Blood & Iron – Ashish Shetty (Guitars, Bass)
Interviewed by Aaron Yurkiewicz
When presented with a moniker like Blood & Iron, there’s a certain degree of implied comfort that comes along with it – you know you’re probably gonna get some epic metal. And some epic metal ye will receive on Blood & Iron’s recently released VOICES OF ETERNITY. Some quick history for the uninformed – based out of Bangalore, India, Blood & Iron trace their origins back to 2005 and started releasing music independently shortly thereafter. Bred on a steady diet of classic metal, VOICES OF ETERNITY is actually the band’s third album, took 2 years to make, and features 7 contributing artists spread across 3 countries. That, dear readers, is what you called commitment to your craft. Summoning the inspiration in the most traditional of veins, Blood & Iron straddle the line between classic Maiden/Priest sensibilities, with the complexity and nuance of early Savatage/Queensryche, but strictly the pre-90’s material from said bands. It’s not always a perfect execution, but it’s pretty friggin’ respectable effort.
We pick up the story with guitarist/bassist Ashish Shetty.
Congratulations on the release of VOICES OF ETERNITY, it’s an excellent record with lots of appeal for metal fans. How has the general reception been so far?
Thank you very much. We are very proud of this album. The feedback we’ve received from our fans has been very positive. Reviews on various websites have been great as well. So far, so good!
How would you compare VOICES OF ETERNITY to your debut or DYNAMITE WORLD?
Our sound has evolved with every album. Our debut album ‘Blood & Iron’ was a concept album – a story told from the perspective of a Soviet soldier in World War 2. Musically, the album had prominent orchestral parts, and certain progressive sections.
Our second album, ‘Dynamite World’, had shorter catchy songs. The songs dealt with certain socio-cultural issues and political ideologies – and how the rigid fanaticism they inspire are threats that affects us all in some way.
‘Voices of Eternity’ takes a back-to-the-roots approach. We were a 6 piece band prior to 2010 and now we have three core members with all others contributors being guest musicians.
We have discarded the use of keyboards entirely, and so it’s a pure heavy metal sound. Song topics range from epic fantasy, to politics, to songs which are deeply contemplative. I would say it’s our best and most mature effort – with greater emotional pull in comparison to the last two albums. The production of this album is also superior to our previous work.
Blood & Iron’s history dates back to 2005, correct? How did the band come together originally?
Yes. Blood & Iron was formed in Chennai, India, in February 2005, when I was a freshman in college. I had picked up my first guitar a few months earlier, and went about finding other metal heads in the city to jam with. The metal scene in the city was, and is very small. A few months in, and I knew most of the musicians there. Over the next two years, we had more line-up changes than I can remember. The line-up eventually stabilized and we released our first album in 2007.
What’s it like to be in a heavy metal band in a relatively conservative country? How would you describe the metal scene in India right now?
While there is a growing metal scene in India, it’s still a relatively fringe or unknown genre of music to most people. Many of the negative stereotypes associated with metal in the West have found their way to India, unfortunately.
However, that being said, India has a very rich musical tradition and most people are open minded enough to give this kind of music a listen before forming an opinion. The kind of talent that’s coming up in India now is unbelievable! It is tragic that most metal bands here disband after about 3-4 years, because it’s not feasible to make a living playing rock/metal, and there is very, very little exposure of Indian bands in the International metal scene.
Right now, there are some great metal bands such as Albatross, Kryptos and Providence leading the charge for Indian metal. I’d highly recommend checking them out.
Listening to VOICES OF ETERNITY, there’s a definite nod to the classic metal sound that so many of us grew up with. Who would you say are Blood & Iron’s biggest influences?
I’d say some of the biggest and direct influences are: Iron Maiden, Savatage, Primal Fear, Megadeth, Fates Warning, Queensryche, Annihilator, Dio, Hammerfall and Edguy.
We also listen to a host of other bands such as Theater of Tragedy, Dark Age, Dream Theater, Wintersun, Pink Floyd, Nightwish, Avantasia, etc.
Across the record, there’s a nice balance between the heavy and the melodic, not to mention some impressive musicianship. How would you describe your songwriting process?
Thank you. Since I currently work in Dubai and the two other core members are in India, the song writing (and recording) process, on this album, differed from what we did in the past.
I’d usually have a topic in mind, and would compose and record the music, and come up with certain vocal melodies. I’d then send it across to Vikram and Praveen in India, for them to add their parts. Once the instruments were laid down, we’d send it to Giles, in Australia, to record his vocals.
