Music transcends language, they say. And concrete evidence for this aphorism lies in Avial’s self-titled debut. For those not in the know, Avial is a five-piece band from Kerala that takes Malayalam folk songs and literary pieces and puts it to music. They first burst onto the scene in 2006 with a video for “Nada Nada” (the first song on this album) that quickly got circulated extensively online thanks to YouTube – at last count, the super-slick video had 56,000+ views. It didn’t seem to matter that singer Anand Raj Benjamin Paul was rendering his raw vocals in chaste Malayalam. What really mattered was the sheer energy of “Nada Nada,” delivered very ably by Rex Vijayan (ex-Motherjane) on guitars, Mithun Puthanveetil on drums, Tony John on turntables and synth and Naresh Kamath (ex-Bombay Black, Kailasa) on bass.
And it is this very energy that pervades the entire album. Despite the ‘alternative rock’ tag the band chooses for its music, this is good ol’ rock – complete with searing vocals and crunchy guitars. Hear, for instance, the guitars in “Njan Aara”: gentle arpeggios alternated with wickedly heavy distortion. Or the stadium rock chants in the chorus of “Aranda”. Of the eight tracks on this album, you would be hard-pressed to come up with a single weak one. Avial is very easily one of the best rock albums to come out from an Indian band lately.
© Bobin James/Rolling Stone India, 2008