Ten Years Later:A Darkness Descends
The number of releases by Indian metal bands has increased rapidly since the year 2000, and that can be easily attributed to both the home recording tech revolution and the rising popularity of the genre. One of the first such albums that I recall buying was 2005’s A Darkness Descends by Mumbai based death/black metal band Demonic Resurrection.
If you’re a scenester from back in the day and own the album, I’m sure you’re reading this and wondering “Huh, it’s almost 10 years since it released?”
The album was a landmark release for its time when it came to the production, artwork, marketing and promotion. In fact, the promotional aspect came to be synonymous with Demonic Resurrection front man Sahil “Demonstealer” Makhija. I caught up with him recently to find out more about the album, its recording process and a lot more.
“We started writing material after the new line up of the band (Mephisto and JP) came together in 2003,” says Sahil reflecting on the early days. “We started jamming on new material as they said they did not want to play any of the old songs.”
‘A Darkness Descends’, ‘A Frozen Portrait’ and ‘Spirits of a Mystic Mountain’ were the first few songs recorded. The first 2 tracks also featured on the Resurrection compilation that was released by Demonstealer Records.
The line-up for the album was Demonstealer on Vocals/Guitars, Mephisto (Keyboards), Husain (Bass) and JP (Drums). “We used to jam every weekend back then and spent the rest of the year writing the rest of the songs except ‘Where Shadows Lie’ and the ‘The Summoning’ which were completed in the studio.” says Sahil, describing the writing process for the album. The album was funded by prize money from college festivals such as RAIT, Mumbai and NSIT, Delhi.
Makhija, an upcoming music producer then was working at Farhad Wadia’s Power Studios at the time. Havin recorded demos for nu metal band Pin Drop Violence, 90’s alt punk act Kinky Ski Munky amongst other bands, it was a no brainer for him to produce the album himself. It was the first time for most of the band members at a professional recording studio.
“The idea was not to hold back on the production. It was not about can we do this live or not, we wanted the album to be the best that it could be,” reveals Sahil. “Working at Wadia’s studio gave me a chance to collaborate with a lot of people.”
Some of the collaborators were: Warren Mendonsa (Blackstratblues/Zero), Pozy Dhar, Prashant Shah (Scribe) who played guitar solos and Taufiq Qureshi and Nimit did guest vocals.
Complementing the production of the album was the exceptional artwork that was designed by Prashant Shah. Each of the 16 pages of the album inlay had a different design, a first for an Indian metal band. “We wanted to create a product that was of international quality,” says Mephisto. “The initial idea for the cover art was a concept that Sahil had in mind, however Prashant’s idea of a Dark Lord overlooking an army and its rendition is something that blew us all away.”
The album was released on 29th October 2005 at the 4th edition of the Resurrection festival at Vashi Marine Centre. The festival was organized by Barcode Entertainment [a venture between Sahil and Husain] and had an impressive line-up featuring acts Exhumation, Kryptos and Myndsnare (both from Bangalore). The show saw a good turnout and everything went off quite smoothly, by Indian metalhead standards. Sahil reminisces of the camaraderie he shares with the Bangalore metal bands. “It was so much easier back then; all we had to do was book their train tickets”.
Prior to the album release the band had a pre order sale at a special price of Rs. 120 (Rs. 150 for those who lived outside Mumbai), something that was done for the first time by an Indian band. The album went on to sell out their initial print of 1000 copies within the first year, an impressive feat for a metal album that was self-released, and one that most bands can only dream of in today’s ‘industrialised’ scene. In the days before blogs, NH7 (the website or the festival), Rolling Stone, Pepsi MTV Indies or any of the music-related media and infrastructure we take for granted these days, it was Sahil’s incredible drive to succeed and his unabashed commitment to promoting his band and his music that led to such numbers
“I sat at home every weekend writing to labels across the world and do trade with them. A lot of CDs went out there. I think we sold around 500 CDs in India,” says Sahil about his distribution strategy for the album. ‘’Ï made sure all the Futardo’s had the album, also another other music stores. There was even Musicyogi.com, if anyone remembers that website”.
Sahil also deployed Facebook, e-mail campaigns and even a short-lived forums in his efforts to get his music out to as wide an audience as possible. At a time when few bands were interested in putting in time and effort towards self-promotion, Sahil not only made it an important part of his regular routine, he also experimented with a lot of the ideas that are now de rigeur for artists trying to get noticed. Of course, at the time he faced a lot of flak from scenesters annoyed at his ‘spamming’, and not all of those experiments worked out well, but the album did go on to sell another 1000 copies in the next 3 years.
Since the release of this album Demonic Resurrection went on to release an EP “Beyond the Darkness” (2007) and a album “Return to Darkness” (2010) to complete the “Darkness” trilogy. The band also played at some of the biggest metal festivals in the world like Inferno (Norway), Brutal Assault (Czech Republic) and Bloodstock (UK). Next month, the band will be releasing their most ambitious album yet, “The Demon King” which is being distributed in India by Universal Music and in Europe by Candlelight Records. The band will be also be playing a 6 day tour of UK and will also be performing at the Mecca for metalheads, Wacken Open Air. All of which would not have been possible without the success of this album, and the promotional strategies he came up with in trying to sell the record.
In conclusion, when asked if there anything he would like to change about the album, Sahil remarks “As a musician and producer, I wish I could re-record everything to match a different production, not necessarily a modern one. Maybe one day down the line, I will do a classic re-recording of the album.”
Cheers and stay demonic.
(Thanks to Bhanuj Kappal for his inputs and also editing the article)
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