I must admit, prior to reviewing Rudra‘s eighth full-length, Enemy of Duality, my only exposure to the band was bassist/vocalist Kathir’s vocal contribution for the song “देवदेवं (Devadevam)” on the new Rotting Christ album. Granted, while the song failed to win me over, it succeeded in making me aware of the Singaporean black metal band. Curious to check out the band’s self-proclaimed “Vedic metal,” and noticing that the band just dropped Enemy of Duality, I grabbed the promo and my trusty cans to see what the fuss was about. Can a band, named after the Rigvedic God of Hunt and Storms win me over with their blend of blackened death metal and traditional Middle Eastern soundscapes?
Within seconds of opener “Ablating the Firebrand,” once we get past Kathir’s hymnal singing and a melody that wouldn’t sound out-of-place on an Orphaned Land album, one thing is apparent. Normally, I try to be a good sport and point out the production in the fourth paragraph, but it’s impossible in this case. That bass drum is mixed way too high. Do you remember Samael‘s classic Ceremony of Opposites? Remember the clicky, almost typewriter-y, bass drum sound? Well, Enemy of Duality is that sound on steroids, minus anything organic or natural. The bass drum triggers are, well, triggering. Granted, the other pieces of Shiva’s drumset also sound like pots and pans (such as on “Root of Misapprehension”), but nothing compares to that triggered mess of a bass drum sound.
This wouldn’t be such a problem, except Shiva puts in one of the most inconsistent drum performances I’ve heard in my entire life. No amount of studio work or great drum triggers can successfully hide that. He holds up fine in the first minute of “Ablating the Firebrand,” but once the song changes gear and goes into blast mode, his double-bass work sounds sloppy and uncoordinated. Sadly, this permeates the other songs as well. The chorus to “Perception Apparent” sounds like Dave Lombardo falling over his drumkit. “Slay The Demons of Duality” also suffers from horrible double-bass drumming during the guitar solo. But what kills me is his handling of incredibly tricky Middle Eastern drum patterns, such as on the second half of album highlight “Root of Misapprehension,” is fucking impeccable! I’m baffled how his sense of groove in changing from complex rhythms to more traditional metal is flawless, yet he trips up on a decent double-bass pattern.
Sadly, even without the distractions, Enemy of Duality possesses great ideas, but flawed execution. “Acosmic Self” reminds me of a Middle Eastern Rotting Christ in terms of riffs and structure, but the almost two-minute not-quite-Hanneman guitar solo kills the mood a bit. That said, some of the songs showcase Rudra‘s strengths. The nine-minute closer “Ancient Forth,” besides the spotty drumming, pulls you into its atmosphere and keeps you there with its tantric middle section. “Hermit in Nididhyasana” features a lovely female vocal interspersed with some quality death metal riffs. When the band gels in unison, Enemy of Duality paints a portrait of an intriguing sound that I want to hear more of. But those fucking drums, man…
And that’s what kills me. I’m a sucker for new sounds, different flavors, and bold, inventive ideas. However, if you can’t nail the basic fundamentals, or worse yet, focus on the one part of your sound that you should have no business focusing on, no wild ideas in the world can fix that. It’s a shame, too, because I want to see Rudra become successful in their endeavors, but not as they sound now.