Heathen Beast Rise (and Fall)

Last November, we threw up a Hail Mary post about a self-obscured Indian black metal band called Heathen Beast, hoping it would get some of your attention.  Heathen Beast sure got ours.  The savage sound of their attack combined with the absolute conviction with which they flay the political and religious authorities make each of their four EPs a rousing, raging listen.

For this month’s issue of Decibel, we had the opportunity to contact the band and ask them a few questions about their background and what Heathen Beast means to them.  Unfortunately, we understand now that the band has disintegrated, for reasons equally as mysterious as the identities of the members themselves.  Whatever trajectory Heathen Beast were on seems to have led them to self-destruct, and whether that is permanent or simply a momentary lapse is unclear.

Before they broke up, however, they left us with twelve impressive diatribes and responses to the following questions.

How did members of Heathen Beast meet?  When and how did you decide to start playing metal together?

We have been family friends for years and used to learn Hindustani music together, so when we discovered metal it was almost natural for us to jam and form a band. Of course, over the years we’ve evolved from just being a band to being a collective of musicians. The internet connects us all these days, so the possibilities of who is in the band is actually endless. We love to collaborate with like-minded musicians. The message and the music is what is important. Not the musician.

Which came first for you, love of extreme metal or your concern for social/political issues?

We all discovered atheism at some point in our lives. We started to question god and religion. This happened around the same time we discovered metal music. Most black metal is satanic but for us the concept of god itself seemed like a man-made one, so the idea of “Satan” also seemed fictional. While it made a great premise for the Norwegian scene to be built on, we knew that our focus needs to be our own roots. India is a very religious country and one with many different religions but the biggest conflict has always been the Hindu-Muslim conflict. We just thought it was the perfect subject matter because it affects us directly. Since we started there has been no turning back.

Heathen Beast has always released music in the 3-song EP format.  Can you explain why you have been working this way, or if it has any particular significance to you?

We noticed that the EP format worked well right from the start.  It’s enough music for people to enjoy and for us to write about the incidents and topics that we want to.  At the same time, rather than writing more songs and having albums with “filler” tracks, we would rather write three solid songs with our message. We feel this provides greater impact on all fronts.

Do you write your songs collectively as a band, or individually?  Has the way you work on music changed between EPs?  Has your focus or approach shifted from recording to recording?

In the beginning we started out by jamming and writing collectively, and still the core of the songs is written collectively, but since we’ve expanded we use the internet to connect with certain musicians of the Heathen Beast collective and we are able to write over the internet together.

What music are you most excited by right now?

When it comes to metal we are a bit stuck in the 90s, listening to the black metal bands of that era.  We don’t like most of the modern metal, be it death metal or deathcore or metalcore or djent or even some of the new black metal stuff. Old is gold.

A lot has been made of your band being a rebellious act and that it may be dangerous to reveal too much about yourself.  To what extent do you feel this is true?

Most of our politicians have criminal records ranging from murder, to rape to fraud and many more heinous crimes. So it’s pretty easy for them to not just eliminate us if they want but they can also hurt your friends and family, so it’s best to remain unknown.

Have you been playing live shows?

We decided from Day 1 that this was never meant to be a live band. The essence of it is the anonymity and people listening to the band and not considering who we are, what we look like. Maybe there will come a day when we take this project live, but it will be when we can put up a show maintaining our anonymity and also present a show that will blow people away.

At this point, do you feel like Heathen Beast is just getting started or do you feel like the band has found its purpose and sound and is at its peak?

Till death do us part. We are just getting started. We are in this only to spread our music and our message. We do this for the passion and we will keep delivering the goods in the coming years.  We have found our purpose and sound but our evolution has only just begun.

Check out the Heathen Beast compilation, Trident, and other releases by Transcending Obscurity India here.