IIT-Kanpur has arock competition every year called Synchronicity and this year wasthe biggest yet with over two hundred bands applying to participate.KvltSite was asked to be a part of the event and judge the musiccompetition. The ball started rolling with bandsapplying online with their music, and our job was to cut it downinitially to a manageable number of thirty. We finally set off to Kanpur on the 20th of October, and aftertwo days on a train we were well set to pour our ire and hot burning oilon the participating bands. Luckily the rooms we got were great, foodturned out to be pretty good at campus and by the time thecompetition started we were comfortably settled in.
“Forthose of you who don’t know, a moshpit is a place where peoplehave fun.”
Festivities on day 1started with instructions on a moshpit and a how-to tutorial on thepit. Details were vague and if you didn’t know what a pit wasalready then this was not very helpful. Anyway, first band of day 1was Bent and they played 3 of their own songs, 2 of whichsounded like Load era Metallica mixed up with some 90s indie pop rockala The Gin Blossoms. Not a pleasant experience at all but then theycame back with the third song which was a solid rock n roll outingthat had more in common with Cheap trick than with anything that theband had done before. They should probably stick to the rock n rolland leave the Metallica-isms behind. Fury Finger, up next wasshooting a documentary of the event.
Kid with a camera: “What’s your favourite style of music?”
GK: Extreme Metal.
Srikanth: Doom Metal.
Kid: YEAH, Me too! We love Nu Metal!!
They should have just focused on the music. But their brand ofnu-metal complete with a cover of Korn’s Blind was sloppy,noisy and painful to sit through. Lots of practice needed boys. IdentityCrisis came next with more nu-metal and while a bit better thanthe preceding band, was yet another god forsaken mess. With massive soundproblems and bands looking quite worried, day 1 was brought to ahalt. The sound sucked, the bands we’d seen so far sucked andthings weren’t looking promising at all.
Day 2 started withanother band taking a long self indulgent wank-a-thon of a soundcheck. Don’t remember the name of the band but I do rememberthat just as their own composition was gathering momentum the bassplayer decided to go off on a completely pointless bass solo thatjust ruined the song. FAIL! Next up was October from Delhi andwhile struggling with the sound (like most bands on day 2) they didmanage a decent cover of AiC’s Man in the Box and a couple ofown songs which were catchy and had some very nice bass playingholding up the rhythm section. Modern heavy rock, and bestband so far. It was during their second own comp that the comatosecrowd finally started moving around so more props to the band forthat. Dark Horizon from Assam is next and while they look likea power metal band they sound like Jimmy Cliff with distortion. Ledby a terrific vocalist and backed up by a trio of solid musicians, DHwere without doubt band of the day and the AC/DC medley worked withthe crowd and the judges. Summer Pint Junkies came on next andwere without doubt the worst band of Synchronicity. One of theguitarists had problems with his equipment while the otherwas content to noodle away through their own comps like his name wasYan. The bass player was content to hide at the back of the stage andthe vocalist when not butchering PJ’s Animal was busy askingthe sound guy for a “crisper sound”. This was pretty muchthe definition of amateurish over the three days. BIG MASSIVE FAIL!
Less is More play some decent enough rock n roll but are letdown by some weak vocals and need to get a bit tighter while AbstractBlue open with a cover of Zero’s PSP and display all theclassic symptoms of Indian Rock. Very boring band and they need totighten up their act as well as get their vocalist to stay in tune.Crystal and the Witches are a much needed breath of fresh airin the competition coming across like Demonic Resurrection with theirown comps and a metal medley got the crowd going even if was morethan a bit sloppy. The next band on stage, Rosemary look likeHanson and come complete with a pint sized drummer but play somegrungy Nirvana-esque heavy rock and pull of an inspired cover of ComeTogether. Good stuff. Fade came without their bass player andsuffered from a severe case of Lamb of God-itis. The drummer and theguitarist often played at different tempos and the absence of a bassplayer was severely felt. The vocalist and the drummer were prettygood but the guitarist let the team down with his incredibly sloppyand amateurish playing.
Brijesh Funk open with Foxy Lady andprovide some heavy rock n roll with a terrific bass player and getthe crowd going while following band Tear Cube are again avery sloppy metalcore band who cover Killswitch Engage’s MyLast Serenade and a couple of own comps but are inexplicably popularwith the crowd. The Circus had a terrible guitar tonebut played some very original atonal and noisy rock with a terrificrhythm section. Good stuff and great energy on stage. Blackfrom Mumbai played a very nondescript brand of heavy rock and remindsme a lot of Zero without the hooks. The vocalist seems to haveborrowed Rajeev’s (Zero vocalist) entire catalogue of stagemoves and while he displayed great energy he also had a tendency tostart shrieking the songs and the guitarist was a bit off as well.Again, another band that was inexplicably popular with the crowd.Work in Progress came in with a very Chennai prog metal feelto their music and would probably have been more at home at NLS thanhere. Good band though. Silver Tears was another young bandthat managed to pull of some intricate prog metal and sounded quitegood doing it with three of their own songs. Manifest gets thebest sound on day 2. Their hard rock is quite catchy and is helpedalong with a solid vocalist. Fire Exit for some reason camewith some hype and have a song on a soon to be released CounterCulture compilation but their prog rock with tablas sounded forcedand were let down by some very weak vocals. The tablas sounded likean afterthought and just made the music a mess while the bandactually sounded quite good when there were no tablas and vocals.Airborne were just completely boring and I don’tremember a single thing about their performance, while Pitch BlackSymphony played a decent enough brand of extreme metal but needto get a lot tighter to compete at these events. Last band of the daywas Forbidden Village who played slowed down black metal, andwhile not really doom had some interesting ideas. They were a bit letdown though by a cheesy keyboard sound that dominated the guitars andan overall sloppy feel to the music.
