Same Planet, Different World: Extreme Metal in Sub-Saharan Africa

Skinflint - album cover art - sample for essay

It is said that for British pop music to be successful, it has to be imported back into the USA. The same is said for American pop music: it must be exported back to the UK to find success. The cross cultural exchange, a hybrid vigor or novelty factor of sorts – remains a driving force in music discovery and innovation. Take a step back in history, and see that this is not a strange or novel concept; it’s happened many times, recently, most notably for the birth and nurturing of rock and roll music itself. Through the odious slave trade, Caribbean and African cultures, belief systems, and music traditions gradually found their ways into mainstream American mindsets and media. Gospel music, blues, jazz, and country genres eventually were combined into the behemoth (coined by Cleveland, Ohio music DJ Alan Freed in 1951) we know today as rock and roll. Heavy metal is an offshoot of rock music; a belligerent, angry teenager destined for destruction. And we love it!

In an odd twist of fate, or completion of a cultural life cycle, rock music would not exist if not for African-American cultural assimilation. There would be no heavy metal at all. There would be no African heavy metal to speak of without it. There is African extreme metal, though. Cultural exchange has worked it’s magic, and this Western-sounding music created on the mysterious Dark Continent, the birthplace and cradle of humanity, is now here for all to consume and enjoy.

Oppressive year-round heat, indistinct seasons, crushing poverty, low population, and a 22% adult HIV prevalence rate (sources: World Bank, Botswana Tourism Board) make Botswana a prime candidate for “overcoming the most adversity to cultivate and export extreme metal”. In the USA, it’s possible to make Botswana’s projected per-capita GDP, $227.50, worth of ‘a product or service to sell’ in between .5 and 4 hours. In Botswana, this takes a full year. So to discover full bands with modern electric guitars, amplifiers, high quality video recordings, and a knack for writing metal music was a bit like finding a hundred-carat diamond: very rare, and worth sharing! We first-worlders forget our daily comforts like not dying of malaria, flush toilets, or air conditioning. Botswana’s Wrust, Crackdust, and Skinflint are making metal, regardless of circumstance, and that alone makes it worth a listen.

Wrust’s music itself? Not bad, not bad at all! It’s fairly basic, Western-sounding extreme metal. It’s got no frills: male vocals (sung in English, courtesy the country’s status as a former British possession), heavily distorted guitar, bass guitar, and acoustic drums. The music is mid-tempo and wrought with emotion. It’s not knocking down doors with originality – there are no attempts to incorporate other genres, syncopate, etc., but it wins solely for it’s rarity and life-circumstance.

Check out the old-school Beneath the Remains era Sepultura vibe of the riff here:

More Wrust:

Hailing from Botswana as well is Crackdust, a purveyor of crisp, extreme metal. Guttural vocals are sung in English, although without a lyric sheet, like most extreme metal, the vocals are unintelligible and act as an additional texture within the broader scope of the songs.

Something for the speed demons, or for those days you need a musical caffeine boost:

With lyrics! :

A melodic, mid-tempo crusher:

Skinflint is also from Botswana. The band has even managed to make an official music video, plus, get their album sold on Amazon and iTunes. For a landlocked, France-sized country with just 2 million people, this is stacking up to be quite a thriving scene! Skinflint is a little more progressive and melodic then the others mentioned here, but they share the same ‘Western sounding traits’.

Skinflint, bringin’ it, live in concert. The tune has an early Sodom, mid 1980s European thrash vibe:

The final contender is from Kenya, the land of the indigenous Maasai people, a wonderful photo-safari destination. Poverty in this country is such that the tribespeople charge up to $5 just for a snapshot of them engaging in daily activities. A land renowned for it’s acacia trees, lions, malaria, starvation, and tsetse flies is a crucible for extreme metal any day. It should come as no surprise that Kenya’s chief extreme metal export, Absence of Light, is a grindcore act reminiscent of an earlier Carcass, or just-after-Scum era Napalm Death, but with more polish:

Mega fast double-bass drumming, deep guttural vocals, and shreddy guitars make this tune a winner for the grind crowd:

African peoples brought the world heavy metal, in a roundabout way. Respect them!

Wrust – Official Facebook Page
Wrust – Official Bandcamp Page
Crackdust – Official Facebook Page
Skinflint – Official Facebook Page
Skinflint – Official Band Website
Absence of Light – Official Facebook Page
Absence of Light – Official Bandcamp Page

Note: If the GDP or other country facts are incorrect, it’s unintentional! Please let the author know and any errata will be corrected as soon as possible.


About Iris North

My formal position is: editor and music reviewer. I joined the PlanetMosh army in 2012. I enjoy extreme metal, 'shred' guitar, hard rock, prog rock, punk, and... silly pop music!