Dec 8, 2009

Morung Express Music Review: Abiogenesis' 'Aeon Spell'

With, due apology to all rock purists, here’s a reminder: Original music doesn’t mean its ‘good; good music doesn’t mean it is listenable; listenable music doesn’t have to be original. It’s a vicious cycle of reference no self-respecting, originality-driven musician can afford to undermine.

Local rock veterans Abiogenesis’ debut international outing Aeon Spell is out. At last, a band with stature and experience worth ripping apart.

When the proper Abiogenesis released its first album on Magnasound way back in the 80s we were still wiping our noses with our pants. The years saw me worshipping them (and Christian metal act Lystra) for the fact that it was the only conspicuous band from Nagaland making a stand in the national Rock Machine-era circuit. Decades later, here’s my former local idol with an ‘international’ release. This time not wannabe-hair band stuff like their earlier two Magnasound albums but something called ‘howey’ that claims to be a new fusion of ‘Naga tunes’ with ‘modern music.’ And a novelty called ‘Bamhum.’ Suddenly the Ibanez feels like an outsider.

Saramati Tears, the first song, is by far, I remind, by far the most striking song on Aeon Spell. The song wallops you in the face with its lulling, incredible tonal reference woven around tightly packed vocal inlets from Arenla and of course the mournful ‘Bamhum.’ Chants dance in trance around gloriously eerie yet surreal Gothic inlets from the tortured buzz of the Bamhum. Arenla’s brassy, almost baritone, timber pressurizes you to sit and listen even as the soul acoustic lulls you into painting a picture of misty Naga hills, in your mind. Aren’s timbre and the Bamhum are the highlights of this almost elegy-esque song. Beautiful. If this is ‘howey,’ count me in!

Bad news: ‘Undiluted Love,’ in all honestly, sounds like the product of some just-picked-up-the-guitar-yesterday students writing their first ‘original’ song. Aren’s brassy timber and Moa’s arid timber tone on the song sound weird and mismatched. Too ‘local.’ Too ordinary. (Blame it on my chronic addiction to European progressive/power metal groups!)

Then a dash of upbeat urban Wawah on Right Direction. It’s an urban rock swingy thing. The bridging wahwah gets too repetitive – washing away the song itself. Overkill, you know. This song is strictly for those who believe in the save-the-whales and protect-the-Ozone-Layer thing sauced in a spoonful of simple guitar delivery and simple tunes. The rhythm distortion lacks punch – almost sleepy. No Bamhum. No howey here either.

Lonely Drifter is suggestive of those big-hair days’ songs in today’s muddle of nu-metal and resurgent core metal scene. One thing about ‘local metal songs’ is that they always lean towards corny ‘mainstream’ stuff. Note by note. Quite the opposite results as the song intended to be – a thrashy rock, or perhaps core metalesque outing – it leaves you wondering what the blooming heck was it all about. The rhythm guitars felt like it was a sample recorded from a radio song-request programme. Fortunately the guitar solos stood out. I tried out the solos on my amp cranked to 14 at 3am. Loved flying about the fret-board. Sadly, I found the melodic progression too repetitive and indulgent to offer a wholesome song. The guitar tone in the song is too regular as well. ‘Local laka metal song.’

Then 8:59 minutes of ‘howey’ in Hitch Hiker. Here, Aren is back in her brassy form. Super. The bamhum lead you alongside misty Naga hills, this time, overlooking metro citylights. Then before you can say ‘wow,’ a flurry of solos smash your teeth down your throat. This can’t get any better. From Naga chants, the bamhum has led you into the big bad world of metal. Delicious! This is the only song with the guitar highlight ranging from urbanseque blues to a dash of uptempo power metal (?). Then you wake to the bamhum again. Errie. Surreal. Great song. Bad guitar rhythm tone. Abiogenesis needs a Turbo or a FX charger to get a punchier Aggro? The reverb sounds silly in fact. But overall, a rocking song.

Long live the bamhum. It shines in Misty Dzukou as in Saramati Tears. A curious note: on ST, the bamhum sounded very explicit in its tonal fa├žade. But on MD, it sounded a bit off-tune. And even stretched, not strained. Maybe it’s the urban background. Maybe the bamhum’s tone works best only in soul settings like in ST. Aside from this small hitch, Misty Dzukou is highly listenable.

