On January 14, 2013, Antim Grahan, a Nepali black metal band, decided to go into hibernation. After playing for over a decade, life caught up and the band decided to take a break from music as most of the band members left Nepal for better opportunities abroad.
“We also took a break because we wanted to come back with something better and different to what we had been doing. It was a time for reflection,” says Parash Shakya, the band’s founding member.
Fast-forward 10 years, and the band, on January 14, announced they were back. Releasing a song from their seventh album, Goat Legion, they sent their fans into a frenzy. Their song, The Final Act, was different from what the fans were used to. The song still had Antim Grahan’s symphonic roots, but the vocals, the drums and the guitar work on the song was a step up from what fans were used to.
“Level of creativity, speed and composition are different from what we had done in the past. If you listen to the album, you’ll realise how far we’ve come as a band,” says Parash.
Unlike a decade ago, Antim Grahan now want to make the most of it. Back with new members and renewed energy, they want to leave a mark in Nepal’s black metal scene, play shows abroad and in doing so blow people away internationally.
“We don’t want to be underdogs anymore. We want to do ourselves proud,” says Parash.
The back story
Parash, his brother Pankaj and Niraj Shakya established Antim Grahan in around 2002. Fresh out of high school and influenced by bands like Cradle of Filth and Lord Belial, they formed the band as a hobby. Their plan was never to go commercial as they felt pride in being an underground band.
By 2004, they were one of the premier underground bands in the country with many coming to shows just to listen to them. Their popularity gained through their single Forever Winter and an EP of the same title, after which everyone who followed metal music knew who they were.
That followed with two more albums, Tales From The Darkened Woods IInd Edition and In Thy Ambience Ov Malevolence, in 2005 and 2008 respectively. These albums followed Antim Grahan’s traditional symphonic and melodic roots, but then the band started to do things differently.
“We have always tried to do new things; that’s why our following albums, The Ruin Of Immortals, Putrefaction Eternity and I Wish You Death sounded different,” says Parash.
But following I Wish You Death and playing some shows, they decided to stop as they wanted to reassess their future. Drummer Gobinda Sen and guitarist Pankaj Shakya deciding to go abroad did not help either as Parash and Niraj were the only two left in the band.
Struggle for revival
Niraj says they then started to think about what next. They needed musicians who were good, but that was not the only criterion. They needed them to understand what Antim Grahan were and be part of the group that had been tight like brothers.
Then, the first to join was Ashish Sen, Gobinda’s brother. Ashish had been a keyboardist for Kaalo Din and had switched to drums. On guitars came Manjil Deuja, after which the band then started to work on their album.
“This is like a new band,” says Manjil. “We started playing together in 2017 and over time have matured and become a tighter unit.”
Manjil and Ashish coming in pushed Parash and Niraj too. That, they say, helped Antim Grahan get better as a band and create music that they had not done in the past. This is why they feel that when people will listen to their new album, it will feel like this is a completely new band.
“What they did in the past was great, but what we are doing now and will do in the future is something different. The band have come a long way and when you get to hear the entire album, you’ll know what I mean by that,” says Manjil.
For Parash and Niraj, that push was necessary as that was what they needed.
“Even though we help each other out, we are very critical of each other. We push each other to a level that we want them to get because we know what potential we have as a group. We used to be mediocre, but now it’s different,” says Parash.
The forthcoming story
This is because all of the Antim Grahan members are a complete package and everyone knows what they are doing. This was not the case before.
“Back then things were different as we didn’t have the resource that we have now,” says Niraj.
He is right. In the early 2000s, there was no internet and resource material was scarcely available. When it came to black metal, there was nothing or no one they ask to learn techniques related to guitars or drums.
“It was all listening and playing,” says Niraj.
But, this album is different because Antim Grahan want to take things seriously. It is not that they did not before, but when they were active during the 2000s, they played it more for fun. Now, they want to take it to the next level as there have been a lot of sacrifices to do what they are doing.
“It’s more challenging, complicated and professional now. We’re still an underground band, but we want to be more organised,” say Parash.
Antim Grahan plan to go global as the scene in Nepal for a black metal band is dead. Through this album, they feel they can do that. They understand that they would not get any commercial success through this album but know that this can be a stepping stone for something greater.
“We don’t want to be underdogs anymore. We want to be so good and so strong that we blow people’s minds,” says Parash, who hopes people will appreciate the work Antim Grahan have done in the new album.
But before that, they want to take things slow and start with a show in Kathmandu. This will be their first show in over a decade and the band are clearly very excited.
“This has been a long time coming. It’s going to be fun and we’re very excited,” says Parash.