Kathmandu, Nepal's Dying Out Flame play Vedic death metal -- that is, in the words of the band's charismatic and eloquent frontman Aabeg Gautam, "Hindu themes derived from ancient Vedic philosophy/mythology and literature, incorporating ancient sanskrit shlokas, and fusing traditional Hindu classical music to brutal death metal." Sounds pretty esoteric and spacey, right? Well, get ready, 'cause the fiery, epic track off the band's sure-to-be insane upcoming full-length debut below is about to turn a no small number of skeptics into true believers.
Gautam was gracious enough to give Decibel a little insight into the origins of Dying Out Flame and the intention behind the band's unorthodox approach to extreme music...
So how, exactly, did you come to pioneer/champion Vedic Death Metal?
I am a child from very religious Hindu family -- celebrating festivals makes me happy. On occasion I wear traditional clothes, visit temple, perform worship. The Upanishads and Gita did a lot to help bring me on track. So this Hindu lifestyle is in my blood and inspired me from very early on. I am a huge fan of extreme metal, but also eastern classical Carnatic music as well as the vibes of Hindu sanskrit chants, and I felt the urge to combine these influences in the music I create. When we first started experimenting with bringing ethnic fusion and Hinduism into death metal we had no idea that something called Vedic metal existed. Only after composing a few songs did we learn there were already great bands like Rudra and Kartikeya writing music [with similar influences and themes].
Vedic death metal is not ordinary death metal music latched onto something else. It is a means for uplifting the spirit of the listener -- basically, arrangements of words and music as seen from the eyes of transcendental wisdom revealed by the light of Vedas. So the songs are really meaningful and informative and, at the same time, people can enjoy death metal brutality, too. In the end the result is always unique and positive -- but we won't judge bands for whatever their personal beliefs are...Each artist has every right to follow their own path.
It's interesting for someone like me on the outside looking in, death metal and traditional Hinduism definitely seem like a strange fit, but Dying Out Flame somehow is able to bring these disparate parts together in such a way that it makes sense... Personally, for me, there is nothing like Hinduism to stimulate the music writing process. There is so much to be discovered in the philosophical works of our ancestors. Why should I be ashamed to sing about it, write about it, or be proud of it? A free human only needs his own mind to know what is good for him; what he prefers in life. Our goal is to present the world the wisdom of our ancients through our Vedic death metal vehicle -- other musical styles just don't fit our attitude.
Right. And in doing that, you guys obviously bring a lot of influences not typically heard in heavy music into the mix.
I try to be versatile in my writing. I rarely see anything these days besides rehashed riffs and the same stories/styles over and over again. My simple philosophy is that you need to give every style in music a chance. It sucks that so many people just listen to one type of music and assume that everything else is crap. Dying Out Flame obviously mixes mix a lot of influences from ancient period of Hinduism, but we leave our own mark as well.
How difficult is that to accomplish?
To create the vision I have in mind, it's not an easy thing! We have to read the ancient texts, digest them, then come up with lyrics. We have to write music that syncs with our style and these ideas, and this is what i find most challenging. We are not a typical band who wants to play around with instruments -- we are the instruments...the instruments of Lord Shiva.
Has writing songs for Dying Out Flame strengthened your faith?
No particular faith is the "truth." Faiths are just ways to express that which finally can never be fully described or expressed. But playing in Dying Out Flame does really make me feel connected to every person and creature in the universe -- we all are part of the absolute -- and it makes me more compassionate, more curious about God, religions, and my dharma.
How -- if at all -- do these concepts tie into the band's name?
When we started back in 2011 we were playing technical death metal heavily influenced from death metal themes such as death, war, etcetera. So these themes inspired the name. Later our thought process shifted. We became much more positive and changed our direction to Vedic death metal and refused to play technical death metal. Now it's a whole different thing.
But we do not regret our band name. Dying Out Flame makes sense in a traditional Hindu interpretation, too. It refers to the last phase of the burning of a human corpse. In Hinduism, fire is something pure. It cleanses and renews. There is hardly a single Hindu ceremony that doesn't at some point use sacred fire, which acts as a conduit between man and god. Also, there is a widespread agreement that the four thousand year-old practice of open-air burning is the most spiritually appropriate way to release a soul from the body following death. It is an important sacrament of the Hindu society.
I'm curious -- as someone from Kathmandu, how did you first discover extreme music?
It was a long time ago back in my school days. I grew up with classical music, not metal. And then a friend introduced me to South of Heaven and Reign in Blood. Those records blew me away. It was unique and strange -- I had never heard anything like it -- but everything about those albums was perfect to my ear. After continuously listening to Slayer for a few months, I went a little deeper -- Pantera, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Sepultura, Machine Head -- and then going even further discovered extreme death/black metal albums from bands like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Mayhem, Emperor, Obituary, Immortal, Nile, Suffocation, Cannibal Corpse, Dimmu Borgir -- it seemed like the end of music! I was like, "Music can't get any heavier than this!" I knew it was exactly the kind of music i wanted to play -- anthemic without being cheesy, rocking without being derivative, heavy -- sonically and metaphysically -- as fucking hell.
But, really, it went beyond liking the music: There was a feeling of kinship with the people who made it, whoever they were. I knew nothing about them, all I had to go on was the one band photo, the lyrics, and the inscription. I loved everything every band was doing, and in the process it changed how I listened to, approached, and, ultimately, played and thought about music.
What can people expect from the band's debut full-length?
"Shiva Rudrastakam" is just a hint, something that shows what we are about. We've been working on the full-length for more than a year now. It's been a real battle all the way and we are nearly at the end now. What can people expect from us? Madness is unpredictable. But I think this album will be a fresh breeze to anyone whose heart pounds for Vedic metal glory.