Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Single Review: HEATHEN BEAST Bloody Sabarimala by Dave Wolff

Place of origin: Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Genre: Black metal
Release date: December 21, 2018
In 2008 Sam Dunn interviewed members of Resurrection, Exhumation, Kryptos, Prakalp and Souled Out for his documentary Global Metal, bringing extreme metal from India to the mainstream’s attention when the first underground bands were emerging there. As he pointed out, “…These people aren't just absorbing metal from the west; they're transforming it, creating a new outlet they can't find in their traditional cultures, a voice to express their discontent with the chaos and uncertainty that surrounds them in their rapidly changing societies.” In the past decade Indian society has changed radically as more bands are playing thrash, death metal, black metal, power metal, progressive metal, groove metal and metalcore. Heathen Beast has been part of this change since 2010, and have released a handful of EPs since their inception. In many ways they are a cut above the rest when it comes to paying homage to their culture heritage. Each of their releases presents more examples of Indian mythology and religious beliefs; their most recent single Bloody Sabarimala is essential listening if you appreciate black metal’s upholding of tradition, folklore and mythos. Released last weekend, Bloody Sabarimala embodies legend and historical fact dating to the fifteenth century when the Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple was constructed in Kerala, India. One of the most well-known mythological legends associated with the temple is of Lord Ayyappan, and the demoness Mahishi. Ayyappan was the son of Lord Shiva and Vishnu, and Mahishi was cursed to live as a demoness until he defeated her in battle and she became the goddess Malikappurathamma. She proposed to marry him, but he was dedicated to his devotees. Apparently this legend has been twisted to condone barring women of menstrual age from entering the temple for centuries. This was in practice from the nineteenth century to 1991 when the courts ruled against the Travancore Devaswom Board, barring women between 10 and 50 from worshiping at the temple. The centuries-old ban was finally overturned by the courts last September. From what the band told me when explaining what the song is about it has been one of India’s leading social issues in the months that followed the decision to overturn this ban. There have been protests in the streets and even with police protection women are still not permitted to enter the temple. Heathen Beast addresses the folly of distorting legend to rationalize the denial of free worship. Their knowledge of folklore is consistent with the knowledge displayed on their past releases; no one can accuse them of playing up to an empty image to impress listeners with how “evil” they can appear. Heathen Beast made a promotional video for this single which can be viewed below. -Dave Wolff

Carvaka: Vocals, guitars
Samkhya: Bass
Mimamsa: Drums

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