The following is a guest post by Edward Banchs, author of Heavy Metal Africa: Life, Passion, and Heavy Metal in the Forgotten Continent.
One of the continent’s largest economies, South Africa is Africa’s most visible nation for its history of segregated politics, large tourism industry and a famous political figure named Nelson Mandela. Not lost on those who love the sounds of the distorted guitars is the fact that South Africa also boasts Africa’s most recognizable (and second largest) metal scenes; bands from South Africa were the first from the continent to sign with Western record companies, tour Europe and the US, as well as perform at the legendary Wacken festival in Germany.
Through its tumultuous political history, as detailed in the first chapter of my book, South African metal fans endured more than their share of hardship for all things heavy metal. During the apartheid years, police state politics had government leaders’ ears tuned to what most were listening to (even banning Stevie Wonder and The Beatles), and a heavy conservative culture even had church leaders visiting schools making sure kids steered clear of heavy metal. Part of what makes the metal scene in South Africa special is the understanding that things can be worse; life was difficult for musicians at one time in the country and many of the performances I saw firsthand could not have even happened once upon time—mostly because of the amount of different people this music has reached out to in a country that is now on firmer ground.
The nation, like its metal scene has come a long way. Here are some the many bands making headway in the South African scene.
Soweto’s history exemplifies the struggle of the nation’s past as it was the site of much publicized political unrest and pivotal moments that shaped the apartheid era. Today, driving through the largest township in South Africa, you find a generation defining themselves the way they want, without anyone telling them how. Demogoroth Santanum are the township’s first heavy metal band (that we know of) and one of the rising stars of South Africa’s metal community. Unapologetic black metal that should be heard by one of the hardest working ‘we don’t give a shit’ bands you will ever meet!
Groovy, sludgy, throaty heavy metal that moves, and offers a great deal of depth, Johannesburg’s The Drift are a band not to be missed. With two albums under their belt, and some high profile gigs, including supporting Lamb of God during their South Africa dates, many (including yours truly) in South Africa have jumped aboard the hype for a reason. I had the pleasure of meeting the band’s frontman, Louis Du Pisani, and challenged him to an arm wrestling contest. I lost. So will you. He is a giant, and his band’s giant sounds will best your eardrums, too.
Pretoria is not only the nation’s capital city, but it is also home to one of the more recognizable bands in South Africa—and not for the fact that they look like they took on a pack of grizzly bears in a drinking contest and smoked them at the bar, but for their unapologetically unique sound. Perhaps South Africa’s answer to Clutch, or something else, their hooks last for days, and the vibe at any of their shows is infectious. An excellent band with a great catalogue that is sure to get better, check out this superb track from their recent album, Full Grown Woman, here. Good luck getting this one out of your head:
Facing The Gallows
This excellent metalcore band has grown right before the scene’s very eyes and ears. Never afraid to challenge their sound, as they continually push the limitations of their chosen genre, Facing The Gallows are one of those bands whose influence has reached into other African nations such as Kenya and Madagascar, and continue to garner a well respected fan base outside of their own borders. Keep an eye on this band as they release their new album this year—hopefully!
Zombies Ate My Girlfriend
Put simply, these guys rule. From the opening lines of their latest album Retrocide “Kill, kill, kill like a fucking disease,” to the last note, this record is a brutal exercise to the eardrums that just punishes those who love straight-forward metal without any excuses. They are the most talked about metal band in the nation for a reason, and with their recent success at Germany’s Wacken Metal Battle, it is easy to understand why this band is going places. Turn this one up!
After the controversial extreme metal band Architect of Aggression called it a day, vocalist Van Zyl moved ahead by forming a more groove-influenced death metal band and has not looked back. Outspoken, unapologetic and honest, BloodBeast is what South Africa needs: a band that challenges the nation’s conservatism without bowing down.
More on the hard rock side, the members of Deity’s Muse are a long time fixture on the rock scene and are adored by metal fans in the nation for a reason—they rock! Pushing into the progressive influences and catchy hooks, this is a band that comes with a metal seal of approval. Check out “Satellites” to see why:
This ferocious Cape Town quintet just punched their ticket to the 2017 Wacken festival. A groove metal band that does not hold back including punishing down-tuned rhythmic virtuosic awesomeness! Megalodon gets many comparisons to Meshuggah, but make no mistake, this band is ready to cut that leash and move forward with a new 2017 release.
A wonderful industrial metal band, Terminatryx has been a scene stalwart for quite a while. Featuring members from one of the most influential bands in South Africa’s history Voice of Destruction (read Heavy Metal Africa to learn more about the remarkable scene that straddled the apartheid years), Terminatryx works hard for their local Cape Town scene as well as the South African scene. They truly love where they are from. Some of the most remarkable conversations I have ever had about South Africa have come with this band. Check out just one of their amazing videos here:
Truth And Its Burden
Billing themselves as “positive hardcore” Truth And Its Burden are a Johannesburg area band that boasts plenty of European and American touring experience. Vocalist Ashley De Beer tells me he “stoked on South Africa,” and that passion comes across clear in his lyrics, his energy, and his band’s music. With a new album, I Labour, under their belts, the members of Truth And Its Burden are ready to get listeners around the world stoked on South Africa too.
We are looking for suggestions for the next Scene Report. Does your region have a great scene that people should know about? Email us at hatemail [at] metalinjection [dot] net with your pitch.
View previous Scene Reports here.