Label: Universal Music
Reviewer: Kev Rowland
Thoughts: In these days of the world getting ever smaller I suppose I shouldn't be surprised when I get sent an album from an Indian Progressive Rock band, but when I saw the complete package I was just blown away. I know that they obviously have some backing from Universal, but the amount of work that has been put into the debut album from an unknown band is considerable, and must have cost a packet. The first thing one notices is the cover of the digipak itself, which features a man in a yoga position. When looks closely one can see that one of his tattoos is the Star of David, he is wearing a hat with the all seeing eye, there are fish, and by his feet is Ouroboros! And take it from me there is a lot more symbolism than just these. Apparently the artwork is collaboration between Bernard Dumaine from France, Daeve Fellows from Canada and Bharath Chandrasekhar as well as Imran Ladak from India.
Firdous (2013) is a concept album that documents a young man's journey towards attaining Mukti (salvation). To aid this story telling, the packaging contains photographs that help in recreating the strife and emotional turmoil that ultimately guide him towards self-realization. There are two separate visual stories to assist in understanding lyrically what is going on here, with the first being the photos inside the digipak itself. When it is opened, on the left side there is a boy looking at an old abandoned house, while in the middle he has obviously entered and is now walking up the stairs. The last shows him in the attic looking inside an old trunk, and staring at some photos. When he looks at the photographs, he realises that they tell the story of the man who lived in that house. These ten photos are included with the album, with each showing a different image and the date when it was taken (while on the rear are the 'handwritten' lyrics for the song it relates to).
So, the main story and concept is that the man in the photographs was a boy from a village who has dreams of moving to the city and making it big. One day, a soothsayer tells him that he is meant for greater things but he doesn't understand what that means. When he is about to leave for the city, his family is killed in riots and he feels that his plans and his life are destroyed and he goes into depression. After a few months, he decides to put his past behind him and still follow his dreams so he moves to the city, finds a job and thinks that he is living his dream. A few months later, he realizes that his dream is an illusion and that trying to become rich and successful is not really making him happy so hequencee becomes more spiritual and realizes that the entire world is stuck in this illusion of material wealth. He gathers enough courage to look beyond the illusion by giving up all his worldly belongings tries and attain salvation or "Mukti". Now, if all that wasn't enough, the sequence of the album is not actually correct! The only way to get the music in the order in which is supposed to be played is by listening to the songs in the date order of the photographs. When you do this the album becomes one giant track in which all the sound samples are connected, and the story flows.
Given that I don't know the language (typical lazy pom) I have ascertained all this by going through the various documents sent to me by the band, but it is more than worth retelling here as it definitely adds depth to what is already sonically a very interesting release. Ah yes, the music. I have already spent a few hundred words talking about the album but haven't mentioned the music at all! They say that their collective influences range from Tool, Porcupine Tree, A Perfect Circle, Opeth, Isis, Karnivool and Meshuggah to AR Rehman, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi and Lucky Ali. I don't know the final ones in this list, and Meshuggah are a little hard to detect, but the rest are definitely there in abundance, with Porcupine Tree probably taking the lead. It was recorded, produced and mixed by Zorran Mendonsa from New Zealand and mastered by Jens Bogren in Sweden, and they have managed to capture an incredible band in all their glory. The music is often extremely complex and layered, yet every instrument is clear and distinct, and there is a feeling of space at times, while at others it is heavily compressed but it is all about what the music needs. Mangesh Gandhi has a wonderful voice, clear and pure yet with depth, and the way that he brings in both Western influences and Indian into the way that he sings definitely adds to the whole effect. It is probably these vocals more than anything else that really showcases the Indian element of the band.
The one thing that really concerns me more than anything else is that given that this is a debut what on earth do they come up with a follow-up? Musically this is accessible on first play, and the more I listen to it the more I enjoy it. Yes, there are elements that some will say are way more commercial that a prog band should be doing, but at the end of the day I rate this on whether or not I enjoyed it and that I did, a lot! I have no idea what he is singing, and can't read the lyrics, but I recognise that this is a hell of an album and something that has been hitting my player regularly and there is no doubt that this will continue in the future. To hear an album sampler then visit their website, it is definitely worth searching out. They have also been releasing videos to explain the story even further and these are up on YouTube.
The band was included in our Podcast #33 and you can listen the song 'Raastey' HERE.