DYING OUT FLAME "Thunder In The Mountains"

By Dr. Abner Mality

The nation of Nepal is on my mind a lot this last week. The ancient Himalayan kingdom, home of Kathmandu, has suffered greatly from a massive earthquake that has killed thousands and caused the history of centuries to crumble. I hope that the members of Dying Out Flame, Nepal's foremost metal band, have weathered the tragedy with no harm. They are pioneers (though they are too humble to admit it) and devoted not only to the death metal creed but spiritual enlightenment.

Yes, metal is everywhere. A few years ago, I would not have believed a metal band with the ferocity and skill of Dying Out Flame could have come from this unusual location. According to bass player Aabeg Gautam, there is actually a flourishing scene there, as you will discover. As for Dying Out Flame, they combine traditional Hindu music with brutal and blasting death metal to rank with Cannibal Corpse and Nile. They call the style "Vedic Death Metal" and are proud to bring this style to the rest of the world. Their latest record "Shiva Rudrastakam" has been released through Spain's Xtreem Music label and upon hearing it, I knew I had to try and contact the band.

After a gap of several months, communication was established with Aabeg and now you can read the result. This is truly one of the most unique interviews I've done in the 16 year history of Wormwood. I certainly pray that the band are well and can continue their journey...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: .Hail to you and thanks for answering our questions. Let me first ask what was the turning point for you as far as playing heavy metal goes? What inspired you to this kind of music?

AABEG GAUTAM:  Hails and thank you for your interest. Its' been a wise step for us to make at the stage where Dying Out Flame is now. Certainly it wasn’t an easy thing to get a record deal, especially from big European/American labels like Xtreem Music. They are doing so much for us and our band is very lucky to release our first album “Shiva Rudrastakam” via Xtreem Music. The outcome has been spectacular and we are happy with the reviews so far from the different parts of the globe. The CD will be a landmark in Nepali metal history and it is just now getting recognition like it deserves worldwide. It was really interesting to see the record through the vision of others. We didn’t expect something particular, our music is now launched to an entire world. We have done what we had to and this moment was kind of a real turning point in our short history since we’ve only been around for 3 short years so far.

When it comes to the influences, the spirit of Dying Out Flame is always Vedism. Our music is the explosion of what we  have kept in our own depths. .You don’t do this kind of music if you don’t have something boiling under the surface. Being a child from  a very religious Hindu family, I grewup in very religious surroundings. There was no particular incident to start my quest. I just feel curious about God,religions and my dharma. I was fond of Hindu mythology/philosophy, old beliefs and customs, old dusty books of Hinduism since my childhood so these things come naturally to me while composing the music for Dying Out Flame and these things are more influential to me than the music itself! I believe.these musical forms aren’t fantasy or escapism but reflections and expression of deep underlying truth and reality... of existence itself!.

WC: It is one thing to be a metal fan, but another to be a true death metal fan. What drove you to the heaviest form of music?

AG:  It was a long time ago, back in my school days, when my friend sent me some of the songs from Slayer, Morbid Angel and  Cannibal Corpse. They blew me away! I was like ,‘it can’t get any heavier than this”.Later that year, I went exploring music for a couple months and I instantly got the feeling of “yes,this is for me”.I got into a lot of extreme music then and became highly inspired by the ideology of underground black/death metal – what it stands for: no compromise,no commercialism,the profound urge to explore the dark depths of the human soul,the creativity to transform this experience to music, and the will to release it whether it's going to sell or not. It really fit my life  at that time because I was broke, didn’t have any money and pissed off and this music was perfect for a  Third World pissed off kid. it fit my lifestyle that time. Life is hard put on some death metal and it makes things a little better.

WC: .Were those around you accepting of your metal path? Or do you get resistance from your friends and family?

AG:  My family and friends always push me everyday to be the best I can be, .they have been supportive of me throughout all these years.. Except  for my brother and sister,none of my family members are metalheads ,so obviously metal is not their type of thing but the fact we are playing music  is good enough and after all, it is  a religious type of metal. I am representing my own religion, culture and praising our own supreme guru “Lord Shiva” through my music so they are cool with it. They are really happy with what I’ve done and because of them,my drive and passion are stronger than ever.

WC: .Are Dying Out Flame the pioneers of metal in Nepal? Or is there a thriving scene there?

AG: We don’t really consider ourselves pioneers or being on the top within our underground metal scene since we’re only around for 3 short years. We do not try to align ourselves with any other bands,we just play ugly and primitive music conjured from the essence of the early period of vedism and we do feel that we have a unique and fresh sound. We just want to have a certain image that has a spiritual side and do something no one else have done and we have done that, that’s our strong point.

WC: There’s quite a bit of traditional Hindu and Nepalese music included in Dying Out Flame. Was this something that you were trained in from a young age? And what kind of education in traditional music did you receive?

