The Paranoid Spirit
Sunday 11th May, 2008
Hotel Taj Samudra
There are times when a self proclaimed cynic has to give in and admit there are still good things left in life. Happens to me often when it comes to music. I discover a new artist or song or album which restores my faith in human capabilities. It happened just last Sunday.
With exam stress piling up I felt the need to unwind and decided to check out ‘Paranoid Spirit’, a gig by Paranoid Earthling (PE), Sword of the Spirit (SOS) and Forsaken. I was really only interested in PE because they are a fun band to watch and always give a good show. So I walked in a bit late hoping I wouldn’t have to go through the ordeal of listening to the other two bands which I hadn’t seen before. I’m usually all for checking out new bands but that day all I wanted was to chill out and listen to something I already knew and loved. But typically, the gig had just started when I came so I settled in.
Forsaken has potential but they were (understandably) nervous and had a few tuning and drumming problems. With more exposure and more practice they should be able to figure out if they are good enough to continue or not because right now it’s too early to tell.
SOS played next but first let me get PE out of the way because this post is about SOS. The set by PE was fun as usual but as much as I love their music and them, I got bored because the new songs sounded exactly like the old favorites like Rock n Roll is My Anarchy, 69, etc. Hopefully this is just a temporary snag and the only reason for this criticism is because they are capable of pushing the limits.
What made my night was the set by SOS. As I said before I had never watched them perform and I hadn’t heard anyone talk about them either. So my expectations were limited to “a bunch of boys who jam together, sound okay but nothing to get excited about”. And was I in for a shocking reality check. So much so that I don’t even know where to begin.
First thing that hit me when they started performing was the amazing chemistry the band had. From the vocalist (Hasyth Abeyratna) to the guitarists (Arjun Dhas, Tony Jayathilake) and bassist (Javeen Soysa) to the drummer (Nirodha Jayasinghe) it was as if they were tied together by an invisible chord. Each guy was in a trance of his own, especially Hasyth, Arjun and Javeen, but there was a magnetism that pulled them all together which the audience could feel and needless to say we were awestruck. Or to put it in another way, unlike bands which connect with their audience in more obvious ways, these guys were oblivious of the audience while they played and their music and chemistry kept the audience rapt. For an example, in one of their originals there was an odd time change and that invisible chord I spoke of was apparent when all of them jumped in unison without coming out of their respective reveries.
They performed very good covers of Lamb of God, Pantera and Machine Head but what I loved was their original music. I’m yet to explore the lyrics and admittedly some of the titles sounded slightly clichéd but the arrangements and the performance were unbelievable. Good changes in the middle of songs and tight playing combined with the energy of a live performance was just perfect. And special mention has to be made of two of the guys.
One is guitarist Arjun Dhas who I have seen perform with Tantrum but was on a different element altogether in SOS. I was seated on the floor and from where I sat, I was closest to him. If there are any photos of the audience, I’m sure I’m staring open mouthed at this guy’s guitar prowess. At certain points I closed my eyes and isolated his playing and let it play havoc in my head. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. And I’m still trying to figure out if one oriental sounding melody he played was part of a song or just improvisation while the vocalist took a small break.
The other is the vocalist Hasyth Abeyratne who I can say with considerable certainty will go on to become the best metal vocalist in Sri Lanka, provided that he maintains and improves his talent. From a technical point of view, I can as a classically trained musician say that his pitching is very good within the range the set from that night required. But what really set him apart from other vocalists I’ve seen in the local music scene is the passion and conviction he had in what he sang. That I felt was what made us believe in their music.
SOS is supposed to release an album this year and I earnestly hope it will be by the same lineup that played on Sunday. It is definitely a band worth checking out. And one more thing. If anyone from SOS read this, thank you guys for giving me one more reason to believe in music and in human capabilities.