One of the most influential figures in the constantly evolving Indian metal scene, vocalist and guitarist Demonstealer (aka Sahil Makhija) is probably best known for fronting progressive technical death metal act Demonic Resurrection. Since 2000, Makhija has been integral to the growth and development of a metal scene in a country not exactly renowned for its metallic input. Not just via his music and the establishment of India’s first designated metal recording studio, a record label (Demonstealer Records), and metal-centric festival (Resurrection Festival), but by creating Headbanger’s Kitchen, the world’s first heavy metal cookery show. Because why not.
Back with his fourth full-length studio album, The Propaganda Machine (Black Lion Records), Makhija brings a veritable smorgasbord of guest musicians to the table. Drummers include Hannes Grossman of Triptykon, James Payne from Kataklysm, Ken Bedene of Aborted, and Sebastian Lanser of Obsidious while Dominic ‘Forest’ Lapointe (Augury), Stian Gundersen (Blood Red Throne), Killian Duarte (Abiotic) and Martino Garattoni of Ne Obliviscaris and Ancient Bards handle four-string duties.
Lead guitar shredding comes courtesy of Alex Baillie of Cognizance, Dean Paul Arnold from Primalfrost and Sanjay Kumar of Equipoise, Wormhole, and Greylotus while Veile keyboard player Annabelle Iratne enhances every track on the record with either cinematic bombast or subdued but effective restraint.
Kicking off with ‘The Fear Campaign’, a portentous opening riff backed with rolling drums swiftly turns to blasts of classically influenced death metal. Makhija’s vocals switch from low gutturals to higher-pitched screams while his clean vocals possess just the right touch of gravel to dirty them up a little.
The fast-paced urgency of ‘Monolith of Hate’ explodes with a killer riff and brain-crushing blast beats, the surging brutality countered by a superb In Flames style chorus before the title track attacks with stabs of rhythmic death metal and a creeping melodic chorus. “Human beings, a failing species. Wake up, exist. Rinse and repeat” tells you pretty much all you need to know about the lyrical direction of the record.
‘The Art of Disinformation’ opens with a slow, melodic intro that foolishly makes you think you might in for a change of pace. Nope. Off we blast again with riff piled upon riff, throat-ripping vocals and a killer melodeath chorus. These type of choruses feature heavily throughout the album, most noticeably among the likes of the raging ‘Screams of Those Dying’, the dramatic jabs and eyebrow-raising kick-drum velocity of ‘The Great Dictator’ and the relentless pounding of ‘The Anti-National’, a song which evokes the spirit of Deicide and Morbid Angel towards its particularly vicious climax.
Cinematic orchestrations add to the venom of appropriately titled closer ‘Crushing the Iron Fist’, another song with a monumental chorus, and some first-rate Opeth style lead guitar work from Sanjay Kumar to see out the track.
Technical without being excessively so, progressive but still with roots in the past, The Propaganda Machine delivers punishing European style brutality with hooks hotter than your average Phaal.
India will always be more famous for tea and cricket but thanks to artists like Sahil Makhija, metal is most definitely on the rise.
Buy the album here:
8 / 10