Review: Heathen Beast – Rise of the Saffron Empire

Posted: April 6, 2016 in Band of the Day, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

Heathen Beast are one of my favourite discoveries from the overflowing metal well of India. Scathingly antireligious black metal with an intense cultural vibe and socio-political lyrics create something totally unique and yet totally familiar. In a country where such bands function in the knowledge that certain actions may have repercussions, Heathen Beast are a rising voice of protest. Their new EP, the howling ‘Rise of the Saffron Empire’, is out 25th of April on Transcending Obscurity.

The opening title track is unleashed with tribal menace, building with percussion and a hypnotic riff before detonating into brutal blasting and savage shrieking. The ethnic instrumentation that Heathen Beast have employed so expertly in the past is at the forefront, but this is not folk metal, nor pagan black metal. This is black metal filtered through the sweltering heat of India. It’s uncompromising, relentless and savage.

‘Rise of the Saffron Empire’ explores the implications and realities of life under a Hinduist regime that plans to force their religious views on others (hence the use of saffron in the title, a Hindu holy colour). ‘The Systematic Annihilation of Islam’ follows this theme, with some of the record’s more eerie melodies surreptiously seeping through the blackened fury. Heathen Beast challenge their country’s core belief systems and their government, risking their freedom for the right to say what they feel. It gives their black metal a edge of danger that is lacking in a lot of modern black metal. ‘Swachh Bharat’ brings us to a close in a crawling miasma of evil atmosphere, rasping vocals and traditional instrumentation.

Heathen Beast are an essential part of their nation’s culture. In a world where speaking out against injustices, racism or religious intolerance is not as easy as it can be in the West, ‘Rise of the Saffron Empire’ is a frightening look into a world where these beliefs can be a threat to your safety. If anything, this makes what ‘Rise of the Saffron Empire’ represents even more important, and the music behind the message is just as raw and as furious as the message itself. Utterly essential, as always.



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