Then Wah Taj! Listen it your self to visit Tipu Sultan’s ancient corridors! And then decide. A piece of advice: No musical stuff here. Just experimental meanderings of the classic rock guitar something in the line of (progressive rock groups) Spock’s Beard or Atomic Opera – minus the ‘wah Taj,’ of course!

The next, Magic of Love is painfully in the line of Undiluted Love, while the second-last outing Bamhum Shake, will leave you shaking your ears it is fusion or confusion music. Abiogenesis takes the final bow with You’re Breaking Me. While the lyrics are excruciatingly average, the melodic delivery is commendable particularly where the second chorus is bridged by the guitar. But bad rhythm layering tone again. Thanks to the shoddy guitar tone, the whole song sound like it was (quoting Metallica skinsman Lars Ulrich famous words) “recorded in a matchbox.”

Strictly from the point of view of contemporary musical artistry, Abiogenesis’ international debut is archetypal where “rock band” stereotypes are concerned; but it is a good break for local talents. Arenla and Moa are undeniably beacons for local rockers to navigate on. But more than just originality, there are times where originality has to be contemporized with tonal fineness and perhaps a dash or two of proficient technical delivery. Especially in rock-based compositions. Another nettle is the production. The final mastering sounds too “local” to be shoved into the international market. The guitar phrasings, particularly the tones (or the effects used?) are too amateurish. Also, the ‘howey genre’ part of the music seems to be represented only by the bamhum. Strip away the surreal buzz of the bamhum, and what you get are simple contemporary soft rock tunes hiding behind a novel instrument’s sound.

But music lovers can decide for themselves at 150 bucks.

Abiogenesis is: Arenla Subong (Vocals, Bamhum), Moa Subong (Vocals, Bamhum, Guitars, Harmonica), Along Sanglir (Bass guitar), Along Longkumer (Guitars), Imli Subong (Drums/ Percussion) and Anupam D’Moran (Keyboards)

(Blog Updates: How Watchtower revolutionized Progressive Metal Music)


  1. Indeed, we Nagas are proud of Abiogenesis. Here is a band that can make music as good as the bands from USA and Europe, if not even better!!! Even Indian bands are scared to play original numbers! Keep it up[ folks, we are right behind you!!
    John Angami,

  2. Ha, same old Ngullie trying to be a music critic with his put on English. Don't know how an establish paper like Morung Experess publishes his woks without editing. I'm sorry, I don't know much about the band Abiogenesis but I've read many of his reviews and it is a shame to Naga journalism. I'm sure he can attend learn English classes, there must be one in Dimapur.Take cue from Rolling Stone mag and other music magazines!
    Prakash Jain,
    Karol Bagh,
    New Delhi

  3. Love to Abiogenesis and all Naga from John & Ann Lama, Melbourne, australia

  4. Never liked their music coz it's all thrash!

    Even the picture here irritates me... sorry!

  5. Where can I buy one of their albums? Heard their music in my space and it's so unigue and beautiful.
    Gopal Sharma

  6. Thank you all, for you opinions and time shared in my humble articles.

    Mr. Gopal Sharma, Thank you, I am not sure if Abiogenesis has eBay or Amazon affiliation but you may want to search the sites to buy their albums.

    Mr. 'Prakash Jain', I am truly amused that you mentioned Rolling Stone (which edition, the US or the India edition of Rolling Stone are you referring to?)Perhaps you should also have mentioned RSJ,, Billboard etc so I could have the satisfaction of giving you a small surprise. A good surprise, definitely.

    Still thank you, I would love criticism that make me grow, too.

  7. .. abiogenis is good and has done much for Nagaland's music but their neon spell is simply too ordinary and local for my taste. I liked Senti Toy's better

  8. I highly recommend English grammar lessons for Mr. Prakash Jain before he can take on Al's precise English! :)

  9. Hi guys, the band Abiogenises is really
    Love every songs of abiogenises.. Thanx..
    Keep up da good work. Kanga tajunga no.. God bless.