ALBUM REVIEW: Diarchy – Splitfire

There’s a South Asian Metal renaissance afoot at present, and nowhere is this more evident than in the Stoner and Desert scenes. Splitfire (Unherd Music), the second long-player from Bangalore duo Diarchy, is the first release from new Indian label Unherd Music and gives the promise of an Eastern mysticism to some heavy grooves.

Opening salvo ‘Kamal Hossen’ commences with seriously fuzzed-out riffage from Prakash Rawat, the rhythm punched out by drumming cohort Gaurav Tiwari a sparing yet inventive bludgeon which gives the delight of breakdowns and groove to the dusty, fiery flesh. ‘Tirunelveli’ shows a glorious second face of the band: warm sitar-like chords bewitching the mind as an enchantress delivers her hushed, hypnotic sermon; Tiwari’s drums steadily building the volume and pace to reawaken the hot, hazy feel. ‘Gone Too Late’ blends both facets, its return to the Psychedelic Stoner template – a crushing furrow with Rawat’s oscillating vocal an admonishing force against howling leadwork and punishing rhythm – shared with more wistful, haunting chords.

There’s no argument that this album has its roots in a well and occasionally stodgily-trodden path, but Diarchy possesses a vitality that lifts it clearly away from the common pitfalls. The quirky bass notes of the title track carry all the raw verve of the boys’ home city and while the riff can at times seem somewhat prosaic, the song’s time switches and more subtle passages lean toward a Folksy element which keeps the attention focused. The sheer beauty of ‘Home’, meanwhile, has to be experienced to be believed and contains some incredibly emotive leadplay: while the filthy, irresistibly heavy riff of ‘Badger’ is accompanied by more of Tiwari’s stunning variety and a vocal turn from Rawat which calls on Kurt Cobain‘s quiet and fraught moments. ‘Sunny Side Up’ does threaten to dive into the mundane but is thankfully rescued by a driving underbelly and crushing weight.

So I guess one of the lovely things about Splitfire is that it’s a real pick ‘n’ mix, and what more can you want to go with your cola bottles than the exotic delicacy of Indian sweetmeats? The penultimate ‘Kraanti’ returns to that gorgeous harmony that ‘Home’ showed us but then gives us the fantastic sour explosion of coruscating riffs and electrifying lead to go with that rhythmic power: while closer ‘The Best Way Out Is Always Through’ has a Cottonfield Blues flavour, a real despairing tragedy oozing from the lament, all carried by a crying acoustic guitar and what sounds like softened wood substituting as a drum. It’s a marvellous way to end a beguiling album: one which in many ways satisfies hopes, but still pleasantly surprises.

7 / 10