wrust: here and there, metal in the motherland
By Sound Check
July 1, 2011
Anyone with half of a rock and roll brain knows metal is one of the most easily identifiable and distinguishable sub-genres of Mother Rock. In the 1970’s, it became synonymous with bands like Pantera, Judas Priest and AC/DC. The blues/classic rock/psychedelic lovechild soon gave birth to offspring of its own, including death metal, glam metal, nu metal and more. When it comes to fans, you either are or aren’t with metal; it’s a case study in hate it or love it phenomena. Haters call it loud noise, but (with respect to everyone’s right to choose their tunes), it should be noted most metal musicians are quite skilled and many have been classically trained in their craft. Those so-gnarly-they’re-rad guitar solos require a lot more technical skill than the majority of non-metalheads realize. Others who oppose it do so more passionately. Nonetheless, it’s made its mark in the United States and beyond. Way beyond.
Words by Sierra McClain
While rock came into its own in the United States during the 1970’s, nearly 9,000 miles away, the African continent was celebrating the success of its own musicians, such as Miriam Makeba and Fela Kuti, who gave many around the world their first sonic introduction to the motherland. Just as the beginnings of humankind can be traced back to Africa, so can the origins of various musical genres, including metal. Just as our ancestors were dispersed around the world as a result of the slave trade, so was African music. It was then influenced by the places and cultures to which we were exposed. Unfortunately, the contribution of Africa as the ultimate root and foundation of several modern genres is often overlooked or downplayed. Eventually (thankfully), the orphan went searching for its birthmother and hybrid interpretations of indigenous sounds can now be heard in nearly every country in Africa.
Botswana, located in the Southern region of the African continent, is home to nearly two million people. Of those, around 350,000 reside in the capital city of Gaborone. Among the residents of Gaborone are four tastemakers, kicking musical ass and taking names, who just might be the cure for the common African stereotype. Meet Stux Daemon, Ben Phaks, Oppy Gae and Dem Lord Master-but you can call them Wrust. In the year 2000, when most were recovering from doomsday hysteria, Stux Daemon, was focused on his future-musically speaking. That winter, he assembled 3 other musicians to form the original Wrust lineup. Stux, who pulls double duty as both frontman and guitarist, was influenced by Western rock and especially drawn to metal bands like Metallica, Iron Maiden and Slayer. Playing metal himself was a natural progression once he picked up the guitar.
Unlike many bands in the over-saturated United States market, Wrust was/is a rare commodity. Botswana, like most African countries has a rich and time-tested culture, which includes traditional musical styles that dominate all others. Rather than trying to complete buck the system, Wrust allows their cultural influences to appear organically, even in their hard and heavy music. They have enjoyed a faithful following since almost immediately after stepping onto the scene, playing shows all over Botswana and in surrounding countries, such as South Africa (home of their label, Witch Doctor Records) to crowds many bands in America would envy for the size alone!
After much success playing live shows and touring Africa, Wrust released their first studio album, Soulless Machine, in 2007. In addition to touring and recording, the band has recorded two videos, one of which was my first introduction to the 4-piece. The video, for the song “Why Me?,” was surprisingly gripping and I could only imagine how intense it must be to see them live. With their charisma, stage presence, and musicianship, Wrust makes it look easy to introduce death metal to the motherland. There may not be a large metal community in Africa, but they are definitely a favorite among those who are there. They play consistently packed shows and the internet is a-buzz with critics and fans gushing on them. One of the coolest aspects of the African metal scene is that all of the artists seem to work together and support one another. This is partly due to necessity, given the size of the scene, but noteworthy still. As of yet, Wrust has never played in the United States, but not for lack of reception of their music. Their Facebook page is filled with request after request from fans all over the world for a Wrust show in their city or town.
In the U.S., metal has a widespread image of being, well…more of a “white” thing. Is this country, with all our racial hang-ups and issues, ready to welcome metal artists like Wrust? How would an all-African metal tour be received in America? Is metal still a “final frontier” to be conquered racially or could it be a catalyst for equality across the board? All I know is, I’ll be the first to camp out at the box office when Wrust’s first U.S. show is announced. Who’s with me?!
Sierra McClain publishes more of her writing on her website, iwriteyoushouldread.com.
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