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An Interview with Sushant Rawat of Nightgrave

NIGHTGRAVE. The name conjures images of clandestine dealings, death under cover of darkness… Or perhaps even a superhero/villian if you’re the particularly imaginative type. Arguably all of those interpretations can apply to Sushant Rawat, the ridiculously proficient and talented composer behind the experimental atmospheric/ambient black metal project.

Living in the bustling city of New Delhi, India with an almost non-existent black metal scene around him, the self-taught multi-instrumentalist has been feverishly toiling away in the shadows and almost creating his own scene by way of four or five different projects. Plus, his main outlet, Nightgrave, not only recently unveiled its captivating sixth release Black Earth but has another two albums locked and loaded in the chamber, ready to go. All of them are absolute quality and have been on the receiving end of countless great reviews, but for reasons unknown, no label has yet seen fit to take the plunge. A fact that I’m sure will change soon. Gems don’t stay hidden forever.

Anyway, hot on the heels of the mini-review in Beneath The Vault #6, the man himself has dropped in for a chat about all things Nightgrave and even shares a brand new track with us from the upcoming double album. Check it out below.

Indy Metal Vault: Hey Sushant! Thanks for giving us a little of your time, I hope you’re well.

Sushant Rawat: Hello Aaron, thanks for having me. I appreciate it very much. I’m good and I hope you’re doing well.

IMV: I appreciate you being here, mate. So, first things first: let’s hear a little about you. What got you into music, and how long have you been playing? What was your first instrument?

SR: I started back in school. I got my first guitar when I was thirteen. I remember spending countless hours learning to play, although it did seem to come somewhat naturally. I’ve always been drawn to music more than anything else.

IMV: Nice. What were the first songs you learned to play?

SR: It’s uncanny, but I never played covers or even learned to play any songs. I started by playing original music and have stuck to it ever since.

IMV: Well, that explains Nightgrave’s unique and instantly recognizable sound. If I made a ham-fisted attempt to describe it, I’d say it’s always experimental but based on a foundation of lush post black/shoegaze type soundscapes that caress your ears, liberally adorned with the rawest of lo-fi black metal riffage. Your vocals also mirror this and range from surprisingly great cleans to tortured howls. How did you stumble upon this effective blend of styles? From where did you take inspiration?

SR: Thank you for your kind words. You’ve broken down the sound fairly enough for genre driven listeners. When it comes to making music, I tend to make it a natural process that stems from within. It would mostly start with an idea of a certain musical movement that eventually gives way to more layers and different subsequent progressions and as this takes place, the story being written within the song reveals itself further and further unless it reaches a certain point of closure. I think that is why Nightgrave songs don’t follow a predetermined structure and end at a much different place than where they began, owing to the ever evolving and transitional element present within. Everything inspires.

IMV: Well, it’s a beautiful end result. I remember you sent me that great Melancholie release The Path, which for me made a lot of sense in relation to your own sound and the things you must listen to.

SR: Many thanks. And the first track of The Path is beautiful beyond words. I make it a point to try out all kinds of music but end up liking only the ones that seem honest and pure to me, music that feels uncorrupted, that imbibes raw emotion.

IMV: Funnily enough, that’s what I get from Nightgrave. “Nightgrave” is an interesting moniker, actually. What’s the meaning behind it, if you don’t mind me asking?

SR: Not at all. The name “Nightgrave” arose out of this fact: We are all different. We all feel, act, and exist differently, with the exception of one common trait… We have to sleep in order to recharge our salts and batteries, and it’s usually night-time when we do it. When that happens, we are away, far fucking away from every damn thing, as good as dead — exactly dead but for a limited time. So, I wanted to create the sound of dreams with Nightgrave. And dark life portends dark dreams.

IMV: That’s great. I love it when thought goes into the smallest details of a project like that. Heading back to talking about Black Metal for a sec; I’d imagine the genre is hard to come by in the general New Delhi music landscape. Is there much of a local scene there?

SR: There is absolutely no black metal scene in Delhi. It’s a shithole.