AG:  As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in very religious sorroundings and that sorrounding was so influential to me that it was natural to become involved with the courageous worship of my dharma through Vedic death metal. All these experiences and influences means much more to us when it comes to the music of Dying Out Flame than the music lessons  which we received from Nepal music school. Each member of D.O.F. is a student of Nepal's  music school except our new guitarist Bikalpa since he has a different listening taste and it mainly focuses on the traditional side of metal. Our guitarist Saujanya is into Hindu classical music since his childhood, our drummer studies jazz and funk and I am learning Eastern classical vocals and trying some jazz/funk for my bass .It has helped us with building songs,and to flow everything together but it is spiritual reading and studies which affects the overall music/concept of Dying Out Flame.We practice our own ideology of ancient Vedic period for the music making process and we’ve done our part in terms of Vedic rituals.

WC: You play Vedic Death Metal, which is something pioneered by the band Rudra. How big of an influence were they on your style?

AG: When somebody told me for the first time that I am playing Vedic death metal, I didn’t understand and I don’t know if he knew how this term was created. We hadn’t even expected that there would be something called Vedic death metal.during the time when we were experimenting with traditional fusion of metal with Vedic themes, We hadn’t known any other band that was doing the same thing.Only after composing the first few songs did we realize that there were already some great bands like Rudra, Kartikeya, and Cult of Fire doing something similar. They are great bands and Rudra are the creators of Vedic metal but I’d be lying if I told you they were an influence. We try to do it our own way.

WC: In the West, death metal is identified with a lot of gore, aggression and violence but you are striving for a different message. Is it really possible to combine positive spirituality with brutal music?

AG: Yes, it's totally about how I would like my music to be unleashed and  to see what we come up with. You don’t need to express yourself with lot of gore ,aggression and violence to do brutal music. There ares some great death metal artists who are die hard Christians,but they mean what they say. It's still very dark and means so much to them and the power of their music is timeless. Music is all about feelings I believe, it is definitely not a means to attack humanity and religion. Maybe for some bands it  means a lot , though many peoples don’t understand what they are singing about and why. But feel free to sing...everyone is entitled to believe what they choose. If people do something sincerely, accepting all consequences, and it makes sense then I can respect it. Personally,I am spiritually aware , I don’t have the need to sing about gore and violence ,because this is not how I want my art to be. My vision of spirituality and religion is very personal. It needs to be found by each individual and you have to live it and mostly not listen to the bullshit that you are being force fed. Our music has a strong reference to the ancient period of Hinduism and it deals with worship of Hindu deities,Vedic philosophy and /mythology. We are proud of our ancestor's battles,traditions,religion and moral values. Our lyrics praise the Lord Shiva and the ancient period of Vedism, philosophies etc..We always want to deal with the positive side of the mind,the side that is prohibited by the conservative anti religious morality and violence. This is our attitude and we want to spread the light of spirituality by this means to the whole world and our message is very important in my opinion as the whole world is turning to a land of miserable idiots due to the anti religion plague. We should all fight against this transformation.

WC: Will Westerners be able to fully understand the purpose of Vedic Death Metal? Or is it primarily for Hindu fans of the music?

 AG:  Responses that we have gotten from  the European/American audience is very positive and inspiring. They really like and understand what we have to present. Apparently our message goes exactly where it is needed,which shows us that we are not the only ones that understand these sounds. There are so many peoples from abroad who tell us that  because of our music,they started exploring the Hindu religion and Eastern classical music and it was really nice to see people inspired by our creation and knowing our music and concept to the songs.i hope that as many people as possible will hear our music and read the lyrics and that some will feel a deep affinity with it because I know our audience looks at the world in the same way that I do.

WC: What is the meaning and translation of the album title “Shiva Rudrastakam”?

 AG: “Shiva Rudrastakam” is the most acclaimed and celebrated hymn containing 8 stanzas to Lord Shiva which convey the spiritual emotion, or bhava, of the passionate love and worship of Shiva. It was composed by Swami Tulsidas, one of the greatest and yet least respected intellectual giants of the indian middle ages in the late 15th century. He lived in Uttar Pradesh,india and this devotional hymns appears in the Uttara Kand of ‘Ram Charit Manas’. The term ‘astakam’ came from the sanskrit word which means 8  and that’s the reason why Shiva Rudrastakam is made up of 8 stanzas. It includes many qualities,attributes and motifs associated with the life and deeds of Rudra or Shiva. The distinction between Rudra and Shiva was already lost by the time of Tulsidas. Shiva Rudrastakam is chanted continually at all the jyotir lingams. Chanting them helps remove our suffering and grants us spiritual peace.

WC: The new album is a praise of Lord Shiva, who is often known as “The Destroyer”. What does Shiva mean to you personally?

