The first thing is that this demo is by Satyagraha from Perlis in Malaysia, not any of the alternatives of the same name out there. The term satyagraha itself is best known for meaning passive political resistance in the Gandhi era.
What I knew this band for mainly was the self-titled track, which blew me away when I went to see them last year. Here it is in all its ten minute glory. An Indian-inspired drone runs through it like electricity, momentarily spreading its force in a menacing way while maintaining the Eastern aura. All the while we hear the calm tones of Gandhi’s 1931 Spiritual Message (On God) speech. Crusty doom seamlessly invades the scene. The aura is so powerful as the deep and heavy tones of the doom metal mix with the spiritual flavours of India and the mesmerising Gandhi speech.
From the spiritual world of India we go to the heavy rock n roll stoner of “Truth Force”. The drums strike up tribally, while the guitarist plucks away in an instrumental style which falls somewhere between the Shadows and Canned Heat. From spiritual doom to 60s/70s psychedelic blues rock … hmm. A return to grainy stoner leads to another impressive doom assault on “Non Violence”. It is head-rippingly raw. Distant echoing vocals underlie the deep sludge of “Hartal”. It’s like being back in the 70s. Strangely there’s a hoi-hoi-hoi chorus, which doesn’t seem to fit in with anything. The song itself is rough and from a bygone era, but has power, driving force and energy. Industrial noise marks the start of “Holding onto Truth”. Dark ambience is what we’re dealing with but it’s the drums that show the intent as once again they pump out a tribal rhythm. The old fashioned guitar pings out a shadowy tune as that beat gets into our head. It speeds up post metal style, and hey, we’re back to a maelstrom of psychedelic heaviness – wow. Who needs vocals with this bombardment of noise going on? But this is meaningful noise as we’re being taken on an impressively dark rock n roll adventure.
I’m not going to say this is the greatest thing I’ve ever heard as an entity but it is a demo, and it serves to show the versatility of this band. Satyagraha’s members have their roots in post rock and raw punk bands, but this isn’t obvious. What is interesting is the range of sounds they have produced. Raw old fashioned stoner is at the core of much of it, but so too they have thrown in atmospheres which are weighty, hypnotising, psychedelic and spiritual. This 32 minute demo is a mixed bag musically, but in “Satyagraha” and “Holding onto Truth” they have two gems in entirely different ways. This is the beginning for Satyagraha, who can decide where they go next. It’s a very interesting start.
(7/10 Andrew Doherty)