Bloodywood – Rakshak

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Overall Score: 7/10
Songwriting: 9/10
Production: 8/10
Lyrics: 8/10
Pros: Brilliant mix of traditional Indian and rock sounds, fantastic singer and uplifting positivity
Cons: The slower rap parts can be a little generic, occasional obvious steals from their metal heroes

It’s been a long, strange journey from Bloodywood’s beginnings to the release of their debut album Rakshak. Starting out covering pop songs and Indian traditional music on YouTube then dropping their own material, you could be forgiven for thinking this is a novelty act that have gotten lucky. This couldn’t be further from the truth, with the band insisting this was always the plan. Still unsigned and using Patreon to fund their activities, including the shooting of their stunning videos, founding members Karan Katiyar (guitars, flute, production, composition) and Jayant Bhadula (vocals) have slowly pulled a proper live band together, including the other now full-time member Raoul Kerr (raps).

If you are unfamiliar with the band’s sound, they describe themselves as Indian folk metal, and mix western instruments with flute, the single stringed Tumbi and the powerful Dhol drums to create something truly special. Their metal heroes include System Of A Down and Linkin Park, and nu-metal make up a significant part of their sound, especially in the raps of Kerr and crushing riffage of Katiyar. Where they differ is this is an act that promote and exude nothing but positivity. Yes, there’s plenty of rage (… against the machine), but this isn’t whiny jocks crying into their 40 ounce beers. Theirs is a justified, righteous anger: to quote the Slipknot-esque GaddaarI don’t need no gun, I bring the fire and fury of the third world son”.

From donating tour proceeds to an animal charity to funding counselling for fans, everything Bloodywood do is with the right intentions and it only makes you love them more. Watch videos for songs such as Endurant, Jee Veerey or Machi Bhasad and without a huge smile and a heart-bursting surge of goodwill. However, let’s not lose sight of the fact that Bloodywood are a heavy metal band, and they rock like absolute bastards! With Machi Bhasad (Expect a Riot), BDSK, Gaddaar, Dana-Dan and Chakh Le all being non-stop crushing, metal anthems with soaring vocals, snarled raps and those Indian instruments just elevating everything in way that makes them celebratory and inclusive, rather than spiky and nihilistic.

It may be Indian folk-metal, but Bloodywood’s songs are universal whilst still personal to them. Endurant is a song about surviving bullying, something all three full-time members have experienced in the past and likewise Jee Veerey is about with dealing mental illness, again something that has touched them all in some way. Kerr’s star turn, BDSK, which may be the most furious song on an album not short of bangers is an attack on corrupt journalism, fake news and celebrity culture. Two songs that relate perhaps more strongly to their own country are Dana-Dan, which calls out misogyny and Machi Basad, which broaches the subject of the wealth gap, greed and social inequality. As pissed off as the band sounds though, their messages are always of hope, asking for and offering solutions.

It’s in the slower, numbers, such as Yaad where the influence of Linkin Park really emerges. They took a while longer to convince. Kerr’s raps work best when being spat out at 100mph and can sound trite when slowed and exposed to greater scrutiny. What saves the more melodic songs, is just that, the melodies. Often backed by a female vocalist, Bhadula’s clean singing is a thing of wonder. Katiyar has a tremendous knack of writing epic, rousing choruses and melodies freighted with real yearning and melancholy, all backed by that wistful flute. On more than one occasion we appear to have gotten something in our eye whilst listening to these tunes, even when we don’t know what’s actually being sung! In Bhadula, Bloodywood have one of the best vocalists currently working in the genre, he’s that good.

Rakshak is a triumph for Bloodywood. Created entirely on their own terms, it’s a big win for metal, a big win the band and a big win for everyone that’s backed them. These boys are stars.

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