Released: 2013, Demonstealer Records
Workshop is the second part of my feature this month on metal from the Indian subcontinent with the first being Rectified Spirit. There is a swiftly burgeoning metal scene in India that deserves more recognition. Seriously, you cannot make this stuff up. Workshop is a duo called The Demonstealer and The Hamzoid from Mumbai, India. Combine the nerdiness of Devo, with some of the raunch of Steel Panther and mix it with the unfamiliar-to-Westerners brand of pop culture in India and you have the central concept of the band in a nutshell. Workshop formed in 2008 as a side project for The Demonstealer (aka Sahil Makhija), who fronts a Black/Death Metal band called Demon Resurrection. However, Workshop avoids this genre completely, employing mid-paced metal that mostly sounds unlike anything you have likely ever heard.
Makhija handles vocals delivered in a dead pan completely serious tone. The lyrics are another story shifting from the completely silly to the often quite funny, chased with a judicious dose of raunchiness. The album cover pretty much says it all. How many bands compose a song about a threesome with a dragon after all, as the title track and album cover illustrates? However, underneath the clownish façade is a smoking band, deftly handling odd time changes and delivering some impressive technical chops from guitars, to drums, to bass. “She Came” is probably closer to Sting than metal initially, but the lyrics are pure Steel Panther, dealing with a rather taboo topic in India about female masturbation. Soon the music picks up the pace with a concise and memorable melodic solo, followed by a catchy alternating high to low riff. “Munni Jawan Vs Sheila Badnam” is a heavier tune about two of the most popular Bollywood item numbers, which if you are familiar with Indian cinema, is another name for two musical pieces from films. “Blues Motion” is probably the most metallic and conventional tune, built firmly in the style of Black Sabbath, with Makhija even managing to sound like vintage Ozzy. In various places the band employs native languages, (take your pick, they speak about 16 in Mumbai) but probably Marathi or Hindi which, sounds pretty interesting behind metal guitars.
Production-wise, I have no complaints. Everything is well balanced if a bit low in fidelity. No mistake, this is definitely an album of acquired appreciation, the music, lyrics, and even the vocal timbre being fairly unique. Closest description would be the combination of Devo and Serj Tankian’s vocals mixed with a blend of SOD guitars, US early power metal, and traces of Sabbath. Makes for a unique and original listen, and while I cannot promise you will like it, I can assure you it is different and original. I for one have come to appreciate and embrace it, and while it will never be an album I reach for often, I know I will crack a smile and give an approving nod each time that I do.