Many believe that the history of Rock music in Nepal can be traced back to the 1960s when the Hippies started making Nepal their ultimate destination. A few murky details about some Nepali bands and the music scene back then are available.
In the 70s, several bands like Prism, Brotherhood, Revival, Kathmandu Katz, Radium, and much later in the late 1980s, bands like Wrathchild, Criss Cross, The Paduwas, Maneater were pretty active in the scene. However, most of these bands never bothered singing original songs or recording any albums.
Only in the mid-90s, a small number of bands from Kathmandu started recording albums and performing originals. The name Cobweb comes first.
The band released their first album â€œAnjaanâ€ in 1993 and followed it by a self-titled one in 1996. â€œMaryo Ni Maryoâ€ became a huge hit and pushed Cobweb onto higher grounds.
There were of course already many other regular as well as â€œone gigâ€ bands that were doing live Rock/Metal covers. Iron Maidenâ€™s â€œLosfer Wordsâ€ and Metallicaâ€™s â€œAm I Evilâ€ were concert staples. Almost every Hard Rock show would have those two songs played by at least one band.
By the end of the 90s, there were more bands performing outdoors and participating in band competitions. Some were even cutting records â€“ and something interesting had started happening in the underground scene. A few bands showed passion and guts and revolted against the pestilence named â€œcover song mentality.â€
It was in 2001 when Ugrakarma released a demo titled â€œHimalayan Metal of Deathâ€ â€“ the first death metal recording by a Nepali band. Of course, there were already some bands playing metal in the concerts, but many of the so-called â€œbandsâ€ never had any originals.
A few bands which had originals never managed to get them recorded. The same story of lack of resources, and lack of better recording studios halted the progress of many potentially good Metal bands.
However, the emergence of BMI Studios (also called Sacred Soundz) helped create encouraging conditions for many bands. The existence of a metal recording studio opened up a lot of avenues for future bands trying to cut records or demos.
Albatross released Hi: Fly in 2003. Recorded at BMI Studios, the album turned out to be another benchmark in the metal history of Nepal. Another noteworthy band that pushed the underground scene forward from obscurity was Nastik.
Formed in late 2001, Nastik released a self-titled demo in 2002 and released â€œJudge Deathâ€ â€“ an all-out death metal album in 2003. Another band, Third World Chaos, released a four-song EP titled â€œInferoâ€ in 2003 and introduced â€œhardcore-â€influenced metal into Kathmanduâ€™s scene.
The release of X-Mantra’s debut album â€œCrying for Peaceâ€ in 2003 hit the underground metal scene like a tsunami. Their self-imposed â€œNo Cover Songs in Concertsâ€ rule created an astounding impact on other active bands in the scene.
Several bands started performing originals, and they gradually realized that performing â€œdecent originalsâ€ was more important than doing any â€œcover songsâ€ in superb ways. Crying for Peace paved the way for a more metal-receptive audience than there would have been otherwise.
By 2005, many bands, such as Antim Grahan, Cruentus, Muga, Holocaust, and Breeding Pestilence started to bring â€œnewâ€ and â€œinnovativeâ€ stuffs into the underground scene. And later, bands like Epitaph, Morgoth, Lost Oblivion, and Vhumi forged new styles into the scene.
With an almost apocalyptic name, Antim Grahan quickly grabbed the attention of the scene. With the release of their EP â€œForever Winterâ€ in early 2005, Antim Grahan displayed a bold testimony of their brand of symphonic Black Metal. Without wasting much time, just after three months, they released their full-length album, â€œTales of the Darkened Woods.â€
Another Black Metal outfit, Cruentus, just like Antim Grahan, took the underground scene to the next level. Cruentus recorded their EP, â€œMassacre of the Holy Ones,â€ in 2004 and in 2005 recorded a full-length album, â€œAsantushta Aatma.â€ The album featured the rawness and aggression of Black Metal with a touch of Death Metal and the title song became a new anthem at Metal concerts.
The current scene
Many of the older bands that started the underground scene have either disbanded or are inactive. There are several new bands in the scene right now, playing a variety of genres and sub-genres of Metal and Rock.
Members of Vhumi and Lost Oblivion formed E.Quals. They were able to participate in the Global Battle of the Bands held in London in 2010. E.Quals gained huge fan following but then somehow got inactive.
The members came up with two new projects Underside band, and White “ and both bands are doing amazingly in the scene currently.
Photo: Umes Shrestha
2010 also saw the emergence of another super group â€“ Jindabaad. The band has brought an eclectic form of Heavy Rock to Kathmandu concertgoers.
From Black Metal bands like Kalodin, Garudh and Imperium to Death Metal bands like Binaash, Hatebook, the Exorcist and 11 to Metalcore bands like Rage Hybrid, Spinal Discord to metal bands like Underside, Divine Influence and Bidroha to hardcore band like Jugaa, the current scene in Kathmandu is getting as vibrant and stronger than ever.
Bands like White, Horny Monks, Lakhey, and Space Cake Break are bringing in creative and interesting stuffs, putting in amazing live performances and exemplifying the true meaning of passion and originality.
The non-mainstream rock and metal scene of Kathmandu is evidently growing bigger and better. Even though crawling on tortoise pace, itâ€™s definitely making a mark of recognition in the whole South Asian music community.
By Umesh Shrestha (founder of ktmROCKS.)