A heavy blues/rock influenced metal band whose songs are immediate connections, and whose grooves keep rooms moving for hours long after the last chords are unplugged, the band was promoting their new record Bring The Meat Back, treating every audience as if they personally invited them to the evening’s show, thus striking the right chords with every room.
It was the ease, normalcy, and familiarity of it all that made it comforting. What was different however, was the setting. The desires and passions of those involved in the South African metal/hardcore scene are exactly the same as those shared by musicians anywhere else in the world, yet with one enormous obstacle: geography.
But metal in Africa is, and has been part of the fabric of the continent for decades now. As part of my research for a book I am writing about the subject, I immersed myself in the world of several bands in South Africa as well as Botswana, though only breaking in slightly, as I continue further, expanding elsewhere on this vast continent, delving into the past, present and future of metal in Africa.
Throughout Africa are vibrant heavy metal communities and scenes that are ready for their place on the global metal map. Everything from glam metal to extreme metal are commonplace in Africa. Many were surprised when Frank Marshall’s "Visions of Renegades" photographs made their way around the metal internet community, but for those in Botswana, it had been years in the making.
An upcoming documentary Terra Pesada will tell of the lives of many involved in the metal scene in Mozambique, whose lives and struggles are far from ordinary, yet they find solace in the one thing that has brought a positive light to their lives; heavy metal. Metal has also evolved and flourished in countries like Tunisia, Kenya, Madagascar, as well as various other countries. Africa is a continent that while misunderstood, has lent itself to inspirational stories of success and perseverance, stories that many in the metal community have not lost sight of.
Throughout Africa I hear the same story told time and time again, that of freedom, release, individuality, and identity being expressed through an art form that is often ridiculed and misjudged. What metal means to us as Western audiences takes on a whole new meaning when seen through an African lens. When everyday life includes struggling with high unemployment, economic disparity, government instability and political corruption, metal is the voice and escape that so many have turned to.
International audiences have also venerated others such as Egypt’s death metal giants Scarab, Tunisia’s progressive minded Myrath and Embers of Revenge, Botswana’s groove metal kings Wrust, and Kenya’s extreme newcomers Absence of Light, to name a few. Given the talent that Africa is producing, it is a matter of time before many of these acts join the ranks of the global lure.
What reminds me most of the metal fans I have had the opportunity to meet in Africa is the youthful passion that very much remains a part of their lives, an energy that has spread itself into the next generation of metal fans. Africa is like any other place in many regards, but our thoughts have told us otherwise. For years, we may have assumed that nothing like heavy metal can flourish in a place like Africa, but over time, we see how where we least expect, metal will always find a home, even in Africa.