Metal’s own gender problem helps to make Sceptre’s album concept seem so unorthodox. Misogyny remains an issue within a genre that calls bands like Prostitute Disfigurement and Cemetery Rapist its own and continues to allow “Hottest Chicks in Metal” features to continue to exist in its biggest publications. While many musicians and fans advocate for equality, there is still much work to be done. Waghmode blames the “fixed mindsets” and metal’s tendency to objectify women as major obstacles against that goal—an observation that rings true both in India and in the U.S.
On the other hand, the heavy-metal community can often make for an accepting, secure space. Siddhi Shah is a Pune-based artist, musician, and music teacher, and has been a metal fan since her early teens. She says that while there isn’t an abundance of women at metal shows in India, the ones that do attend are usually treated respectfully.
“All the gigs I have attended so far have been safe,” she says. “In general, there are always advances from men, but I guess that happens everywhere. In a metal gig, you will find that most of the crowd [is too interested in] the music and the beer and the mosh pits to notice anything else.”
Metal’s “woman problem” is in itself symptomatic of the dangers faced by all women. No matter how much fun a girl can have headbanging up front at a metal gig, she’ll have to make her way home eventually, and there is no guarantee she’ll get there safely.
“The government is far from doing enough to protect women,” Waghmode says, adding that he thinks rapists should get the death penalty. While he points out that the situation for women in urban areas is quickly improving, he believes the roots of Indian society’s gender tensions comes from what Indian music journalist Ankit Sinha refers to as “a lack of basic moral and sex education.”
“A society cannot progress until and unless the individuals constituting it are educated about sexuality,” Sinha says. “The problem of misogyny and gender inequality has prevailed in India since time immemorial, and it is a shame that a nation which is touted as an upcoming economic superpower still doesn’t know how to treat its women with dignity and respect.”
Sinha maintains that awareness efforts and public backlash against things like the gang-rape scandal are starting to make a difference. “Nowadays the masses are becoming more aware of terms like ‘equality’ and ‘liberation’ and people are making a conscious effort for the same,” she says. “Things are changing, rapidly.”
Releasing a loud, raging thrash-metal record about the problems women face is part of that wider move towards raising public consciousness. The title track is fast and furious, and vocalist Samron Jude’s strained bark illustrate the feelings of hopelessness both men and women may feel about their country’s ills: “We cry for revenge, we pray for hope … cries of despair and engulfed in defeat, is there a road or will we all just go down?” Incensed songs like “Parasites (of the State)” and “Judgment Day (End – A New Beginning)” continue the narrative. It’s an intense listen, but Waghmode sums up Spectre’s goal simply: “We just wanted to do our bit for this great nation, in which we still have some hope.”