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Bloodywood - Rakshak review

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Band: Bloodywood
Album: Rakshak
Style: Alternative metal, Folk metal
Release date: February 2022

01. Gaddaar
02. Aaj
03. Zanjeero Se
04. Machi Bhasad
05. Dana-Dan
06. Jee Veerey
07. Endurant
08. Yaad
09. BSDK.exe
10. Chakh Le


If you are unfamiliar with Indian sensations Bloodywood, there is a feature-length documentary on the band’s history that can enlighten you, but I’ll summarize by saying that they originated as a YouTube cover project consisting of multi-instrumentalist/producer Karan Katiyar and vocalist Jayant Bhadula. After unexpected success with some of those covers, Bloodywood grew larger in scale and membership, slowly putting out more and more original songs until at last they arrived at Rakshak: a mix of previously released singles and hitherto-unheard tracks that serves as a sort of “greatest hits” album coming at the beginning of their career rather than the end. The release of Rakshak is exciting to me for a variety of reasons; not only were we just recently lamenting our collective lack of experience with the Indian metal scene (catch me pining for a Bloodywood debut not four months ago), but I’ve been in love with this band’s sound ever since the release of “Machi Bhasad” in 2019. Rakshak is easily one of my most-anticipated debuts in all the time I’ve spent writing for Metal Storm, and the exciting sound of this album has not disappointed me.

So what is that sound that hooked me with that single? It’s a mixture of nu/alternative metal and native Indian music that explodes with kneecap-shattering bounce and absolutely staggering grooves. Brief, bludgeoning chords dominate most tracks alongside menacing rap verses and eruptive choruses; traditional flutes and drums intertwine with hip-hop beats and up-tempo synthesizer blasts, moving from continent to continent within the course of a single song. Rakshak offers simple, slamming riffs galore and hard-headed vocals to roll out a bare-knuckled crunch, and all of that turns into great fun when laid overtop the constantly moving percussion; the burly bravado of metalcore and tough-guy rap is demonstrable in big party hits like “Gaddaar,” “Dana-Dan,” and the aforementioned “Machi Bhasad,” which come with thunderous refrains that beg to be shouted along to. Making catchy nu metal is not Bloodywood’s only calling, though: there are also a few more somber, emotionally weighty tunes that dial back the aggression in favor of focusing on wistful whistles, quiet vocals, and reflective melodies. These mellower, more personal tracks – “Yaad” and “Zanjeero Se” among the highlights – still get heavy at the right times, but they exemplify just how good the band is at writing hooks that sting, in addition to writing the kind of drop-dead baseline riffs that can accommodate basically any kind of vocal attack.

It's that vocal attack that makes Bloodywood work most of all, thanks to the vocal duo of Raoul Kerr and Jayant Bhadula. Kerr handles the rap portions, and while his English lyrics are often fairly rote posturing, lurking in a register of basic motivations and self-aggrandizement, he has a deep, commanding voice that seeks to really confront you with those lyrics; he looks tough, he sounds tough, and he works well with the blunt end of Bloodywood. On the other hand, there’s Jayant – and what an accurate name, because he sounds like a giant. His strained cries are heart-rending in “Jee Veerey,” he pulls gutturals like any death growler in “BSDK.exe,” and he does possess a beautiful singing voice (not often displayed here in favor of more aggressive vocal styles), but where he shines most is somewhere in between. When he goes in for a distorted chorus like “Machi Bhasad” or “Gaddaar,” he unleashes the roar of 15 tigers: the sound of his voice is downright massive, and I believe that his bellowing could blow away weaker audience members by itself. There’s a lot more to Bloodywood than the big party in the lyrics, too – some of these tracks deal with topics like mental health, rape, and radical politics in a manner that shows a refreshing social conscience, and that, perhaps ironically, contributes to the sense of Bloodywood as a fun band.

Structurally, the songs are quite conventional, and if you can’t slide into the groove or get transfixed by the chorus of a particular track, it’s not going to do much for you; as an album, despite the variety in the high-action throwdowns, Rakshak does feel more like a collection of singles than a single discrete piece of music, which is likely because of the piecemeal manner in which most of this music emerged. As much as I do love Bloodywood’s sound, an album like this is more likely to get replay in the form of a few individual favorites being revisited. But what sells me on Bloodywood most of all is the sheer energy: these guys are excited to be here making music, and the monstrous roars of these choruses and the dynamite swing of the verses pulse with the kind of electricity that will make you want to get up and jump. On top of that, the mesh of metal, hip-hop, and Indian music jives really well as a slick, four-minute pop song amalgamation with an inviting and positive atmosphere. It’ll be tough for them to beat “Machi Bhasad” in my mind, but I’m so glad to have Rakshak at last because it is the first step towards even more Bloodywood in the world, and next they’ll be writing a “second album” instead of a batch of stand-alone singles – so that could be where they elevate things.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 9
Production: 7

Written on 15.02.2022 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 3   Visited by: 228 users
15.02.2022 - 13:42
Dream Taster
The Enemy Within
Excellent, I have been waiting for this album for years as well, since finding a few of their powerful singles on YouTube. Great job describing it all for us.
18.02.2022 - 19:39
Rating: 7
This is a great album, especially for a debut. But I think my issues with it come primarily from your point of this being essentially a collection of singles. Maybe it's the guitar tone, or possibly Bloodywood sticking too closely to nu metal song structures, but regardless, they definitely don't sound like they were made with the consideration of listening back-to-back. I also had an issue with some of the English rap verses reminding me too much of Limp Bizkit, but that's probably a personal thing. Anyway, I'm looking forward to what Bloodywood do next; thanks for highlighting them!
12.04.2022 - 12:46
Rating: 8
With a lowercase c
I've had this on almost permanent rotation for a month now and find it more enjoyable with every listen. It's insanely well-written and -produced and just overall a really fun and energetic listening experience. The "conventional" nature of these songs is exactly what is so appealing to me right now, to a point where I don't even mind how short they are. It's been years since I listened to alt/nu metal like this, especially with folky tunes in the mix.

Idk, it seems that all criticism I've read is valid and yet I haven't had this much fun with an album since easily 2019

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