It was a very time consuming process. But overall, we’re very happy with the way the songs turned out.
Playing the kind of metal we do, which is so firmly rooted in the classic sound, we understood that we HAD to do it well, or we’d be consigned to obsolescence. We tried our best to make sure this album doesn’t have any fillers and, as always, we placed a lot of emphasis on writing good, meaningful lyrics.
Concepts like choice and consequence are consistent themes across the album. Was that an intentional theme from the beginning, or more a natural evolution of the individual songs?
It wasn’t an intentional theme from the beginning; it turned out that way as the songs developed. Some of the songs are pretty contemplative in tone – so choice and consequence are themes that pop up as a result.
Inspired by the writing of George R.R. Martin, “Ghost of a Memory” is arguably the album’s signature track. Who’s the biggest Martin fan in the band?
Vikram and I are both huge fans of George R.R. Martin. I began reading his books almost 9 years ago and I’ve been a devoted fan ever since. The idea for this song was brewing in my head for a very long time and when I got down to composing it, the song pretty much wrote itself.
Giles Lavery’s voice compliments the music on VOICES OF ETERNITY really well. How did he come into the picture to provide lead vocals on the new album?
I have metal-rules.com to thank for that!
I read the review for Dragonsclaw’s debut album on your site and decided to give them a listen on Youtube. Giles is a phenomenal vocalist and his voice simply blew me away. I checked out their band page on facebook and got in touch with Giles. Apart from being an amazing musician he’s also a great guy and very down-to-earth.
When Blood & Iron decided to make a new album, we initially thought we’d ask Giles if he was up for being a guest vocalist on a couple of our songs. He was. Those first couple of songs he sent back were so good that it was a no-brainer for us. We asked him if he’d like to provide lead vocals for the rest of the album – and luckily for us, he was agreeable to that.
His vocals are a natural fit to the kind of music we play and that they took our songs to another level altogether. I speak on behalf of Praveen and Vikram when I say it was an honour to have worked with him.
In addition to Lavery, there are other guest contributors across the album. Was such a diverse group of participants an intended outcome, or was it something that happened more organically?
When we began working on this album we thought we’d take an Ayreon-like approach and use multiple guest contributors for the songs – so yes, it was an intended outcome.
The guest contributors to this album are all fantastic musicians and friends of mine. Youmni provides backing vocals on all tracks, and takes over lead vocal duties in certain sections of a couple of songs (Ghost of a Memory and Burning Bridges), he’s the lead singer of the Dubai-based heavy metal band ‘Ascendant’, which I’m now a part of as well.
Vin Nair is the ‘Narrator’ in Ghost of a Memory, and he’s the lead vocalist of the Dubai-based rock band Vin Sinners.
Riju “Dr. Hex” plays bass on Eternal Rites, and his band Albatross is one of the finest metal bands in India.
Looking forward, do you see the band continuing to work with Lavery and/or other guest musicians, or is there a plan for a “permanent” lineup?
Well, we haven’t really discussed the future, since we’ve just released this album. So, our focus has been spreading the word, and trying to get as many people as possible to listen to it. But, I think as long as I’m in Dubai and the rest of the guys are in India, it’s more likely that we’ll continue working with guest musicians for future projects – with Giles being our first and obvious choice.
There’s an established base of fans that go nuts for your brand of metal. Any plans on the horizon to tour? VOICES OF ETERNITY sounds great through a set of headphones, but these tunes presented in a live setting would be massive.
Yes, I think these would be absolutely fantastic songs to play live. But we are an independent and unsigned band – so, right now, getting signed onto a good label will probably be more beneficial for our long-term prospects. If that happens, then yes, we’d definitely start thinking about the possibility of touring.
What’s the best part about being in a working metal band?
The best part was, and always will be the music. When we play our songs live, and when the audience connects with it – it is an incredible high!
We are playing exactly the kind of metal we love, without compromise, and as musicians, that is as fulfilling as it gets!
What’s the worst part about being in a working metal band?
Like most unsigned artists, we hope for more exposure of our work in the metal community, and hope that one day we will be able to do this for a living. But till then, we’ll have to put up with our boring day jobs to fund our passion
Anything parting words for the folks reading this?
Yes – If you are a fan of classic heavy metal, then check out some of our songs on our website (www.bloodandiron.in) – if you like it, then tell your friends and feel free to share our music.
A big thank you to Ishaan – the artist who came up with the artwork for our album. He’s absolutely fantastic.
And a thank you to metal-rules.com, as well! You guys do a great job with the site!