That was it for thefirst round of the prelims. At the end of day 2 we had a list of 10bands that had gotten through to the next round and were one stepcloser to some pretty big prizes. Dark Horizon, October, Rose Mary,The Circus, Crystal and the Witches, Brijesh Funk, Work in Progress(who dropped out with a sick drummer), Silver Tears and thanks topopular demand, Tear Cube and Black were all in the next round.
“Can youmake our whole sound crisper please?”
Round 2 started withCrystal and the Witches and it was immediately apparent thatthe sound was much improved. The band sounded tight and quite solidwith their own comps and the only bum note came on a Kerry King soloduring the Slayer medley. The band could have played another own compinstead of the covers but overall not bad at all.
Brijesh Funkcame back with a very noisy take on Foxy Lady again before settlingdown with a couple of own comps. The band has an irreverent sense offun that shines through in their music and stage act and was a goodchange compared to most bands here with a more serious than thouattitude. The bass player was again quite impressive but overall theband seemed a bit sloppy especially in the Hendrix covers and weren’tas tight as they were on Round 1.
Tear Cube werenext and while they made use of a back door entry to get through tothe second round, they also came with a message to the judges sayingthey’d quit playing if they didn’t succeed in blowing ourminds. See what I mean about “more serious than thou”?Anyway, the band played a much better set than in round 1, droppedthe Killswitch Engage cover and was pretty tight. Still, like allmetalcore bands, Tear Cube seems to be writing songs aroundbreakdowns. The moshpit friendly part is given too much importanceto the detriment of the song. Have to say that the band turned in amuch better performance than we thought they would and looked likethey might get into the finals too at one point.
So, the sun had setby this time and while the Panaman and I were at the back of theground waiting for Silver Tearsto start we were talkingabout how cool it would be for a band to come up on stage and coversome Queensryche. Well, our wish was soon turned to reality as SilverTears opened with Anybody Listening and managed a creditable versionof the song. Their own comps have a tendency to sound like a bunch ofunrelated parts strung together and while the skill of the musicianswas very evident the songs lacked a sense of cohesion. Still they area definite band to keep an eye out for.
Dark Horizonis like a different band in round 2. The whole band has a swagger anda confidence that is translated into their music and although theyplay the same songs, the band sound great and special mention to theguitarist for the most tasteful lead playing in the competition. Thevocalist hits some terrific sounding high notes and does a greatBrian Johnson impersonation. The drummer (another school kid) pullsoff some terrific off time grooves and the bass player manages tosneak in a solo into one of their own songs which is subtle and bearsnone of the usual slap pop playing that Indian funksters are so fondof. The music is a mix of reggae, funk and rock and probably the lastthing I thought I’d like but Dark Horizon are the real deal andthe band to beat at Synchronicity.
The Circusis quite intense. They are noisy, atonal and have tons of energy. Thebass player is locked into some great grooves with the drummer whoreally gives the kit a good pounding and the guitar player pulls offsome terrific heavy riffs even if his tone is a bit shit. Thevocalist has a lot of energy and while the band doesn’t reallyinteract with the crowd, they do put on a solid stage show. This wasthe one band at the event who were I thought truly original. Theirsound is quite unlike the regular Indian rock without being metal.They are a bit difficult to categorize and better for it.
Black turnedup in the second round thanks to popular demand and sounds prettydamn bland. Again, the vocalist has great energy, gets the crowdgoing and the band play a pretty tight set apart from the guitaristssolos which go a bit haywire but the problem with this band is thatthe songs have no hooks. Listening to these songs twice in 2 daysthere wasn’t a single melody or hook that I could remember andlatch on to. Also, by the third song the vocalist just startedshrieking and it sounded completely at odds with the music.
Along with DarkHorizon, Rosemary was band of the round for me. They droppedthe cover and turned in three of their own songs one of which had aslowed down heavy part that seemed written for stoners. The band doesthis Nirvana/ Soundgarden/ QotSA in a blender kind of music and itworks. They tend to get a bit too close to Nirvana on occasion butoverall considering the average age of the band is yet to hit 20,this is another band to watch out for.
Octoberplayed the same three songs they played in the first round and were alot tighter here. Man in the Box sounded a lot better and their owncomps benefited from the catchy choruses and melodies. They got thecrowd moving and their own songs have great recall value. I’dhave liked to hear a couple more of their own songs but the band wastight, the sound was good, they got the crowd going and did enough toimpress everyone who saw them.
That was it forRound 2 of the eliminations and at the end of it, the four bandschosen for the finals and to open for Glyder were Rosemary,Dark Horizon, The Circus and October.