Bloodywood
Rakshak


3.5
great

Review

by Nic Renshaw STAFF
March 15th, 2022 | 31 replies


Release Date: 02/18/2022 | Tracklist

Review Summary: More than a novelty- for good and for ill

Nowhere will a good gimmick get you further than the world of metal. It was true in the 80s when Judas Priest first dressed up in leather bondage gear, and it was true in the 90s when GWAR became one of the genre's biggest live draws. It's true every time Amon Amarth puts out another album named after some Viking thing, and it's true right now, as New Delhi's Bloodywood rocket past their YouTube-jokester origins in an all-out bid for world domination. The band that just 4 years ago was riding high off viral hits like "TUNAK TUNAK TUN METAL VERSION" has undergone a miraculous transformation into a politically-charged, rhythmically punishing nü metal outfit, recruiting rapper Raoul Kerr to act as the Mike Shinoda to singer Jarant Bhadula's Chester Bennington. Hooray? Their debut LP Rakshak is the sound of Bloodywood showing that they have the substance to back up the "Indian folk metal" tag they still have to algo-boost their video titles with, and only intermittently losing sight of their sense of fun in the process.

Right out the gate: Rakshak's bangers destroy. The heavy-groovin' ragers here condense all the best metal of the 90s into burly, merciless onslaughts. Primary songwriter Karan Katiyar rolls the righteous fury of "Killing In The Name", the thuggish sneer of "Walk" and the big-budget gloss of "Got the Life" all into a veritable Red Bull of riffs 'n' raps, with a potent bhangra kick that sets Bloodywood firmly apart from any of the dozen-plus acts they're clearly indebted to. Singles "Machi Bhased" and "Dana Dan" both showcase this admirably, between Katiyar's jackhammer riffs on the former and Kerr's vicious double-time flow on the latter. The lyrics even hit hard enough to forgive the occasional clunker line. "Dana Dan" tackles rape culture head-on with a challenge to the men of the world to join in the fight for their sisters' humanity, and argues against the cop-out of "not all men" with a reminder that we "need 'all men' for what we're solving". Elsewhere, "Endurant"'s refrain of "this goes out to the silent, who fight the urge to get violent" strikes a flawless balance between defiant, proud solidarity and testosterone-soaked aggression, a rebel anthem that can slot perfectly into any gym playlist. Best of all, closer "Chakh Le" proves itself the album's true prize slugger, built from a bounce riff fit to make Wes Borland cry tears of pride and a shout-along hook that translates to "rise up", but captures a silly energy that keeps it from feeling at all soapbox-y. Some may well be turned off by the band's blend of face-level ridiculousness and almost disarming earnesty, but dig past that and Bloodywood provides the same lizard brain adrenaline rush of all your guiltiest metal pleasures, backed up with an activist streak that makes them easy to enjoy guilt-free.

Whew, that's a lot of glowing compliments for a nü metal album in 2022! Surely there's a catch? Well, sadly, there is: in three key places, Rakshak falters, and falters hard. All three of these tracks skew more melodic and anthemic, and all three sacrifice much of the rowdy zing Bloodywood trades in so successfully elsewhere. "Yaad", "Zanjeero Se" and "Aaj" shift Bloodywood's formula to fit a more "uplifting" tone. Translation: Kerr's bars drop the sociopolitical pugilism in favor of never-give-up/rise-above-adversity platitudes that smack of latter-day Eminem. Worse yet, the choruses abandon their lumbering swing to soar skyward, searching for a broad stadium catharsis that never sharpens at the edges. These tracks do have their redeeming qualities, and "Aaj" in particular features one of Bhadula's most unhinged performances, delivering an out-of-nowhere left turn into frantic, Mudvayne-esque scream-rap. Still, they all ultimately fall flat, with "Yaad" being by far the worst offender, a nearly six-minute slab of faux-power metal bombast and the most spiritual-miracle-individual lyrical fare the album has to offer.

Mind you, these songs aren't incompetently executed, and their core issue isn't that they're less intense, or that they address personal struggles instead of political dissatisfaction. The heart-on-sleeve sincerity that characterizes them is no less present on the album's better songs, but Katiyar's deft balancing of metal might and Punjabi folk earthiness slips and loses the sense of gleeful alchemy that makes the whole thing such a darn blast. The guitar chugs are stripped of their rhythmic heft, and the folk elements get reduced to a bit of flute and dhol lightly accenting some awfully plain-sounding modern metalcore. Though tracks like "BDSK.exe" or "Gadaar" benefit from an actionability that would soften were the stakes not rooted in tangible real-world issues, it's their ability to revel in the stylistic ingenuity at play that really makes them into songs you wanna GET THE FUCK UP to. When Bloodywood strays too far from the concept they were founded on, suddenly they're just another metal band— not a bad metal band, but a much less special and unique one than they've already proven themselves to be.

