The majority of rock music that evolves out of Indian colleges has its roots in the same set of influences, the classic rock of Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, the progressive rock of Porcupine Tree and Dream Theater, the metal of Opeth and Lamb of God… you get the drift. As a result, most campus rock acts end up peddling textbook post-classic rock, pre-grunge tunes, priding themselves on the technical proficiency of individual band members while ignoring the discipline of songwriting itself. A few of these bands attempt to break out of this cesspool of self-serving, waiting-for-placements rock. But when they take their music out of the campus and into pubs that pay too little, and competitions that demand creative concessions, they’re often weighed down heavily by the baggage of years spent practicing in dimly-lit hostel dorm rooms.
Which brings us to Dark Project. The, um, project of five IIT Kharagpur alumni now based in Kolkata, Dark Project is stuck in the same post-campus rut that’s home to hundreds of other “progressive” bands in the country.
Liberty & Entropy is an album steeped in affected melodrama. From the title to the often unnecessary use of the synth, we find a band trying too hard to be taken seriously and, as a result, trying too hard to be serious. The members of Dark Project have their heads in the right places, but the backwash of late ’90s alternative isn’t really the best place to be looking for inspiration. Sure, the world is a fucked-up place, and relationships aren’t always what you plan them out to be, but angst-filled lyrics should have more purpose than just serving as an excuse to bust into a guitar solo after the verse-chorus.
The times when the band sounds the least pretentious come when their inspirations are the most obvious. The upbeat rhythm-driven ‘Fly’ owes great debt to the four-chord, post-grunge mastered by acts such as 3 Doors Down and Puddle of Mudd. But it’s the familiarity of the structure that lifts the song out of the self-conscious histrionics of the rest of the album. Dark Project does it better when the plot is simple and predictable. And frankly, that’s just sad.
There are moments on Liberty & Entropy when some light of potential shines through, but these are few and too unrewarding. The harmonica on ‘One Song For Dystopia’ adds much to a song languishing in an abyss of murky distortion and pithy lyrics, while the vocal harmony on ‘Second Chance’ is the one carefully constructed device that actually works. The title track, that takes Grand Avenue-ish atmospherics and combines these with ’80s pop sensibilities a la Cat Stevens, is perhaps the best song on the album.
Dark Project’s view of the world is grim. Heck, their name is Dark Project. But the band is so consumed by theatricals that they forget their lessons in modern rock 101. They approach their craft with an overwhelming sense of responsibility to fix the world. The pressure has clearly taken its toll.