IMV: Bloody hell, tell us how you really feel. No scene at all? Why do you think that is?

SR: None. Because the country hankers after non-music, shit Bollywood numbers and fucking EDM. I feel sick of it all. Fake fodder everywhere.

IMV: Ugh. So a live version of Nightgrave is probably out of the question. Is playing live something you would even be interested in? Your music seems to me something to be experienced and considered in private, a personal thing. Which is true for black metal and it’s assorted offshoots in general, I guess.

SR: You’re right, it’s best experienced privately. So is all music, I think. Playing live definitely interests me but what interests me far more is writing new music.

IMV: In the space of a few years you have not only six releases to date under the Nightgrave banner, but also a few under your other projects Kouros, Vulnus and Raat. I believe you even have several unreleased albums ready to go; that’s a sizeable body of work. Are you constantly creating? What drives you to always write music?

SR: I do write a lot, so much so that it’s becoming a problem now. But I think it’s a good problem to have. There’s plenty of unreleased material at different stages of production and also multiple completed works ready to go. What drives me to create is the fact that it’s the only thing that makes me feel at home in this life… I’d like to share a track from the upcoming album here if that’s okay?

IMV: Sure thing: the floor is yours. What’s the story behind it, what’s it called?

SR: Procession of Credence. It’s from the upcoming release titled The Loom of Void.

IMV: Beautiful man, just beautiful. Love the vibe of this, you’ve outdone yourself. On that note, let’s finally talk about your latest release, the excellent Black Earth. It’s fucking great. How do you view this album in relation to all your other creations? Can you tell us a little about it?

SR: Thanks, Aaron. I’m glad you liked it. Black Earth is the first chapter in the Void trilogy. It’s supposed to be the starting point of exploring the very concept. The subsequent double album is where the best Nightgrave material is at. The Curse of Life and The Loom of Void have both been completed and are raring to go. Black Earth was written with the mindset of experimentation with the idea, which is why it might sound like the most experimental work out of the catalog so far, with no set patterns and no necessary cohesion. But that’s relative. It is an instrumental album through and through, with the exception of the final track, which is supposed to somehow close the lid on the experimental outing and why it speaks of everything that I tried to establish with Black Earth and is the only track with vocals. The upcoming double album completes the exploration and might be the final Nightgrave release.

IMV: I was going to ask about the lack of vocals on most of the album; as stated earlier I think your vox are great, cleans and all. But hang on: the final Nightgrave release? Are you serious?

SR: Thank you for your upvote. Yes, it is probably going to be the final Nightgrave release. Then again, nothing is certain and anything is possible. I will continue making music though.

IMV: I’ll be sad to see it go. Have you had any label interest for this release, or any others for that matter? Surely somebody would be keen to put this out.

SR: I haven’t seen much label interest at all. Some talks here and there that eventually led to nowhere, but nothing of certitude. I was offered a deal by an Indian metal label but then turned down because I’m Indian. The irony is absolute. I’ve been approached by labels and was eventually asked for a huge sum in order to have them release my music after I told them where I’m from. The monopoly of a few YouTube channels that promote the genre doesn’t help either. One of the popular ones simply forwarded me a note twice asking for an upload fee, although they did upload a couple of my releases before with no talk of money. Another just straightaway rejected my request saying it’s not their cup of tea.

IMV: That’s absolutely mental. I’m tempted to prod you a little more about the Indian label as that quite frankly sounds fucked up, but I don’t want to name names or start any beef. I’m also not a fan of the “pay to play” YouTube channels either as that creates an unfair playing field. Anyway, to any labels out there: snap this up soon! One final question for you: what do you hope the listener will take away from listening to Nightgrave?

SR: That they invested their time in music that’s devoid of external factors, something that is pure and unhindered by trends or any ulterior motive. Just raw, undefiled emotion poured into the chalice.

IMV: Well, thanks again for speaking to us Sushant. I wish you all the best. Any final words?

SR: My sincerest thanks for your support and to the listeners that have liked my work and helped keep me going. I hope you achieve what you’ve set out to do.

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