[Song Review] Usiku Mbaya by Rash


Rash Band Kenya’s Hard Rock export whose hard edge co-mingles with the dreary enchantments of 80s metal, released their 8th single since their inception. The song, “UsikuMbaya” released together with a music video. Check it out on Youtube.

UsikuMbaya represents Rash band’s third installment in its flirtation with darkness. These guys inspired by bands like the Ramones, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Judas Priest, wear their enthusiasm for music with the ‘thriller montage’. In their first days Argentinian brothers Sebastian Filardi and Mattsimiliano Ge Pe wore their hair very long, and their leather very black. Max who plays lead, was adept with the occasional solo. He seemed born to it. Rhythm guitarist Abedi wore a fixed gaze as he played a steady and mesmerizing rhythm. In the club where I first saw them play, the free sway of his neck seemed to suggest that he’d hypnotized himself into a trance. Even Sam Warui’s operatic crescendo never woke him from that.

It was a dream, that they all participated in a dream that conjured songs like ‘Darkness and Witchcraft’, their very first single, recorded at Kamata Studios. A song about the cunning and deceitful nature in which the true enemy presents itself.

But their second installment, “Msafiri”, Swahili for traveler crowns everything else they ever did. Recorded and produced by Shinigami Studios, Msafiri masterfully toyed with the rush that fear and alienation excites. Thrashing cymbals and droning guitars seeped in at the beginning of the song, setting a tense mood. Catchy drum work and riffing balances out that dread. That balancing act was the perfect recipe of a song that exposed people’s morbid desire to be drawn out to a world where survival isn’t sure, where death icy breath waves gently on the back of your neck. Out there in the cold reaches of space, damnation is sure, but nature still dangles hope in the shape of the warm distant ball of flame. You grasp for it in vain as you roll aimlessly amongst empty worlds.

Msafiri’s theme aside, there was one other graceful element in the mix. Amidst the burgeoning waves of heavy guitar riffs, boisterous bass lines, the silky vocals of Sam Warui, there was that awe inspiring solo, crisp, and quit impossible to believe that its crafter wasn’t playing with an additional 10 fingers. Like a gleaming light, it cleaves a straight and shining path across the dark tableau.

I never thought i’d see the likes of that song again until these guys dropped UsikuMbaya. Perhaps a continuation to where Msafiri stopped. It has much the same elements that made Msafiri so memorable. A perfect meshwork of Swahili and English lines. The rhythm rolls steadily, like a train in the Eastland landscape of Nairobi. The guitar solo isn’t as prominent but I have no complaints in that respect.

“UsikuMbaya” , the Swahili phrase that describes the malevolent night. Here under the enveloping shroud of darkness, Rash band continue their tale of woe, where death’s bell rings silently. Confusion and turpitude know no bounds. Calamity draws closer with every gasp for breath. The blind is no less aided than those who’s sight still lingers.

Here in the endless night of damnation, the steady guitar rhythm accompanies the muffled moan of a distressed mind, like a mocking bird parched on the shoulder of a sailor lost at sea. With empty eyes, the journey began in ‘Msafiri’ is long forgotten.

The stench of death mixed with guilt is heavy in the air. Naked and grotesque is the realization of being truly lost. There is no savior. There is no moon.

And now

Wide and bottomless is the cavern that open its mouth to consume him. UsikuMbaya is the sister; the sequel to the story that began in ‘Msafiri’. While the journey began there in starry night, its horrors are unsealed in the pitch blackness of unencumbered midnight.

There the soul, deprived of hope, on the edge of nothingness, in sharp and sailing crescendo sings ‘everything is dark, dark, dark’.

Curiously while every other element of this track plays out in a sad tone, the drum work is catchy almost like the narrator was getting an absolute kick out of telling this story of a guy lost to the ravages of alcoholism. You find yourself inexplicably dancing to a tune that is inspired by calamity. Indeed I have on occasion imagined, Sam Gakungu wide eyed, smile stretching from ear to ear, ploughing away gleefully on those drums, while around the images of a man, trying to manage his staggering pace, has his insides devoured by cheap liquor, another mops the cobbled street with his warm blood, crooked knife sticking from his gushing wound.

But like we enjoyed Michael Jackson’s thriller or the lovecraftian horror inspired Msafiri, Rash have managed to play with the most dreadful of topics, and we are here, unable to cease in our enjoyment.

This review is written by Dani Kobimbo, a guest reviewer. Dani is a mindless critic that dreams of creating a utopia of African Sounding rock music. Dani runs the awesome Kenyan rock blog, Heavy and the Beast, be sure to check it out!

He can be reached via email mail danikobimbo@gmail.com, Facebook facebook Dani Kobimbo and Twitter twitter @kob46

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