Bloodywood – Rakshak
Released: February 18, 2022
Karan Katiyar // guitars, flute
Jayant Bhadula // vocals, growls
Raoul Kerr // rap vocals
One of my good friends Tom sent me a message one morning with a link to this album with a note “Please review this.” Intrigued by what I could see of the Apple Music album art, and the obvious (but clever) punny band name, I put it straight on. My response was simple: “Two tracks on and it’s ripping. Nu metal goes Indian. Fat fuckin riffs.” But there is way more to it than that.
Bloodywood started by doing YouTube covers of pop songs, notably a version of Linkin Park’s ‘Heavy’ that sounded more like Hybrid Theory than the pop leanings of the then latest single. There’s plenty of covers to chase down a YouTube wormhole but Rakshak is their first wholly original album and it’s a trip. Combining traditional Indian sounds with authentic and dedicated nu metal gives them a leg up on similar nu metal revivalist bands. It might sound gimmicky on one level, especially considering the band’s origins, but they’re serious about their metal and write tight songs. Straight up, the way they incorporate Indian percussion, flutes and stirs is masterful and makes Rakshak a unique listening experience.
It kicks off with ‘Gaddaar’ (‘Traitor’ in English), a song with the aforementioned fat fucking riffs, Hindi death growls and rapping in English. As a template for what is to come, it’s a perfect opener that establishes both the western rap-metal influence and uses sitar for the melody. Where others might use traditional instruments for a song intro or outro, Bloodywood uses it throughout the song, often in place of a second guitar lead. Follow up ‘Aaj’ (‘Today’) opens with strings and flute before laying on a metalcore riff, complete with double kicks before rapping the verses. It’s both exotic and fierce.
Whilst a lot of the album is full throttle, they have learned a thing or two from pop covers. ‘Zanjeero Se’ (‘From Chains’) focuses more on melody and synths with an anthemic Hindi chorus. ‘Jee Veerey’ (‘Live, Brave One’) really does start with a flute solo before getting into a folk-metal groove. ‘Yaad’ (‘to remember a loved one’) is an album highlight, a massive power ballad with clean singing over the peer chords and flute. Great shredding solo too. It’s much deeper than standard nu metal lyricism and musicianship too. The fact they can mix things up like this strengthens the album as a whole and is evidence they won’t be a flash-in-the-pan novelty since they have the song writing skills to explore different themes and sounds in the future.
The highlights though are the bangers, especially ‘Machi Bhasad’ (‘Expect a riot’), which is so heavy it nearly collapses but the chorus is absurdly catchy and the percussion is off its nut. Add it to a playlist of nu metalcore songs and it’ll have you throwing down while waiting for the bus. ‘Dana-Dan’ is a similar track with a great opening line: “I put a fist through the face of a rapist…” There’s a smooth flow to Raoul Kerr’s rapping, countered by the tough growls of Jayant Bhadula. There’s a female vocalist on ‘Dana-Dan’ whose chanting adds to the song’s vibe. There’s also a bit of Linkin Park in the ear candy samples on songs like ‘Bsdk.Exe’, where Kerr’s raps are deeper in his throat and Bhadula’s growls more guttural. ‘Chakh Le’ (‘Purpose’) is a bruising stomper with lots of transitional sounds and dual vocals on the chorus. It serves as a closing mission statement, and another rebel rousing anthem. You don’t need to know the intricacies of the language to sing along. Indeed not since BabyMetal broke out have I so thoroughly enjoyed singing along in a language I know little about. The English rapping helps add meaning for sure but there’s a thrill that comes from something new and different too.
Rakshak is a thrilling ride through western and eastern sounds, much like BabyMetal or The Hu, and could very well climb world stages in a similar way. It’s undeniably fun but also well thought out with emotional and anthemic moments. It is actually serious metal too and if it weren’t authentic then it wouldn’t work. There’s a skill to the composition that makes them worthy of your listening time and definitely play it loud at parties.
Bloodywood – Rakshak tracklisting:
3. Zanjeero Se
4. Machi Bhasad
6. Jee Veerey
10. Chakh Le