(Full article here)
Naturally, the comments that follow are quite hysterical!
There is a lot of questioning about the South Africa (SA) metal scene and how it differs from the international scene. It is difficult to write about such a topic from a bias perspective (myself being proudly South African) and it is even harder to write about a topic that will inevitably be ‘compared to’. So, this is an attempt to put some perspective on the SA metal scene or rather an attempt to give an opinion.
Firstly, does SA have a metal ‘scene’? Yes. This is established as a place of activity. Durban (the third largest SA city) might be dormant in the live music area but there are still underground places frequented by metalheads.
So, how did metal in SA begin? A fairly detailed article will be printed on this question in a well-established music magazine (when the Editor decides to send it to the printers). Until then, here is a nutshell: It began in 1984/5. Four bands namely Odyssey, Ragnarok, Mind Assault and Black Rose set the pace. These bands and many more defied Apartheid, authorities of state and religion to create something only they could define. There was little in the way of recordings and even less in metal media and music education. Though the bands pushed forward, independent music labels took the challenge and the wayward souls from around SA began to appear. More bands emerged from all parts of SA, each taking inspiration from international artists and putting their own spin on it. Remember, metal was and still is not commercial in SA and recordings are limited, so everybody has a very different take on what is “metal”. It took several years, a revolution in technology and an open-mind to create what we embrace today as the “SA metal scene”.
Fast forward to 2012; let me tell you what really goes on. Apart from the burgeoning financial crisis that almost every band faces – South Africa has other issues to contend with. Location is one of them. Geographically, SA is huge and there is a great Diaspora of local metalheads. It is one thing to ‘Like’ a band on Facebook and offer them online support. I do it, my friends do it but very few of us can get down to the next city and windmill at that band’s gig due to location. Not many (actually zero) major metal labels look below the equator line to sign bands. Also, with articles like the one above – why even bother with SA metal? It is a known fact in South Africa that there is a lack of metal venues. Pop, Hip-Hop, Kwaito and House music are the norm and such genres have been catered for with special venues that are easily seen in every town. A large portion of bars, pubs and grills cater for alternative music and unplugged music sessions. It is very generous of them but not very practical for the bands in the long run. Promoters of the metal music scene get the bitter end of the deal too. Without established venues, quality sound engineers and lack of media interest – their job is often cursed. Some promoters come and go and some put in laborious work hoping to change the scene – it is what I call a true labour of love. The standard of dedicated metal promotion is at an all time low and SA metal bands prefer to take DIY action. The internet and spew of social media is positive in this sense but online support and physically being at a gig are two separate objectives. Metal fans like festivals and SA is no different. The largest annual popular metal festival is RAMfest. The Fourie brothers came up with a good concept and followed through. It has been a success in recent years with fair feedback. Several new and smaller scale festivals have emerged since the early millennium. Recently, there has been a question burning down my throat about these festivals – was it worth my time and money? The answer varies and I often hear Maslow in my thoughts, “Man is a perpetually wanting animal.”
Festivals are risky business. SA metal festivals are even more risky business. A recent article by MusicReview shut down the ‘wanting animals’. If you want to see a metal act that you like in SA, go out and buy the album, single, poster and T-Shirt. Those genuinely supported bands will see good market value and be prepared to play at a decent price. Though a portion of SA metal fans fail to see this logic and take up internet trolling and piracy instead. I’ll dismiss piracy in SA as downright disgusting. These laws need to be tougher, Mr. President.
Despite all that is mentioned above, there are two things that in my opinion are very unique about South African metal (take note MetalSucks). The SA metal scene has major talented artists each creating their own brand of metal. There are one or two copy and paste metal bands in SA but there are at least 100 metal bands that have twisted, warped and shaped their own music. In doing so, there is a tinge of raw and unprecedented authentic quality in their screams, lyrics and compositions. Furthermore, SA metal bands are highly dedicated. A band never gives-up easily and if they do – legitimate reasons are often announced. Perhaps, SA metal acts know that hard work pays off in the end and such motif is evident in the history of our country.
The SA metal music industry is growing; yes it is slow but from what I know it is not “terrible”!
By the way if you don’t agree with this article, please don’t be a cunt about it rather present a logical argument.