For how disappointing those three tracks are, that's still only three real misses out of a ten-song tracklist— a respectable batting average, especially for a debut album. The remaining 7, to one degree or another, are a boatload of headbanging good times. On these tracks, it sounds like Bloodywood understands that their gimmick doesn't confine them, it defines them, and more than anything the tracks that try to move away from that gimmick end up lacking in definition. When Rakshak works within a limited stylistic space to beef up its totally singular sound, it positively glows, proof positive that limitations are, paradoxically, very creatively invigorating. Metal loves a good gimmick. Bloodywood doesn't need to "grow beyond" theirs to be a breath of fresh air in the genre. Lumps and all, they pretty much already are.




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user ratings (48)
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
Kompys2000
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2022


7145 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Inaugural review as a big sexy staffer lessgoooo



hope u enjoy this flimsy justification for why dumb chunky numetal cheese >>> keyboardy townsendcore cheese, anyway jam Chakh Le

SuicycoManiac7
March 15th 2022


110 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Honestly i loved this album, it's the best nu metal release in years. It can be both tough like in Gaddaar and Dana dan but also uplifting like in Aaj and Yaad. Pretty original release and most of all it's very re-listenable.

Sure a 4.0 would fit better but judging on how much fun i had with this album i have to give it a 4.5.

Sowing
Moderator
March 15th 2022


41314 Comments


Nice first staff review! This thing is very well-written.

Digging: Shinedown - Planet Zero

Kompys2000
Staff Reviewer
March 15th 2022


7145 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Aw thanks 😊 trying to step my game up a bit now I'm in the big leagues



@suicyco yeah I had this at a 4 initially, ultimately i find it a little too inconsistent but even so I really hope people enjoy it, it's a ton of fun and imo really shows why nu can be worth bringing back in the modern metal scene, and it seems like a lot of people are really digging the songs I criticized so who knows maybe I'm off the mark here

bloc
March 15th 2022


68656 Comments


That is one big elephant

Digging: Syndrome 81 - Prisons Imaginaires

MiloRuggles
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2022


2077 Comments


Stunning review komp! Makin me wanna bump numetal in 2022, and i'm okay with that
can't believe this isn't a 3.6 though

Gnocchi
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2022


17287 Comments


It's true every time Amon Amarth puts out another album named after some Viking thing,


I lol'd.

normaloctagon
Contributing Reviewer
March 16th 2022


672 Comments


very review much pos

Kompys2000
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2022


7145 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Wow so music

Kompys2000
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2022


7145 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Can't believe this isn't a 3.6 [2]



Was sorely tempted but I think I'm gonna hold out on the .1 increments as long as I can. Hopefully I can serve up a hot fresh 0.5 review soon tho, I think that could be fun

Imperial
March 16th 2022


1953 Comments


The vocalist is fucking good. Music is pretty good. The rapping isn't my cup of tea.

Kompys2000
Staff Reviewer
March 16th 2022


7145 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Raoul definitely does a very particular thang lol, I think it works with the band's sound more often than not but I suspect it'll turn a lot of people off

Cormano
March 16th 2022


3506 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I remember my cousin showing me this band, couldn't get past the first song

archit3uthis
March 16th 2022


3 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Really well-written review! Found myself nodding appreciatively at some of the wordcraft on display here. Raoul's impressive flow is my favorite thing here, and it takes me back to the good ol' days of 2000s nu metal.

KrillBoi
March 16th 2022


113 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Album's a lot of fun, simple as that

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
March 16th 2022


11437 Comments


based review, babe

PortalofPerfection
March 17th 2022


2711 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

It's cute at first. Then you realize it's not good.

Digging: Swampborn - Beyond Ratio

Kompys2000
Staff Reviewer
March 17th 2022


7145 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

They're just keeping it real like the UFC

XyphDryne
March 23rd 2022


277 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Gave it some spins and it has more staying power than I initially thought. Sure, some lyrics are extremely painful (no pain, no gain etc.), but whatever. Powerful production, some memorable choruses and the addition of a couple folk instruments even out the rather simplistic guitar work.

Butkuiss
March 24th 2022


4731 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Came in skeptical but this is AOTY material



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