Welcome to Nepal, famous as the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, Hinduism, and being home to eight of the world’s tallest mountains, including the great Everest.
You may have wondered what type of metal a landlocked country like Nepal can produce, and so have I. But, as with seemingly every remote corner of the world, Nepal has a burgeoning metal scene too.
The Nepal Deathfest has received some modest international attention for hosting such bands as Defeated Sanity and Sete Star Sept, but what about the homegrown talent? Today we’ll look at 10 of the country’s top metal talents throughout various sub-genres.
Lakhey Band (Folk/Ethnic/Ethno)
Roots, Nepali Roots. Lakhey call themselves the “world’s first ethno-metal band,” and after listening to them it’s hard to dispute that claim. They formed in 2011 and incorporate more than 15 Newari/Nepali instruments into their arsenal such as the dhyangro, an instrument typically played by jhakri (shamans). Along with a dancing demon onstage, the eight musicians that make up Lakhey wear tribal masks, but they also don’t skimp out on “traditional” metal instruments. The resulting combination is something you must see and hear for yourself to truly grasp; this is a brutal ceremony bringing to light a tribal Nepal in a contemporary performance.
Bhaktapur-based Discord formed in 2016, and through their grinding hymns they comment on the struggle and frustration to survive in a poverty-stricken nation. The musical style of Discord tiptoes the line between hardcore and grindcore, and the band keeps their ethnicity and personal issues at the forefront of their songs with the lyrics written in Nepali and themes about the day-to-day struggles regarding life in Nepal. On Blood, Sweat & Grind, the government’s false promises to the citizens and attempts to wipe out heritage sites in the country are criticized.
How many beats do you want, Chepang? “Yes.” If you’ve seen Ministry’s In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up live video, or attended those Melvins shows in which they employed Big Business’ drummer alongside Mr. Crover, then you are aware of the power that two fully assembled kits backed by sweaty skin bashers can bring. Chepang, with their two drummers, take the blasting part of grindcore to the extreme, and then add dual vocals on top for a double dose of harmony corruption. The lone guitar is left to fend for itself, thrashing about like a naked man in a pit of zombies. Recommended listening time when you’re nearly late for work and need to run from the train station.
Ugra Karma (Death Metal)
Every country has a metal legend, and in Nepal, Ugra Karma are exactly that. Known as the first death metal band to appear in the country, they formed in 1999, making themselves known as the mountain grinders of Nepal. Ugra Karma translates to “a bad harmful action,” and since that final year of the previous millennium they have been putting these actions to tape, releasing The Himalayan Metal of Death demo in 2000 and Blood Metal Initiation in 2001. The band then went on hiatus until 2012, and have since put out The Mountain Grinders EP. Here’s to a few more decades of bad karma from the Himalayas.
The traditional tribal/masked imagery seen in the Lakhey Band is given a mainstream makeover with Underside, who often bring masked dancers on stage to bring an added aesthetic to their metalcore/groove metal sound. This combination has proved to be successful for Underside, who have become one of Nepal’s more famous acts, even playing the Download Festival in the U.K. in 2019 and having Chris Adler guest on their “Laid to Rest” live performance when he stopped by Nepal. The band uses their platform for good in their video for “Gadhimi,” condemning the blood bath of roughly 300,000 slaughtered animals at the temple of Gadhimi every five years.
Dying Out Flame (Hindu/Vedic Death Metal)
It may be dying out, but as long as this flame still burns, it will illuminate the Nepali metal scene like few other bands. Though they have only released one album, 2014’s Shiva Rudrastakam, the quality of the recording is enough to put the band into the upper tier of acts in the country. The combination of brutal death metal mingling alongside temple-found sounds of the sitar, tabala and sanskrit mantras give Dying Out Flame an invigorating sense of style and identity. For fans of Nile, Melechesh, and White Zombie’s “Blood, Milk and Sky,” step into the death metal temple of enlightenment.
X-Mantra are of the old guard of Nepalese bands, having formed in 2000. They play a comfort food-style of thrash which reminds me of the Chinese band Suffocated, Testament-like in nature. Of note is their video for “Forgive/Never Forget” in which a beer-drinking, motorbike-riding, and torture-hungry Kylo Ren appears as the band plays in a cage with light-bulbs swinging (as in Korn’s “Freak on a Leash”). Kylo takes off his helmet and he is in fact a her! The band’s use of Nepali lyrics, sung clearly with perfect intonation, could also be your metal Rosetta Stone to the language of Nepal.
Antim Grahan (Black Metal)
“The last day on earth before the Armageddon” is the omen of Antim Grahan. This Kathmandu-based band have gone through the gauntlet of styles since their arrival on the scene in 2004, starting with symphonic black metal in the early days, with death metal and grindcore getting thrown in the cauldron more recently. Listening to the ice-tinged melodies of their Tales from the Darkened Woods album compared to their latest, I Wish You Death, you can tell it’s the same corpse-painted (or blood-drenched) group, they have just armored up for those bloody battles in the Himalayas.
Binaash (Brutal Death Metal)
What is more metal than the earth getting revenge and unleashing earthquakes and avalanches onto the meticulously built cities of man? This is Binaash, which means “destruction” in Nepali, active since 2012. The band’s video for the song of the same name shows just that scenario in a horrifying but somewhat mesmerizing fashion. Originally called Kaal (Death), Binaash often like their death metal slow, deep and destructive, like a building falling down in slow motion, only to then press fast-forward and get on with the carnage.
Screaming Marionette (Groove Metal/Metalcore)
I’m a marionette, just a marionette, pull the string. Nepal’s Screaming Marionette have had enough of being clowned around and controlled. You won’t see them doing ABBA covers, instead spewing contempt with the way things are. “Fuck society” is the go-to lyric on “Corrupted Society,” and that is just the beginning. The band’s EP condemns more of what the masters make their puppets do on tracks like “Execution” and “Screaming Marionette,” all presented in an ear-friendly groove metal package.
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