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Heavy Metal Africa

By

Juggernaught

Juggernaught

Edward Banchs
The setting is South Africa. Heading west from the capital city of Pretoria on a fifteen hour drive to Cape Town through the heart of the country’s desert (without air conditioning), I was on the go again for my second tour in as many weeks. I was on tour with Juggernaught on a long, exhausting road trip for the next set of shows, as the band would play several that week. I was their merchandise table fill in, and fortunate enough to take it all in.

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.

The first of the two tours was with Johannesburg based metalcore band Facing The Gallows, who had been so gracious in inviting me to tag along for a six hour trip to Durban for a DIY style, all ages show that allowed me to experience what metal is at heart. No ego, no light shows, no gimmicks, just unbridled passions interacting inches away from each other as band and crowd became one.

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.

Misconceptions

Facing The Gallows

Facing The Gallows

Edward Banchs
What was familiar about the tour was what artists in the West understand clearly, the networking, the planning, the guarantees, the disappointments of low turnouts, and the joys of a great show. Yet, when one speaks of metal in Africa, heads turn and mouths utter the common question of ‘really?,’ which is typically followed by a comment about Africa solidifying the general consensus that the image of savagery remains pervasive.

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.

Noise Makers

The bands I had the chance to meet and tour with have a lot to look forward to. Their ambitions and aspirations are as equal as anyone else’s around the world, yet the setting reminds them that the challenges are difficult. A few have began to make their mark, such as South Africa’s Truth And Its Burden, who in 2012 released their record Choices internationally and have toured Europe and even the United States in late 2012.

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.

Wrust

Wrust

Edward Banchs

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