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A war out there

Salt Lake was buzzing with activity this Saturday evening. Metalheads, Goth chicks and rockers of all shapes and sizes waited patiently outside the Nicco Park gate to make their way into the 2009 zonal finals of Hero Honda Campus Rock Idols, presented by DNA Networks in association with t2. In its fifth edition, CRI is one of the biggest platforms in the country for amateur bands.

Unlike past years, the line-up of six bands was not a full-on metal onslaught, with three alternative rock bands — Calcutta-based Weapon Shop and Safire and Guwahati’s Digital Suicide — balancing out the heavy head-banging by Melodrama, Native Rules and Dream Diabolic.

First up isn’t a good start for most people, but Digtal Suicide wasn’t too troubled by it. The trio impressed with its original compositions Paint Me Dry and The Prophet. “We are an alternative band, but more progressive than a pop or punk rock band and with a modern feel,” said vocalist Daniel Langthasa.

Safire followed and kept things upbeat with its power ballad Song For You and the catchy Open Spaces. The latter, with its winding guitar solos, is “about being so caught up in work that you miss out on life”. “We have a new drummer and have had just five practice sessions together. Making it to the zonals was difficult enough I think,” admitted vocalist Krsna Dwaipayan Mukherjee.

Shillong-based metal band Native Rules came next. Though it finished third in Shillong, the zonals didn’t prove as lucky for the group of Pantera and Sepultura fans. The band’s cover of Sepultura’s Roots and the original Over My Dead Body did attract a small following of headbangers who moshed with gusto.

Calcutta band Weapon Shop — just about two months old — who had impressed recently in college fests like Milieu and Kaleidoscope, changed the scene with a cover of Creed’s What If and the original Burn Out. “We don’t believe in death metal. You have to have songs that the crowd can sing along to,” said vocalist Saugat Upadhyay.

But it looked like Weapon Shop spoke too soon. Giving everyone a run for their money was Melodrama, a band from Dimapur, Nagaland. With custom-made shirts that had the Star of David embroidered on the sleeves, the quintet looked and played its part to perfection. Their cover of Arch Enemy’s Dead Eyes See No Future and the original Battalion saw them through to victory.

The competition then slowed with a rather lukewarm presentation from progressive metallers from Sikkim, Dream Diabolic.

Giving the wannabe rockstars a patient listen were judges Jayashree Singh and Gyan Singh of Skinny Alley and Bodhisattwa Ghosh of Insomnia, who declared Melodrama winners and Digital Suicide as first runners-up. Both teams will go to Hyderabad for the finals next month.

The audience was also rewarded with a performance by Skinny Alley. The jazz-leaning rockers belted out quirky covers of Pink Floyd and an instrumental original. The zonal finals of Campus Rock Idols came to a close with a rocking performance from alt-rockers Five Little Indians, who delighted with an all-original set of its raga-meets-heavy rock music.

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