The area in front of the stage at Geoffrey’s — what would have been the dance floor at any other musical performance — functions as a makeshift moshpit. Here, 10 or more men headbang in sync with the players, lustrous locks whipping the air as they tussle, push and lift each other. It’s metal night at the pub.
In the second edition of Brutal Carnage, organised by Armaan RM and Manu Krishnan, Chennai’s metal bands Waffles and Warfare, Moral Putrefaction, Frankendriver, and Hyderabad band Shock Therapy, are playing.
“Only places like Geoffrey’s will take us,” laughs David Simon, the growler-in-chief for Frankendriver, after their performance. “If you do this at more commercial venues, you will have 40 people screaming and running away.”
“People expect us to be all dark”… “Draw pagan symbols”… “Do sacrifices”… They poke fun at the stereotypes. However, the lyrics — once you train your ears to understand them — are not foreboding. Take Moral Putrefaction for example: “The songs in our latest demo ‘Scum of The Earth’, talk about the current political climate. Another is about the Bengal Famine,” says Ronald Nathaniel, vocalist of Moral Putrefaction. There are metal love songs tailored for teenage girls as well, adds Sivaramakrishnan, bass guitarist for Frankendriver.
Most of the musicians here tonight have day jobs: from marketing, startups, to even Zoology research. For the sole reason that there isn’t enough money in the business. “The crowd is always floating. Teenagers get into that phase where they want to be edgy, wear all black clothes. Later they move out of college, move to other cities for jobs, and then give up on metal,” says Sivaramakrishnan.
This wasn’t always the case. If you ask Adithya Kota, guitarist for Frankendriver, the decline of metal in Chennai started only after 2013. In its peak in 2005 to 2010, Chennai had nearly 20 good metal bands. Today, there are about six. “Venues are still not willing to feature us; they think we’ll get violent,” says Ronald.
Any perceptions of metal being violent disappear after the first performance by Waffles and Warfare. The heavy basslines, thrashing drums, and aggressive growling are followed by a polite, almost shy, “Thank you.”
The year-old band is the youngest in the scene. All members are students of Madras Christian College, arguably the birthplace of multiple metalheads.
“We are called Waffles and Warfare, because we do both indie acoustics and hardcore metal,” says Paul David, lead vocalist, and lyricist. The ‘Waffles’ part is to ensure that they get commercial gigs, but if money were not a question? “We would go full metal!”