Singapore’s Rudra recently dropped their eighth full-length, Enemy of Duality, on Transcending Obscurity Records. The album wonderfully combines a whole lot of things that don’t always combine wonderfully in metal: regional sounds, historical themes, folk tinges, and death metal. C’mon, we all know that can get pretty ugly, but Rudra totally kills it, with conviction.
We caught up with guitarist Simon, vocalist/bassist Kathir, and drummer Shiva (also in the band is guitarist Vinod) to get the scoop on how they mean what they sing about, why they refer to themselves as “Vedic metal,” and non-dualism presented from ancient texts (I told you: smart things).
Check out Rudra’s bandcamp here; keep up to date with Transcending Obscurity at their Facebook page here.
Tell me a bit about some of the challenges and victories involved with getting Enemy of Duality together.
Simon: One of the challenge is getting together to work on the album since all of us have our day jobs and our work routines are not fixed. Apart from it, we wanted to do something different from our previous album, RTA. We also wanted to work our music around the ancient text called Mandukya Upanishad, so the interesting challenge was to throw in the ideas musically and clamp down to the final result.
Can you explain some of the lyrical themes on the album?
Kathir: The whole album is wrapped around the theme of non-dualism presented in the ancient Sanskrit text, Madukya Upanishad. There is a commentary on this text by an author called Gaudapada who lived in the 6th century CE. His commentary, titled the Mandukya Karika, inspired the lyrics of the album. We took eight verses from the commentary and wrote eight songs articulating its purport. The primary lyrical theme of the album can be presented in this one verse from the text: “There is neither destruction nor creation, none in bondage and none practicing spiritual disciplines. There is none seeking Liberation (Salvation) and none liberated. This is the absolute truth.”
Bringing together different sounds in metal—be it sounds from different eras or different cultures—can often sound forced. You make it sound seamless on this album. What is your attitude toward bringing these sounds in?
Simon: We believe that it should never be forced. The way we approach this is by laying the riffs down and then we visualize if other sounds or instruments work well within the song. This way, we feel that the essence of the music is not lost.
Shiva: Thank you for the compliment. We have been doing this since we started the band, and I reckon this attitude is in the band’s DNA.
Explain to me how the philosophies the band sings about mix with your own personal beliefs, if at all.
Simon: Our personal beliefs do not contradict the philosophical aspect of our lyrics. All of us are on a different route to the common reality. The basic fact of the philosophy is to become who you already were; before time, anyway.
Kathir: As Simon had said, we subscribe to pluralism. Yet we see a common thread that runs through all our experiences, which is the Self. The Self is universal to all and hence not a subject for disputation. However, how we define the Self can be varied and diverse. My vision of the Self is one that is of Absolute Consciousness without any limitations. In fact ‘I am the Universe’. I fact I don’t write lyrics about a philosophy per se. I am singing about my Self and my vision.
“Vedic metal”—please explain.
Kathir: Vedic refers to the Indian classical music elements that we incorporate in our music and lyrical content that revolves around the philosophy of the Vedas. It’s a new metal genre that we have created that fuses the two elements.
Enemy of Duality is actually your eighth album; clearly, it’s a struggle for you to get known in North America. How do you feel about trying to raise awareness over here?
Shiva: I wouldn’t say it’s a struggle. We have played in the States in 2008, and in Canada in 2011, and the reception was amazing. We should have followed up with more shows but unfortunately due to our day jobs and family commitments we were not able to do so. Nevertheless, we will be getting in touch with show promoters and hopefully we can continue to do more shows in North America.
What’s next for Rudra?
Shiva: Next year marks our 25th anniversary. We have many things lined up to commemorate this special occasion. Watch out for it.