Chinnamasta – ‘Vajra-Sarpa’

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Label: Iron Bonehead Productions / Tour De Garde

Review by Prateek Vamachara

Chinnamasta is a ambient black metal duo from Kolkata, one of the up and coming scenes in India for underground extreme metal. Tantra has been, for a while, a theme that has invited curiosity for bands of extreme music, whether they have cultural connections to them or not. And why not, since the esotericism of the themes have qualitative depth for self-exploration. As can be seen from the name of the band, Chinnamasta delve into topics both in Tantric Hinduism and the Vedas. Chinnamasta is a Tantric Goddess and one of the several aspects of Devi, the Supreme Mother Goddess. ‘Vajra-Sarpa’ is the band’s first EP, and the title comes from the duel between Indra and Vritra, where Indra uses his Astra (weapon) that is the Vajra (the thunderbolt) to kill Vritra, the Sarpa (the serpent) Asura (demon). The themes don’t seem to align in my head since a Tantra-themed band with an EP title from Rig Vedic mythology seems to me that the conflicting positions these themes took in very early Indian society seems to have been neglected, or the band holds the position that these themes are somehow spiritually intertwined and is beyond Brahminical stances on Tantra and other non-Vedic paths of Dharma. Moving on.

While the EP lasts for only 20 minutes, the black metal parts take up only 10 minutes. The album starts off with ‘Nexion I – Ritual Of Illumination And Consumption’, a ritualistic ambient intro that features a couple of Shlokas from the Devi Mahatmya (Chandi Path) part of Markandeya Purana. Markandeya Purana was one of the older Puranic texts, and Devi Mahatmya is a stretch of chapters with Bhakti Slokas of Devi and is one of the vital Shaktism texts and is recited during Durga Pujas. Starting off with a Durga Shloka to ending with Oppenheimer’s famous translation of Bhagavad Gita verse – “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”, I would say the band switches ideologies quite easily. “In Search Of A Primal Light” is the longest track on the EP lasting almost 13 minutes, and is the only track featuring black metal. The track starts off with a dark ambient passage with thunder and rain brooding over slow chiming of atmospheric music. The first riff hits at around the 3 minute mark, and steadily and cautiously gains focus as the drums empower it until they together blast off into the known territories of black metal. For such a short record, the patient take on songwriting is surprising, as bands usually tend to push a lot of ideas into their short EPs. There isn’t anything new in the black metal approach. The production is pretty clear to call it raw black metal, and the focus is distributed among the ambient parts of the EP as much as the black metal parts. The final track “Nexion II – Reawakening Primeval Spells From The Farthest Cosmic Night” is an aesthetically suiting ambient keyboard outro with some whispered spoken words which I couldn’t make out on what it was about.

‘Vajra-Sarpa’ is Chinnamasta touching on mythological themes and musical ideas that could work well with the required landscape but given the length of it, it does not explore enough yet. It can be seen as a teaser of future material though, and the sense of the direction they are beginning to take. Or it can be seen as the band testing the waters and looking for a more natural way of finding a path for the band. For people interested in the thematics of the mythologies of India, this band provides and interesting listen, and I would look forward to hearing a longer and more complete release from the band.

JH