Indian metal act Midhaven's vocalist and guitarist Aditya Mohanan, an archaeologist by profession, uses an anecdote to explain the ancient Indian understanding of time. Indra, having just defeated the demon Vritra, approaches Maya, the architect of the gods, asking for a new palace befitting his glory. Maya builds a palace that Indra appreciates but is never satisfied with, asking for more and grander rooms. This continues until Maya becomes tired of his requests and takes the matter to Brahma. The next day, as Indra reaches the palace and goes to inspect the construction of a new room, instead of Maya he finds a small blue boy (Vishnu) busy looking at a corner of a wall. Indra tries to understand who he is and what he's doing there but not receiving satisfactory answers, becomes frustrated, and tells the boy he's Indra, King of the Gods. But the boy is still engrossed in that corner, following a line of ants passing through a hole. As Indra gets angrier, the boy only laughs in the face of his wrath, finally turning to Indra and saying, "Do you see those ants? All of them were Indra at one point."
This notion of time being infinite and circular, of everything repeating itself and being experienced over and over again is the core concept around which the metallers have built their latest album Of The Lotus & The Thunderbolt, using music to explore their curiosity. "Our conversations always led to this existential plane, with realisations, above all, of the grandiosity of Nirvana itself," says vocalist-guitarist Karan Kaul. With Aviraj Kumar on drums, produced by Apurv Agrawal, and mixed and mastered by Forrester Savell, the seven-track album is an exceptional offering of clean, atmospheric, melodic heavy metal.
The album composition is heavily influenced by the friendship the trio share, Of The Lotus & The Thunderbolt being their first album together since Mohanan joined in 2017 following line-up changes. "I don't think the album would have been possible without us being the kind of friends we are," says Mohanan. Mohanan's guitar and Kumar's time-keeping as drummer are aided by Kaul's riffs; "Karan amalgamates sludge metal with progressive elements, with groove," says Mohanan, about the unique sound the band finally comes upon.
It sprouted with the three meeting at Kumar's house with amplifiers and jamming together, being experimental, and guided by the riffs. "And that was it. Fifteen minutes later we had our first riff that became our first song," says Kaul. While they started out not knowing the synergy of the band, the composition process included bringing about this first riff that led to a synergy being formed. "That's primal. That was 'Primal Song'," says Kaul with a laugh.
Conceptually, they also had some ideas already in place. Through digging deeper and thoroughly exploring these ideas, they found entirely distinct sounds for each, and could label the sounds, with one feeling like fire, another like anguish, enlightenment, the void, and so on. "We kept digging deeper and deeper and that's how we came to the seven songs we have," says Mohanan about the tracks, each of which musically explores a different direction. Each riff was primarily guided by a mood instead of trying to show off technical prowess or skill.
'Primal Song', for instance, follows the core emotion of fire, destruction, as evident through their music video. "It's about the anger, the frustration, the friction," says Mohanan, the video exemplifying the feeling of that fire. "'Primal Song' is what you do when you're angry."
While the pandemic pushed the release back a couple of months, the band has also felt the impact of lockdown in terms of a lack of live shows and an already small community to play to. "Metal barely exists in this country and it's a tough fight every time a metal band releases an album because metal is such a small, niche genre," says Kaul about India's metal scene. Releasing an album in this scenario has meant waiting for live music to start back up and counting on merch sales.