Hard to the core

Miles Keylock Live in Cape Town During the past two years close on 200 South African “rock” bands released CDs. Pretty staggering figures when you pause to think about it. What is perhaps more astonis..

09 August 2023  •  91 Views

Greg McEwan-Marriott avatar

During the past two years close on 200 South African “rock” bands released CDs. Pretty staggering figures when you pause to think about it. What is perhaps more astonishing, is that not even 10% of these bands are heavy metal bands.

And you’d be hard-pressed to find a local heavy metal band that’s signed to a major label. What is the state of heavy metal in South Africa? Why have the mainstream music media seemingly lost interest in this once controversial genre?

SL magazine recently ran a feature on the state of South African heavy metal which suggested that the metal bands had “gone underground” – forced by changing international market trends to reconsolidate their own DIY ethics of what making metal means.

One band is well-versed in both a DIY existence as well as fluctuating international trends is South Africa’s longest running heavy metal band, Voice of Destruction (VOD), who played their first gig back home in three years at the Purple Turtle in Cape Town as a warm-up for their appearances at the Oppikoppi festival.

VOD were formed in 1986 initially as a punk hardcore band who then followed what drummer Paul refers to as “the inevitable cheesy progression” to thrash metal and finally to a darker, doom-heavy metal – a process which ensured the group’s status as South Africa’s best known metal band.

In 1995, confronted with a totally apathetic and unprofessional local music industry, characterised by its unwillingness and technical inability to record the kind of music that the band were playing, VOD were forced to take their music overseas.

After touring Europe extensively they secured a recording deal with Morbid Records in Germany who released their first offical CD entitled, Bloedrivier in 1996. An album of uncomprising power that takes the listener on an apocalyptic journey into the darker side of the human psyche, Bloedrivier soon gained cult status among local metalheads. It’s an indictment of the inconsistencies within today’s so- called “music explosion” that the CD remains available only on import.

For VOD, heavy metal has absolutely nothing to do with “trends” at all. As vocalist, Francois recently put it: “Heavy metal is not a fad, it’s not a fashion, it’s a style of music.”

And VOD’s music is fucking loud, fucking intense and, yes, fucking heavy. Introducing the VOD classic, Jou Ma Se Poes, Francois growls into the mike: “This one is for all those faggots in the back there. Come out. I can see you. With your long hair and your black clothing. You’re a bunch of fucking pussies!”

There’s a half-pregnant pause as the uninitiated in the audience struggle to come to terms with these filthy words that just kind of hang in the air.

But then the band lets rip and the moshers start tearing the pit apart. Behind the overt political incorrectness of Francois’s bar room blasphemy lies his understanding of the audience’s overwhelming need to be entertained.

Verbal and instrumental violation are VOD’s weapons of choice. Another regular crowd pleaser, the not-so- subtly entitled My Cat’s Cock finds the band in a funky metal jam while Francois stares out across the audience brandishing an armful of kitschy-South African Top of the Pops LPs like some kind of twisted evangelist, flinging them into the crowd and exhorting his moshers to “destroy”.

With original guitarist Greg and bassist Diccon still holed up in the United Kingdom, many people might’ve been excused for having misgivings about whether VOD would still sound like the same band without them.

While the sound might’ve been a little loose at times, the band as a whole were never ragged. On seminal songs like March of the VOD, Stormbringer and If I Had A Soul, stand-in guitarist Johan and bassist Adam from Pothole proved more than equal to the task.

The fact that a wildly enthusiastic crowd packed themselves in to see VOD’s live performance at the Purple Turtle suggests that while audiences might well have traded their Metallica T-shirts in for a more fashionable Marilyn Manson, South African heavy metal is far from dead.

For those who were unable to catch VOD live, there are rumours of an upcoming Halloween gig to look forward to.



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