Earlier this year, I ran into a headline that was too iconic to pass up. Uproxx's documentary on "South Africa's First All-Black, Black Metal Band" shined light on the story of Demogoroth Satanum. The brief video provided political, cultural, and musical context to the band's hometown, Soweto. As my interest was piqued, I was determined to find more info and reached out to vocalist Sthembiso Kunene (aka Tyrant).
You can check out our full interview below as we discuss the band's last EP release, True Black, the evolution of black metal, other bands in the South African scene, and more.
Besides the fact that you guys are an all-black, black metal group in South Africa, what information do you want to project out to the metal community?
Our drummer put it very eloquently on one of the documentaries we did and said something along the lines of: we’re here, we exist, and we’re ready to fuck shit up. Somewhere in that neighborhood. And I feel as though that sums up our intentions as well as what we’re about.
The band’s last official release is the True Black EP from 2012. Considering it has been about five years since then, can you reflect on the writing and recording process and what you were hoping to accomplish with that EP?
True Black was conceived during very interesting times. At that point, we were all still finding our place within the band, the music scene, and the subgenre from the perspective of the artist, as opposed to the listener. We were also still very much influenced by the bands of old and as such we chased after the feel and sound of the earlier black metal bands, which I believe we captured fairly well. We read all the books, watched all the documentaries, and we used just the bare necessities to record. Some songs were recorded with a single mic placed in the room that captured the whole performance; others were given overdubs here and there if they sounded too thin. Some songs were given the multitrack treatment, but again, only the bare necessities with little to no mixing to retain the crisp bite of the unpolished black metal of old. Even more interesting, at the time, there wasn’t an established Soweto metal scene, it was just a few guys and so we hoped to start a sort of revolution with the album. And as unrealistic as that seemed, we succeeded in galvanizing such a movement. And as small as Soweto is, it’s produced several other black metal bands, like Demigod (SA), Grand Architect and Shrine ov Belial. But be that as it may, it’s important to note that said bands feature either one or more members of Demogoroth Satanum.
Black metal began in the 80’s, but has definitely gone through some interesting evolutionary changes in recent years such as post-black/black gaze bands. Being a band that sounds quite true to the roots of black metal, what’s your opinion on these changes to black metal?
Ideology aside, black metal is still an art form and as such, isn’t confined to any one person’s notions of how it should be expressed. Even more so, although we collectively play a certain style of black metal or heavy metal, not all of us actually favor this style. We’re all influenced by different subgenres like brutal death metal, raw black metal, progressive metal, and things as far out as classic and hip hop and as such, opinions vary, depending on who you ask. At this point, it’s less about the designation, subgenre, or any label a band is given and more about the artistic expression, emotion, and general aesthetics.
Which modern black metal bands do you find yourself listening to most nowadays?
Again, we’re all very diverse in our preferences but to there are certain preferential over lapses like Batushka, Drudkh, Setherial, Negator, Svarttjern, Sad, Ragnarok, Carpe Tenebrum, and Sacrilegious Impalement.
What other metal bands, not necessarily black metal bands, do you feel are worth knowing within the South African metal scene?
Slamming champions, Vulvodynia, are among the few doing exceptionally well in both local and international markets, to those not yet aware of them, they’re certainly worth checking out. Blackened death metal titans, Theatre Runs Red, have been desecrating South African stages for over a decade at this point and are stronger than ever, they’re also worth checking out. There are our good friends, Maximum Carnage, Bloodbeast, Nebular Disrupt, Spectral Realm, and Bleeding Spawn. All of whom are excellent bands.
What are the main difficulties of being a band within South Africa?
I guess it is mostly the low payments for gigs. We appreciate playing however a lot of the time the payment is extremely low, however now that we have grown we are getting paid pretty well so that may be a thing of the past.
As previously mentioned, it has been five years since the last release. Is there any progress towards a follow-up to True Black?
Very excited to admit, there is an EP currently in the works. We’ve been quietly working on this for a while, actually, refining everything over and over, and trying to make sure it is exactly as we want because for most of our career, we’ve been a live band. We felt as though there are too many bands coming out and rushing to record an album and the results are exceedingly underwhelming and then said bands quickly dissolving thereafter and as such we wanted to put off recording while we refine our live performance and worked on polishing our playing. Over the years, we’ve actually recorded quite a few songs; however, we only released one song, known as "The Kingdom ov Hell." With that particular song, we all felt as though it accurately reflected our intentions with black metal, our nature as a band, and people, as well as what we wish black metal sounded like. As of this moment, the coming EP is untitled but a fitting title will be chosen once all of the heavy lifting is out of the way.
Earlier this year you posted a list of bands you’ve shared the stage with including Epica, Cannibal Corpse, Hatebreed, Decapitated, Septicflesh, Kataklysm, Belphegor, Fleshgod Apocalypse, Carnifex, Aborted, Alestorm, Rotting Christ, and more. Any memories, experiences, or exchanges you had with the bands during the shows that you’d like to
There is a rather beautiful exchange of 'fuck you's that took place back stage with Belphegor. Being one of the bands we all grew up on, trading middle fingers with Helmuth was very fucking epic. Also, in the same festival, a fan asked us to carve out something on his leg with a knife and since he asked so nicely, we did carve out our initials, D.S., along with an inverted cross along his leg and when it was done, the gentleman let us pose and take picture with his bloody leg. Pure gold, that experience.
What is on the bucket list for what you hope to do with Demogoroth Satanum in the far future? Any plans to travel to US?
Very naturally, we’d like to further the band, spread our name, our message, and perform in various parts of the world. There are specific places and festivals that we’d like to one day reach, places like Wacken, Bloodstock, Hellfest, and the like. There are also bands we’d really love to play with, Dark Funeral, above anyone else. The Swedish kings of darkness have been a continuous source of inspiration. Very few bands have demonstrated such consistency, both in terms of remaining true to their roots and continuously refining their sound while preserving its sonic and aesthetic feel. Dark Funeral is perhaps one of the best black metal bands to emerge and we would be honored to be in the presence of these gods. As far as touring to the US is concerned, there has been various times where we’ve almost gone and were stopped by someone or something. Without a doubt, we will be visiting the US, be it sooner or later but it is definitely in the cards.
Are there any other upcoming events or plans for the band you’d like to announce or discuss?
We will soon be playing an international show in Botswana which we are really excited to play. The scene there is amazing. We are also looking to get sponsorship to record our album. We hope to try have it done as soon as possible yet require funding. Hopefully that will be done soon.