by Niklas Göransson
Sonic antagonism from charnel grounds – V. I of Indian war metal band Kapala discusses national history, armed conflict, as well as his thoughts on Vedic depictions in Western black metal.
– From the very beginning, our mission statement was dedicated to playing the most bestial, raw, and terrifying form of black metal – more ‘noise’ than actual music though not quite as harsh as say, WHITEHOUSE. “Infest Cesspool” is the culmination of our first year of efforts as a band, and the results can now be heard.
The 2017 EP is indeed a nasty piece of work, and I especially commend the opening part of “Homosapiennihilation” for being heavy and raw as fuck. I’m curious about the artwork, having found this cockroach-sigil of theirs to complement the sonic filth rather well.
– Many have put forward this observation. I’ve noticed how this sort of ‘anti-music’, due to its inherent nature, always creates a segregation or polarisation – the barbed wire represents that division. As for the cockroach, it signifies the spineless insects being segregated.
When you sing of ‘annihilating the scum’ and so forth, who are you referring to?
– The weak, the drones, the traitors. That’s all.
I read in a previous interview that KAPALA are most dismayed over the state of their domestic scene. After having grown accustomed to the variety of invectives hurled at purported purveyors of false metal here in Europe, I must say that ’Bollywood mallcore churchgoers’ was a breath of fresh air.
– Haha! Well, it was a genuine insult aimed at those who deserve it. It’s safe to say that while Indian metal is developing in its own way, underground culture and mentality are still not present everywhere. The scene is small and pretty divided, and there is of course everything from massive egos to a contentment with mediocrity that restricts the fame of some bands to secluded sub-scenes. Despite all odds we’ve had a few international underground bands perform here, the biggest being IMPIETY followed by various others such as FUNERUS, DEFILED, and MANZER. Over time, I hope to see more bands who keep the true spirit alive.
Seeing as how Indian underground metal appears rife with conflict and ill will, I’m curious whether any of this ever manifests in actual physical confrontation.
– I certainly wish it did! Violence in any scene keeps it dangerous and raw, as it should be. However, most of the aggression here is perpetrated through violent tapping on keyboards so it all becomes quite hilarious. Promises of action on social media are met with silence in the real world, or perhaps a childish little shin-kick followed by running away like a clucking chicken. I’d love to see more harm done, especially to these people.
Whilst the country’s scene in general seems to induce considerable vexation there is, as the saying goes, no place like home.
– We hail the Kolkata underground where the fires still burn. Not that there’s any lack of undesirable elements here either – we hold a special dislike for self-promoting YouTube jockeys and ‘black’ metal bands whose interpretation of the art is not only questionable but nauseating. From half-knowledgeable occult lyrics and hipster trends to ‘spiritual’ DSBM with metalcore drumming, there’s a lot of horror to be seen along with the great bands who were our inspiration growing up; NECRODEITY, BANISH, TETRAGRAMMACIDE, and JYOTISAVEDANGA come to mind. We’re quite close here in our small brotherhood. In Kolkata, the ‘extreme’ tends to be quite literal; the bands from here have always been much more unhinged, whether it be black and death metal or any other obscure form of art. The energies and enthusiasm are electric. You truly are hailed. It’s not easy doing this kind of thing in India but our struggle is what gives the music its uniquely uncompromising character.
Reading up on Kolkata prior to this conversation, I noticed how the city has a large presence of different ethnic and religious minorities – leading me to wonder if its metalheads are divided by demographics. I remember reading that in Northern Ireland during The Troubles, while the biggest religious hostilities were playing out, music concerts were pretty much the only gatherings where people from Catholic and Protestant backgrounds could co-mingle without violence.
– Religion is a big thing here and in India overall – there’s no separation of church and state so to speak – but the metal crowd is not divided into ethnic groups. I have yet to witness a single religious argument or fight at any metal show. In fact, I’ve never seen a place so without demographic separation; while there’s still group formation, it’s mostly genre-warriors rather than soldiers of God if you get my meaning.
Formerly called Calcutta, KAPALA’s hometown was the capital of British India between 1773 and 1911- it used to be known as City of Palaces and was considered second city of the British Empire, after London. Prior to this conversation I watched a documentary about the Kolkata of today and learned of its ancient culture, epic architecture, and horrifying slums.
-You’d be hard-pressed to find any metropolitan area in India without poverty. While certainly present in parts of the city, ours don’t compare to the massive slums of Mumbai for example. Every human settlement, regardless of how beautiful, will have its dark sides – as is customary also in the West I believe. But our city itself is like no other in its charm, however austere. There are pitch-black sides to Kolkata throughout its history but it’s definitely a charming place nonetheless. There’s a certain aura of mystique here that’s easy to glance over as a mere tourist. The city also hides a history of violence and uprising; the years of colonial rule were riddled with acts of liberation; bombings, shoot-outs and hangings. In fact, many believe the resistance was in many ways spearheaded by the Bengal region.
Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, announced the Partition of Bengal on October 16, 1905. The predominantly Muslim eastern domains were separated from the Hindu areas in the west by splitting them up into new provinces. Historical records recount how Hindus in the entire region, outraged that the Bengal nation was being broken in two, were stricken with inconsolable mourning. In Kolkata, thousands of devout Hindus waded into the Ganges river to wash, as is customary when befallen by grave misfortune. This also incited significant Hindu-Muslim antagonism, which had not previously been much of a factor in Indian politics. The official British explanation was administrative efficiency – the provincial state of Bengal spanned more than three-thousand square kilometres and hosted a population of almost eighty million – but is largely believed to have been classic ‘divide and rule’ tactics, with which the conqueror sows intrigue and conflict among the native population in order to govern over a less unified resistance. Bengal would come to be further divided, quite literally, when the entire subcontinent was remapped in the 1947 Partition of India. This division gave birth to the nations of India and Pakistan along with the seething enmity between them.
– Kolkata has also been subject to major communal riots, especially before the Partition of the country. So, as peaceful as the city looks today – there’s tension underneath the tolerant surface. Discontent has been mounting and, as with all emotions, it has to burst out sometime. You’d be surprised at the political consciousness of a general middle-class Bengali. Protests and even violence are commonplace in the city and around it, as are strikes. Growing up, I myself saw many communal riots break out. Student politics has also been quite a big thing. The political situation in general has become increasingly volatile over the years.
Noteworthy turmoil stems from activities of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) which, as its name implies, is a political organisation of Maoist persuasion, tasked with removing from power a state they consider ‘run by a collaboration of imperialists, the comprador bourgeoisie, and feudal lords.’ Its current manifestation came into existence following a 2004 merger between the Maoist Communist Centre of India, the Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist), and the People’s War Group. The movement’s militant wing, the People’s Liberation Guerrilla Army, is estimated to have up to ten thousand insurgents at its disposal. The fighters are known as Naxalites, a term that’s been around and associated with different radical far-left organisations since 1967. The struggle is contested in approximately half of the country’s twenty-nine states and, although the militia’s activities has been diminished in modern times, there’s still significant loss of life each year. In the areas they control, the Naxalites implement People’s courts – similar to the makeshift judicial apparatus pioneered by Chairman Mao – in which defendants are tried and, if convicted, sentenced to die by stabbing or bludgeoning. Their 1971 decree of ‘annihilation line’ stands out; a proclamation compelling movement-sympathisers to spontaneously murder individual ‘class enemies’ wherever they could be found. These ideas had a strong base with radical elements amongst students in Kolkata, who began going after land owners, businessmen, university teachers, police officers and so forth. Law enforcement classified the campaign as a civil war situation and responded with according force, quenching the unrest while leaving little room for diplomatic pleasantries.
– I don’t claim knowledge of all parts and secrets of this city, but for someone with open eyes it has far more than what lies in plain sight. We have some of the largest brothels in all of Asia, if not the biggest. The reality of those districts brings out the city’s true darkness, which is mostly masked. It’s not the usual image people have of this place since it’s generally regarded as a tourist spot in the West. The many killings and rapes almost every day are suppressed by the media. There are cases of insanity so extreme it leaves you wondering what’s really going on; I remember a recent murder which strangely resembled a ritual slaying. It constantly makes you question the reality of your existence. In fact, many commonplace spiritual practices here would be considered highly ‘occult’ in the West – one needs only to come here and see for oneself.
The name Kolkata derives from Kalikata, which in turn refers to the goddess Kali. I think it’s safe to assume that she is the Hindu deity enjoying the most recognition amongst the readership.
– Well, I definitely get to see a lot of Vedic depictions in Western black metal. I honestly don’t find anything about Kali or her worship especially intriguing because this is a reality I’ve observed ever since childhood. While I’m sure some bands do it out of sincere belief, it’s not necessarily to my liking. Especially when it comes to these ‘evil’ Kali depictions, which I suppose is mostly done due to the imagery surrounding her. While such representations generate a great amount of interest in the West they’re quite commonplace to us. Having now seen a few bands represent this concept better than others, I must confess to finding this whole ‘satanic Kali’ approach quite ridiculous myself. It’s actually extremely annoying seeing your own ancestral heritage appropriated as a gimmick. However, if justice is done to the true nature of our customs then it’s fully acceptable.
Are there any Indian black metal bands using Vedic themes?
– Yes, a few. TETRAGRAMMACIDE have many representations which truly represent our heritage with strong authenticity, though the depictions may not always be Vedic. I suppose there are others who use it but none come to mind right now.
While their lyrical themes do not, the band’s name derives from India’s spiritual legacy – kapalas are cups made from the skull of a human, employed for ritualistic purposes in both Hindu and Buddhist Tantra.
– It has a representational significance. To us, it symbolises the very face and essence of death. We actually use skulls in live rituals – the message is very simple and well-known: only death is real.
If one has a cup, there is a need to fill it. India has a traditional brew called bhang lassi, a milk-based cannabis concoction traditionally consumed in conjunction with Hindu festivities. The primary liquid intoxicant for European metal shows is alcohol which, much like bhang in India, used to be its native population’s religious sacrament. Thus, I’m curious if the Bengali metalheads ever employ their hereditary beverage in similar fashion.
– I never saw anyone high on bhang at a show yet – combined with war metal it would probably give you a headache for the ages! But of course, the drink is quite common here and has been a traditional practice for thousands of years. The first time is always the most potent, so to speak.
What are your current plans for KAPALA?
– We’re currently working on new material for another release and also maybe a few live rituals if possible. We learnt many things during and after “Infest Cesspool”. The concept, while remaining the same, will be explored much further – the very essence of what’s truly ‘extreme’ needs to be un-masked furiously and with great force.