Dhwesha - Sthoopa - (8/10)
Published on September 9, 2014
Picking up an album by a death metal band from India, with a band name and album title in their native tongue (Kannada, a south Indian language) I naively expected some traditional and/or folk elements to their sound, but these are almost completely absent and instead what we get on Dhwesha’s debut full-length release, Sthoopa, is unrelenting death metal.
With thanks to guitarist Somesha Sridhara for the information, the band’s name means “hatred” or “revenge”, while Sthoopa translates as “the tower”. So, all pretty standard death metal terminology. The music, on the other hand, while being 100% death metal, is a slight departure from the current old-school (mostly Swedish) revival.
In their Facebook biography, the band lists Bolt Thrower as one of their influences. What they share with the mighty ‘Thrower is the driving, ‘wall of sound’ nature of their music. Although the songs don’t actually sound like Bolt Thrower, there is a similar approach, i.e. an unremitting death metal juggernaut. Vocalist Ajay Nagaraj’s growls are really deep and indecipherable (although you probably need to speak Kannada to say that with any real authority!) They add a dark, beastly quality to the music. A reasonable comparison would be Incantation’s John McEntee; Nagaraj doesn’t sound quite the same, but his exceptionally deep bellow is probably closer to McEntee than anyone else.
Although the music is consistently good, if Dhwesha do have an Achilles’ heel it is that very relentlessness itself. They follow a template on most of the songs, i.e. pounding death metal, deep, dark vocals, thunderous, rumbling drums, infectious lead guitars and melodic guitar solos. Listen to any song in isolation and it’s a great example of the genre that will punish your neck muscles. However, over the course of a full album, it becomes repetitive and generates a craving for some variety. These songs may need to be in a playlist mixed up with other bands’ output to get the most enjoyment from them.
This is a minor complaint, though, when the songs are consistently so good. For example, the title track, which boasts some very nice guitar leads and great drumming, including military-sounding drums towards the end. The brilliantly-titled “Yuddhabhumi” is the best example of the band’s relentless, chugging sound with catchy riffs and great lead guitars. The song’s title means “battlefield”, but “Yuddhabhumi” is a far better word.
Any traditional southern Indian influences are buried deep, but they do surface in some of the lead guitar lines on “Ugra Narasimha”. Somesha gives this interesting background to the song, which “is based on a story from ancient Hindu scriptures, of Hiranyakashipu, an ‘asura’ (Demon) who seeks immortality and during his attempt to kill his son Prahlada for opposing him in his thirst for power, is decapitated by the deity Narasimha (half-human half-lion avatar of lord Vishnu)”.
Sthoopa is a great start from Dhwesha. Hopefully they can add a modicum (but no more – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it) of diversity to their sound in future and really become a death metal force to be reckoned with.