I saw RUDRA live before I ever heard a recording from them. Since then I've seen them a couple more times and I can't seem to get bored of their impeccable, exotic onslaught. Another Singaporean outfit with a rich, long heritage of quietly churning out albums of knockout quality on the other side of the world from Metal's biggest festivals and scenes, this 19 year strong band have dedicated their entire career to Hindu philosophies and writings. For lovers of bands such as NILE, AMASEFFER and ORPHANED LAND for their richly woven lyrical tapestries of mythology and eastern histories, RUDRA are a real catch. “Brahmavidya Immortal I“ ends their “Brahmavidya“ trilogy, sealing the deal on a real solidification of their unique sound over three records.
“Brahmavidya: Immortal I” is the most straightforward attack from the group since “Kurukshetra“, and the most beastly-sounding album they have ever recorded. It's all grunting rhythms and frantic swirls of tremolo, relentlessly pounding drum rhythms from Shiva and an added level of nastiness in Kathir's snarls. The frequent pauses for chanting sections and acoustic sections on “Brahmavidya: Transcendental I“ have been ditched. You can easily listen to this as simply a face-melting Death Metal record that happens to have a pleasantly ritualistic tilt to its sound, or as an Eastern answer to the catchy but blackened rage of GOD DETHRONED.
Bristling with everything from blast beats, trem-picked Death Metal riffs and the odd thrash break, it all exudes the band's Vedic influences and preoccupations. “Brahmavidya: Immortal I” is an exercise in perfecting the band's statement of what "Oriental Metal" should sound like. They work their Hindu sound into the pacey, blackened shredding of songs like “Illusory Enlightenment” and menacing surge of “Ravenous Theories of Deception”, rather than soaking simple, chugging rhythms with a bunch of sitars (like everyone fucking else does, the majority of whom have no place using such influences). They take the same approach here as SURRENDER OF DIVINITY, who subtly work traditional Thai music into their bestial Black Metal riffs and stubbornly refuse to touch any instrument not a drum, guitar or bass. RUDRA aren't quite so purist (a few brief traditional portions can still be found), but the concept is the same - each riff and even guitar solo is crafted with an almost obsessive attention to combining Metal tropes with Indian atmospheres.
The band themselves are sounding tighter than security around Sarah Palin's email accounts (at least until this year). Drummer Shiva, aptly named for the destructive god of Hindu mythology, lurches between ominously pounding ritual rhythms and unforgiving blasts - and this guy can really play blasts. Check out “Supposed Sages Of Sensuality” and “Advaita Samrajya”. George Kollias? Inferno? Eh? He'd be a prize for any straight-up Black Metal horde I tell you, and he gives RUDRA a hell of a backbone. The guitars of new guy Vinod and the recently departed Devan are totally on-point, the already mentioned riffs perfectly constructed, the sound heavy with plenty of grit and aggression.
The trilogy is complete, and how. The traditional melodies woven into “Hymns Of The Immortal Self” round out the lyrical concept, while “Sinister Devotion” recalls the band's biggest stage hit of the entire “Brahmavidya“ cycle, “The Pathless Path To The Knowable Unknown.” It's an incredibly strong showing in and of itself, never mind about a fitting end to an ambitious project from a group that deserves to be mentioned before the less worthy likes of MELECHESH and ARKAN when one is asked for exotically influenced groups.
I've seen them play open-air a couple of times, once incorporating a traditional Hindi dance, but what these guys should really do is play in a proper Hindu temple. Never mind about AMON AMARTH's talk of Thor and Loki, prepare to get flattened by the wrath of the almighty Shiva!
(Online January 15, 2012)