19 May 2015

Research Notes: Sub-Saharan Metal

Been slightly obsessed in recent times with searching out metal bands from sub-Saharan Africa. Here are a few that have piqued my interest. I've deliberately avoided "white dudes who like Cannibal Corpse", as the world is full of them, and veered towards stuff which has more local cultural influences. Obviously this selection is skewed towards my particular tastes, so is more towards the death/doom end of the metal spectrum and is not afraid of, ahem, 'outsider' approaches to playing and songwriting, shall we saw.

Major players in the Botswana metal scene (the most active scene outside South Africa, which has played host to film crews from CNN & the BBC), Skinflint have a tight, catchy sound which brings to mind early Iron Maiden, except with lyrics based in indigenous mythology. They released their 4th album "Nyemba" towards the end of 2014, and this track "The Pits Of Wydah" has been a total earworm for me:

Official Skinflint site

Also from Botswana, Crackdust are pure quality death metal. They only have the one album that I know of ("Dented Reality" from 2007) which starts off in a chuggy Florida death style, but about half way through some clean guitar manifests on an instrumental and a bit more of a melodic style rears its head. I notice a lot of the songs are reasonably brief (in the 2 - 3 minute range) which I approve of: they're not short on ideas, but they don't muck about in getting to the point either.

Wrecking Tanganyika
Sadly split up, if their FBook bio is right, this lot (one of very few new bands from Zambia) were a seriously bizarre proposition. The one EP they have available has a fucked-up mash-up of industrial, death and black metal noises in the mix and they call themselves 'African Progressive Deathcore'. Some of the sick noises and vocals even reminded me a little of GGFH. Could have been something pretty special, let's hope they return in some new form.
Stream/download "the Witchcraft Projekt EP"

Before Crush
Describing themselves as metalcore, which is a genre whose borders I'm not really clued-up enough to police, they've got a brutal, polished sound full of twists and turns. They're from Angola and sing mainly in Portuguese about "personal struggles,wars from our country,and positive thoughts". If you check out the video to "A Bruxa", they also seem to have the kind of funky moves that made Attack!Attack! so popular...

Reverbnation site

Vale of Amonition
Uganda's number one "dark/epic...progressive/doom/folk metal" band. They're certainly not short of ideas, and tend to fire them at you one after another over the course of each prog doom epic. Most recent studio album "Those of Metal Afar" (from 2013, they put a compilation out as well) includes the 13-minute "Egypt After The Chasm" which features spoken word, King Diamond screeches, piano, organ, 70s doom metal, out-of-tune guitars and an 'unconventional' approach to song structures and timekeeping. It's not an easy listen, but you can't fault their ambition.

They released a 7" through Legion of Death (France's premier purveyors of World Metal 7"s) in 2012, which - in contrast - included an opening track that featured more traditional 'African' guitar and almost a reggae swing to it at times:

African Doomhammer
Not far away from the above are African Doomhammer, who feature musicians from Kenya, Namibia, Mauritania and Uganda (including, on occasion, Vickonomy from Vale of Amonition) but seem to be steered by a Namibian musician by the name of Cloaked Indarkness. They explicitly blend metal with "the musicians' own heritage and roots in local music" and have tagged themselves on FBook as "Epic Doom. Afroheathen Tribal metal". It's early days (they formed in 2013 and have one EP out), but some interesting stuff is coming out of this project.


That'll do you for starters. I will continue to report back my findings as my research continues... 

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