A few of us had headed down to Baldwin Park in the Richmond Town area to watch a free rock concert. We were all getting into the heavier stuff at the time and what we really wanted to hear was some heavy music. Metal to us meant a mix of NWOBHM and Bay Area thrash at the time, although some of the more radical kids were getting into death metal. Still, nothing we’d heard really prepared us for the shockwaves that hit us when a band called Misanthrope got on stage…shockwaves that echo to this day.
Because Misanthrope was the initial monicker for the outfit that would rename itself Dying Embrace just a few months later. Their sound was a sick, twisted mix of piledriving death riffing and eerie, funebreal doom melodies. The drums were slamming and the vocals were a gurgling, growling assault on the senses. ‘Weird…and evil!’ is how Sid Naidu of Bangalore thrash act Threinody describes Jimmy Palkhiwallah’s approach to his axe, and that sums up the overall vibe that Dying Embrace was putting out. When I got hold of a copy of their tape Serenades Of Depravity (released on February 13th, 1997, fittingly enough Friday the 13th!), I remember being disoriented yet fascinated by the way this band could mix it up with haunting, elegiac melodies following hard on the heels of piledriver riffing. The music wasn’t just aggressive – it was pitch black, like midnight in the abyss. ‘Everything had to be dark, ominous and evil,’ as singer Vikram Bhatt puts it.
The truth is, Dying Embrace’s extremity made them fringe figures in the scene as it was then. A lot of us thought we knew what heavy music was about, but the kind of devil-may-care intensity and disregard for convention displayed by the Dying Embrace crew was beyond the comprehension of too many self-styled headbangers. That didn’t bother the members of Dying Embrace who are, in Vikram’s words, ‘friends first and a band later.’ That sense of togetherness and shared belief in their sound meant more than the whims of the scene. But when the rhythm section of Jai (bass) and Danny (drums) moved from Bangalore for work reasons, Jimmy and Vikram didn’t really find people who could fill their shoes personally as well as musically. So Dying Embrace was laid to rest for the time being, dead but dreaming…