AG:  Shiva is the basis of the values affecting my every decision, everyday, every second, every thought as I was chosen long ago through his destiny to rise and speak through Dying Out Flame. That is the womb from which everything is born,and that is the oblivion into which everything is sucked back. Everything comes from Shiva and goes back to Shiva. there is nothing apart from Shiva.

WC:  Do the members of Dying Out Flame share the same philosophy and background? Or are their differences in the way you approach things?

AG: Each sage of our temple follows the same philosophy and glorious path of 2500 years ago which is none other than the oldest scriptures of Hinduism and Vedism. The main goal of our philosophy is eternal consciousness, the end of suffering, the ultimate reality of existence, closeness to the god and all the god's creation, to seek that which is unknowable in the purely physical form..Without the purest of commitment to these words, there can be no Dying Out Flame.

WC: Does the band play live much? And how do you integrate the classical Hindu music with the death metal live without having the loud metal destroy the more traditional instruments?

AG: Yes,we are fortunate to get invited to a lot of cool shows so I must say we play live very often. As far as integrating both classical hindu music and death metal goes,t hat is not much of an issue anymore. When I started playing this kind of music, it was very clear to me that those instruments would be a part of Dying Out Flame. It was really challenging at times ,I have to say,  but we just somehow do that automatically with our music.

 WC: What would you say is the biggest misconception about heavy metal in the Indian sub-continent?

 AG: I think the biggest misconception that people have tended to have about metal is that people perceive it as a force of pure negativity. They assume that metal has no artistic merit but only a bunch of screaming and all the metalheads are brainless retards who do drugs and are violent and stupid in nature. They have zero respect for the fact that  we’ve dedicated many years of our life  to learning all types of different music, practicing instruments everyday,setting both long term and short term goals,and seeing them through. They don’t understand what this music means to so many of us. They just listen to their type of music and assume that everything is crap. My philosophy is that,people should not have boundaries in what kind of music they listen to. Times are changing,it's really a brilliant time for music but the people who aren’t  open to new things are making it hard for those of us who are trying and its' really a shitty thing. After all, metal is all about brotherhood and helping each other out. And mainly its about making great music.

WC: Do you have any idea of how the band will evolve in the future?

AG:  at the moment , I have no visible project. I do not know what I will do and where I will be after this interview.We will see what the future will bring but firstly let's enjoy our “Shiva Rudrastakam “.

WC:  How did the relationship with Xtreem Music come about?

AG: I was really into the idea of working with a label that promotes properly the music I listen to and will do the same for my own music. After searching for some good labels,we finally focused on Xtreem Music, mostly when I realized that most of the albums I listened to lately were their releases. Then we got in touch with Dave Rotten, the label owner of Xtreem Music through our demo and forged a friendship via Facebook. He really liked what he heard and expressed an interest in working with us and the rest is now history.

WC:  If you could ask any 3 people in history to dinner, who would they be?

AG: I would have dinner with Lord Shiva, Gautam Buddha and Jesus Christ so that we could sit down and try to figure out a way to get rid of the stupid shit and inhumanity that plagues the world today.

WC: What was the last CD or release you got just because you wanted to hear the band?

 AG: I got Defiled- "In Crisis" , Smallpox Aroma –"Rare Excrements,Rehearsal Emunctories and Live Emenses" cd  and Malapetaka –"Anthem of Annihilation" ep during  the Nepal Deathfest in Janaury by all their band members as a gift . They all were the most sickest and killer bands as well as very humble musicians  to ravage Nepal so far .Everyone must give them a listen once..

 WC: What was the last live music gig you saw just because you wanted to see the performer?

 AG: the last live music gig I saw was a local gig “Show No Mercy” few days ago on the very day of Mahashivaratri. I was free and had nothing to do that day except the worship for Lord that gig was a perfect way to spend my day..

WC: Has Dying Out Flame ever had a “Spinal Tap” moment where things went crazy that they could share with us?

AG: My Spinal Tap moment was onstage during our Pokhara tour. We were playing Disharmony Fest  and I was totally drunk and wasted. I had  completely lost my sense of control  and started talking some stupid shit and behaving insane on stage. I did some stage diving too with my bass guitar, hahahhah .After the show, i came to know my friend was injured because of my bass guitar punching  his face during the stage dive. When I met him after the show, he had too many scratches on his face and  a mouth full of spilling blood. I felt so bad and full of regret for my stupid shit that time. He is none other than the guitar player of our local death metal band Undefined Human  hahah.. From that time on,  I never get drunk when I play live..

WC: Last message for those hearing you for the first time?

AG: I just want all the metal fans to listen to our first album “Shiva Rudrastakam” and embrace it, as it is true towards the death metal art and Hindu religion and not music made for money.Keep the death metal flame burning and follow your instincts and beliefs and don't listen to the bullshit that you are being force fed. Om nama shivaye.