In Bangalore, you’ll hear talk of “fusion” music where traditional Indian singing and instruments are combined with modern, popular music in a way to preserve the past and bring it into the present. Those I’ve talked to from there about Final Surrender have all said they must be one of these “fusion” bands, but I have a feeling they don’t quite understand that Final Surrender is a metal band.
Formed in 2010 in Bangalore, India, Final Surrender has released two independent eps, the full length album The Expanse, and toured India extensively, building a loyal fan base. Through ways still unknown, despite investigation, Final Surrender was signed to Indiana-based Rottweiler Records in 2012 and set about recording their second full-length album with production from Rocky Gray (Living Sacrifice, Soul Embraced, Evanescence). Ok, so maybe some of that’s not quite right…Final Surrender found a label that shared their beliefs and sent some demos, but still, having a band based in India on a relatively small US label is quite a story and says a lot about the quality of the music and the discernment of people at the label.
Final Surrender describe their sound as progressive metalcore and I guess I can agree with that more or less, although I think it does sell them a bit short. For me, watching their video for “Refresh” provides both an aural and visual description of their sound. The song starts out with traditional Indian singing and the video has dancers in traditional garb in front of the instruments which are set up on basically a busy road in Bangalore. Following the traditional vocals in the intro, there is some rapid fire drumming almost blast beat in nature and some very intricate guitar riffing. Meanwhile in the video, you now have the band playing the instruments with the dancers still present and fans and traffic going around the whole thing. In a lot of ways, this is Bangalore with the traditional and modern blending together in unexpected ways and somehow fitting together. The vocals are a mix of deep death growls and clean singing with some shouted parts and all the while the machine gun like drumming is relentless. At various points in the song you can hear the traditional instruments and vocals providing a sense of balance and complexity. Nothing seems forced, everything seems to fit together.
“Ego Snakehead” continues along the theme of bringing the traditional and modern metal together. Let the reader get confused, I wouldn’t classify Final Surrender songs as fitting in the genre of folk metal as the songs from a structure view are thoroughly modern and metalcore ,whereas folk metal tends to have more traditional song structures with metal instrumentation. Both style take full advantage of traditional instruments though, so in that way they are similar. Not being a fan of clean vocals in metal, I did find myself surprised that on the album they didn’t bother me like they do on other albums, and I think much of that is due to the traditional vocals and/or instrumentation that often accompanies the clean vocals on Empty Graves and this is especially evident in “Ego Snakehead”.
“Satori” changes things up a bit with an orchestral string opening and some keyboards providing some atmosphere before the guitars and vocals come in. Throughout the song though the orchestral and traditional elements do not go completely away but are brought to the forefront at times and then shifted to the back depending on the point in the song and these transitions are some of what makes this album so listenable. At any one point, there are a lot of things going on in the songs and the more you listen, the more you pick up, but they are combined in such a way that the casual listener may not notice at first so they are not overwhelming, everything blends together very well. By this point in the album, the listener is likely expecting to hear the traditional and orchestral elements when they do present themselves.
“Evol(ve) and “Monkey the Dog” are the two songs on the album that have the most straight ahead metal parts to them. The verse sections in “Evol(ve) chug along like a freight train and following some technical riffing in the intro part of the song, “Monkey the Dog” launches into a pummeling attack with some very low, deep growled vocals. As with all the songs on the album though, there are sections where the traditional instrumentation and orchestral elements come into play to provide some added complexity and enhance the overall sound.
“Nanban” closes out the album with some acoustic guitar and traditional singing in the beginning of the song and an overall brighter tone than other songs on the album. There are still some metalcore moments, but the song seems to shift from power metal to death metal to power metal and then even some poppy punk and post hardcore. Combinations and transitions I never would have thought to make but I will say that it seems to work.
This is the type of album you need to go into with an open mind as your preconceived ideas about genres and song structure may be challenged a bit, but in the end it’s worth the investment. There’s no denying the musicianship in the band and after a few listens, the additions of the traditional instruments and vocals and orchestral elements all make perfect sense in the context of the songs. This album does remind me of Bangalore in a lot of ways which is why I feel the video for “Refresh” is so perfect. You have the modern and the traditional, some grittiness, some chaos, and it’s all thrown together into a mix that on paper doesn’t look like it would work but once experienced makes perfect sense.
2. Ego Snakehead
3. (A) Musing
4. Sin Beyond Skin
5. Not Done Yet
8. House of Cards
9. Empty Graves
11. Monkey the Dog
Joseph Samuel- Vocals
[Sessions] – Bass
Record Label: Rottweiler Records, Nov. 2013
Interview with Final Surrender [Dec. 2013]
Lyric Video below for ‘Ego Snakehead’
Video below for ‘Refresh’