It is fair to say that no other album has been as eagerly and impatiently waited here in recent times as that from Indian metallers Bloodywood, that all thanks to a stunning 2019 introduction to them for us through the single, Machi Bhasad. It was a track which hooked in every instinct and passion within for imaginative and voraciously crafted as well as delivered music. Now the band’s debut is on the precipice of unveiling and does Rakshak live up to our maybe elevated expectations?
The answer is hell yeah and more. The album is a furnace of imagination and craft unleashed with just as adventurous ferocity and invention, a release which surprises at every turn whilst creating a cauldron of energy and passion which is just as impacting.
Bloodywood is classed as folk metal band, a tag we believe the band readily accepts but as Rakshak swiftly and firmly declares, the band’s sound is a tapestry and tempest of flavours and styles investing in the prime essences of melodic, nu, and groove metal through to metalcore and more. It strikes and infests the imagination like a mix of Motherjane, Skindred, Bhayanak Maut and Rage Against the Machine with the atypical prowess of System Of A Down yet soon stamps down its own individuality and uniqueness.
Driven by the musical prowess of Karan Katiyar and the vocals ferocity and drama of Jayant Bhadula and Raoul Kerr, New Delhi hailing Bloodywood address a variety of issues across Rakshak (translated as “protector” or “guardian”) from mental illness and overcoming divisive politics to battling the poverty crisis, crushing corruption, and eliminating sexual assault; the band backing up their creative thoughts over previous releases by giving back to their community by providing such things as a new van for a local animal rescue, oxygen concentrators for local hospitals and paying for 1-on-1 counselling sessions that any of their fans could sign up for if they were struggling.
Gaddaar opens the record up, the track moving in on a rhythmic prowl to explode with almost primal yet seductively crafted endeavour. The raw and ferocious Hindi bearing tones of Bhadula confront ears within the tempest, the subsequent and equally compelling and imposing rap of Kerr adding greater edge to the duel with the senses. Grooves are just as an incisive trespass, a djent bent adding to the baiting and the eddy of sound which in turn consumes the listener. It is a superb start with the traditional Indian sounds and the rhythmic prowess of the Dhol irresistible.
The following Aaj emerges from a melodic setting, its folkish breath and scenery bearing that aforementioned Motherjane essence before another esurient flume of sound escapes courted by electro metal intimation. In time too, the song springs a fury of sound and discontent, vocals and Katiyar’s sounds as merciless as they are greedily infectious. Like a feral beast, the track gnaws at the senses, snarling and biting with dervish-esque dexterity yet its folkish calms and melodic suggestions prove just as potent and greedily addictive.
There is also calm and a clean emotive prowess to Bhadula’s vocal enterprise which is as gripping and beautifully exposed within Zanjeero Se, a song with suspense and emotional anxiety in its heart and creative fire in its roar. Again the band exposes the creative and sonic diversity to their sound before the ever glorious and enlivening Machi Bhasad explodes upon the senses. Rhythmically, the track is a puppet master leaving the body dangling in unison upon its traditional and new strings, thoughts and defiance provoked by voice and words as its surges of metal ferocity singe the senses, for us the song one of the best metal incitements of the past decade.
Within Rakshak though it is often rivalled, successor Dana-Dan crafting spirals of grooves and animosity which trap ears in unbridled and greedily devoured sonic corrosion and resentment driven again by rhythmic intolerance and magnificence, Katiyar’s relentless invention again superbly embracing those traditional Indian ingredients in sound and imagination.
Already fully breathless by this point, no time is allowed to grab a breath as Jee Veerey surrounds ears with melodic intimation courtesy of Katiyar’s flute. The track is not as remorseless as its predecessors though, thoughtful asides and melodic contemplations brewed around its fiercely impassioned uproars while Endurant strolls in with a smouldering beauty and rapacious intent which soon fuels invasive grooves and rhythmic antipathy. Again the vocal union of Kerr and Bhadula is as powerful and striking as it is individually potent, the sonic turbulence they further exposed matched in a whirlpool of corrosive aural prowess.
From the melancholic flirtation of the flute, Yaad shares its tempestuous heart and insight with Bhadula a fire of passion and strength matched in the musical intensity and drama of the song. In nothing but major highlights, the track is another fiercely stirring peak which Bsdk.Exe matches with its industrial flirting, death metal courting cyclone of sound and acrimony. Everything about the song is furious yet again though Bloodywood entangle it in melodic and traditional finesse and genius.
Ending as impressively as it begins, Chakh Le gripping body and passions like a snake charmer, Rakshak simply blew us away. The final track had us swaying and venting with a ravenous appetite as inescapable as the song’s own challenging ravening; an eagerness few encounters have raised as powerfully and certainly as relentlessly.
Rakshak is one of the year’s first essential metal incursions, maybe it’s most vital and certainly one of metal’s most striking and voraciously enjoyable debuts in a long time.
Pete RingMaster 10/02/2022
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