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Shepherd – Stereolithic Riffalocalypse (and song premiere – “Demonstration 2″)

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A gradual but firm admiration for doom metal in India has grown since the inception of Bangalore psych-doom stalwarts Bevar Sea, who recently backed out of an appearance at Maryland Deathfest. Co-founded by Bevar Sea’s own Deepak Raghu, young guns Shepherd also play with psychedelic doom, and have been putting out demos since late 2011 and gained strong local support.

In those four years they’re transitioned from a more improvisational group into a song-focused one, and that shift has come with requisite lineup changes. Inner Sanctum’s Abhishek Michael replaced the original bassist around late 2012 and shortly thereafter, axeman Namit Chauhan took over most of the vocal duties (the original singer left due to personal differences). Now, the band’s debut LP, Stereolific Riffalocalpyse is receiving a US vinyl release via Helmet Lady Records, who have also given us a stream of “Demonstration 2” from one of the group’s demos below.

As the title suggests Stereolithic Riffalocalypse delivers distortion-driven riff based music on the cusp of doom and noise rock. Galvanizing bass-heavy lurches and sludgy dynamics take cue from the Seattle scene, especially from heavier acts like the Melvins, Louder Than Love-era Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, Willard with sprinkles of Eyehategod and YOB all wrapped in a Mastodon flavor.

“Spite Pit” and “Crook” initiate the kicking with immediately catchy sludge infused riff over straightforward rock beats. “Black Cock of Armageddon,” on the other hand, is more foreboding and doomy with hymnal harmonized vocals akin to Alice in Chains, but it culminates in a faster punk-inflected outro. The title track follows the same brooding formula, with another Staley-Cantrell influenced chorus, droning doom riffs and plodding cymbals until the song shifts gears into a punk rock-esque climax. “Wretch Salad” especially reeks of early Soundgarden—I couldn’t help but think of “Beyond the Wheel,” “Toy Box” or “4th of July” as soon as the trudging minor key grinds and mid-register Chris Cornell-esque vocals kicked in.

Drummer Deepak Raghu confirmed the importance of grunge to his musical history, as well as that of the rest of the band, saying, “I realized there’s more out there than just the usual Bollywood crap about falling in love or dancing in the rain and all that shit.” He first discovered non-Indian rock music through trading files, in a process reminiscent of the ’80s tape-trading scene that informed Scandinavian metal. “Early on there really weren’t a lot of options besides making copies of copies of copies of tapes and CDs,” he said. “Then mp3/download really blew the door wide open. Discovered a lot of music just doing that. [Rock music was] definitely not popular by any standards. U2 was my favorite band when I started hearing rock music on TV, and even a band like U2 stands out from the mainstream music in India—not just musically but what they were singing about.” Deepak’s admiration for relatively American mainstream rock music lends the newest Shepherd material a sense of coherence and structure that contemporary doom can lack.

Stereolithic Riffalocalypse is not a radical transition from their early demos but it features more accessible songwriting complemented by cohesive and more conventional song structures than their earlier My War (B-side) derived free-form improvisations. It should provide a useful primer for anyone interested in India’s growing doom scene.

—Saikat K

“Demonstration 2” is set to be released this Summer. The vinyl release of Stereolithic Riffalocalypse drops later this summer via Helmet Lady Records. Follow Shepherd on Facebook.

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