Review Summary: India gets serious about modern Prog
There's a pretty standard and established template for rock bands in India to establish themselves. This path looks something like this:
Step 1: College students are drawn together by their shared interest in loud guitars. They form a band and enter the uber-competitive college music competition circuit.
Step 2: Through constant competition and evolving interests and tastes, line-ups change and solidify, and musical chops improve.
Step 3: The band begins moving from covers to originals and builds a fanbase among other like-minded college students. The band may also begin performing semi-professionally at local venues.
Step 4: Upon graduation, the band may break-up or turn semi-professional; performing paying gigs whenever possible but almost always without any kind of major-label hopes. Some band members may make forays into commercial music
However, Goddess Gagged has bucked this trend by foregoing the college competition circuit. Although the members are college-aged, they've already managed put out an album of originals as well as performing at some of India's biggest music festivals and bagging an invitation for the opening slot on a (sadly, cancelled) Korn concert in Bombay.
Perhaps the most confusing thing about Goddess Gagged is their characterization of themselves as a Post-Hardcore band. They even take their name from a Protest the Hero song and guest vocals of the harsh Hardcore kind make an occasional appearance. But, for the most part, the band comes off as a Prog-leaning Post-Grunge band, like Breaking Benjamin, but more experimental and far less whiny. The only songs which really display the Post-Hardcore allegiance are album book-ends 'Modern Machines' and 'Preliminary Stages of the Master Plan' but even these songs are softened by the vocal melodies.
Lead singer Siddharth Basrur sounds something like a combination of 3 Doors Down frontman Brad Arnold and Fall Out Boy's Patrick Stump, if that makes sense. Tonally, and in some of his vocal inflections, he's closer to the former but with better range and his melodies follow similar lines to both. While Basrur does have a very good voice, he fails to come up with any truly memorable vocals on the album and ends up inadvertently contributing to the songs running together a little too much.
Most of the hooks on the album are provided by guitarists Devesh Dayal (who also serves as a touring guitarist for Indian breakouts, Skyharbor) and Arman Menzies. While there are no guitar solos per se, there are catchy lead guitar lines galore, some very memorable riffs, punctuated by Meshuggah-by-way-of-Cloudkicker djent breakdowns and Porcupine Tree-meets-Karnivool atmospheric interludes. The rhythm section of Jeremy D'Souza (drums) and Krishna Jhaveri (bass) is tight, powerful and technically proficient without ever cluttering up the music. An example of this can be seen on 'Sink or Swim' where the drums and bass play off the guitars beautifully.
Because of the guitars carrying the bulk of the melodic load, the album's standout tracks are the ones with the most memorable guitar lines providing the melodic themes of the songs. In particular, 'Sink or Swim's lead guitar has an exotic feel and is almost instantly hummable, while 'Dreamer' segues from a pretty sweet opening riff/lick to ethereal middle section before cleverly reprising the intro for an outro.
The level of production on the album is quite stunning for what seems to be a DIY production job. The production is crystal clear with vocals, guitars and drums all kicking, hitting and cutting exactly the way they should. Only the bass gets lost a little bit in the mix, which is a shame, because there are some pretty interesting basslines on display.
Overall, the album showcases an immensely promising young band but also shows that it has room to grow, primarily in the vocal hooks department.
Sing or Swim