything. Unlike most metal bands, the bass is quite audible here. This is most apparent on the intro of ‘Glitch in the System’, where the fast-picking leads into the main riff and maintains the steady groove of this groove-laden track. Sadly, the drums don’t seem to be getting as much attention as the rest of the instruments. They don’t sound as good as everything else and are quite low in the mix, making them seem slightly muffled for some reason. Playing wise, the drums are played pretty well, but all they seem to be doing is following the main riff with slight variations at certain parts. The fills aren’t anything spectacular either.
Though the production is astounding for a band this new, my only problem with the album was the clean-vocals. The person doing the clean-vocals clearly does not know how to hold a tune. Tracks such as ‘Circle of the Unique’ and ‘Epitaph’ seem very out of place on the album. I understand that they’re supposed to be breathers from the relentless chugging that nearly constitutes 80% of the album, but they sound very uninspiring and look as though they’ve taken a page out of some 90’s hard-rock album. Not to say the riffs and ambience of these tracks sound bad, but the Scott Stapp-esque vocals (vocalist of the famous 90s hard-rock band, Creed) sound downright comical when done in the 2010s. This especially becomes a problem on the album closer ‘Sepia Tone Sunrise’, where it’s clear to see the vocalist having a difficult time trying to hit every note on the chorus. Along with the horrible backing vocals, it just ruins the first half of the song. Thankfully, the amazing riff in the second half saves the song, even if it does sound like the breakdown from Lamb Of God’s ‘Walk With Me In Hell’.
More Than Human is an album few Indian bands can even come close to writing. It’s a complete album with a very well thought-out concept that follows the cyber-punk theme closely. The album flows properly with few much needed breathers which not only show off the band’s musical diversity but also their prowess at creating atmosphere. Hopefully, this album will inspire more young Indian bands to write complete concept albums rather than having a collection of songs that lack any fore-thought or musical talent, for that matter. Good bands are too far and few in the Indian metal scene, and with Blind Image releasing such a stellar album, the future of Indian metal sees a slight glimmer in this barren scene.