Headbanging, mosh pits, stage dives, blast beats; these are amongst some of the last things you’d expect to see within Nairobi’s bubbling night life. After all, the default opinion by many people is that Africans don’t listen to rock, let alone heavy metal. Before Saturday night’s show, several onlookers at The Alchemist commented to me that they did not even realise there was a rock scene within Kenya, the sight of everyday Kenyans headbanging and moshing to metal music was a sight to behold!
On Saturday 11th November, those opinions were challenged and quashed altogether as the metal scene within Nairobi roared to life at the annual ‘Nairobi Metal Festival’. The line-up consisted of local and international metal bands teaming-up to make Nairobi headbang. Representing the local scene was Last Year’s Tragedy, Straight Line Connection and Irony Destroyed. Hailing from Uganda, African doom-metal legends Vale of Amonition made their debut on Kenyan soil. Italian hardcore outfit Slander made their African, and Kenyan, live debut alongside French metalcore heavyweights In Other Climes.
With a line-up this intense and brutal, it was beyond reasonable doubt that the ‘YU Rock’ team had delivered Nairobi it’s heaviest show to date. And by Odin’s beard the show was heaviest thing to grace Kenyan soils! (And yes, even heavier than the crippling debt we’ll be left to deal with as a result of Chinese loans and trade deals sips tea)
Kicking off the show was newcomers Straight Line Connection. With virtually no information about this band, the rockers that showed up were curious to hear their sound and check out what they can do. And these guys did not disappoint!
Being the first band on stage can always be a daunting and vexing encounter. In my experience, a majority of bands prefer not to be the opening act. However, Straight Line Connection were beyond professional about this and they took it in stride. Within a few minutes of their opening song, people slowly made their way to the stage to watch the lads in action.
The three-piece band had an extremely progressive rock sound to their music and while watching them I was reminded of bands such as Mastodon and Tool, with a little bit of Porcupine Tree and Opeth thrown in the mix. The sole guitar, drums and bass blended into a beautiful harmony as the trio loudly and charismatically introduced themselves to the local rock scene. There was also a compelling allusion to the stoner doom band Stoned Jesus, a sentiment which Irony Destroyed’s bassist Denis shares.
Straight Line Connection is a band to keep your eyes on, and I look forward to seeing these guys at more shows in the coming future.
Making their Kenyan debut, Ugandan doom metal legends Vale of Amonition did not disappoint as they delivered one of the most crushing sets we have ever heard! Despite listening to their music, I had never seen the Vale perform live and I was excited to see what the bringers of doom had in store.
Discordant guitars were met with a deep crooning voice over heavy bass lines and crushing drums. Victor, the lead vocalist, delivered an unforgettable performance and kept the crowd entranced throughout the band’s set. While watching the band perform, all I could think was how he epitomises the very essence of doom metal with his demeanour. In many ways, Victor’s performance conjured the image Robert Plant performing with a doom metal band. The set genuinely felt like time stood still as we all stared in awe at the band. This set was so heavy, I swear I had visions!
Vale of Ammonition are set to add a new album on to their already impressive discography. If one band has proven that there are no limits to the African music scene, it is Vale of Ammonition as they are constantly breaking barriers and shattering misconceptions
Local metalcore legends Last Year’s Tragedy played their first show of 2017 at the Nairobi Metal Festival. This was personally a special set for me as LYT is one of the first local bands I saw, plus I had not watched them perform in about five years. That being said, LYT’s performance was well worth the five years wait as it completely blew me away!
The lads kicked off their set with the single ‘Matiangi’s Revenge’ and once Dee hit the first note on his guitar, the whole crowd burst into pandemonium – evidently, I wasn’t the only one excited to see the lads hit the stage.
Watching LYT perform was surreal, I first saw them pay live when I was 15. Last time I saw them perform I was 18. Five years down the line I would continue thinking about the last time I saw them on-stage and the things they did to my body – their music touched me in places I’ve only read about on the internet.
The highlight of LYT’s performance was the beautiful exchange of screams and harmonies between Chizi and Ted. Personally, I was not expecting Ted to be singing all the highs and cleans in the song, but it added a new element to the performance and LYT are once again setting the bar as high as ever. Last Year’s Tragedy delivered a breath taking performance that further served to cement their place within Kenyan metal folklore as one of the greatest bands to come out of our country – and dare I say it, one of the greatest African metal bands we have seen to date.
Hailing from the coastal city of Nice, French metalcore and hardcore outfit In Other Climes made their debut as the first French hardcore band to perform in Nairobi. If you’ve watched any of their live videos, you know you’re in for a treat when you attend an In Other Climes show. And my word, what a performance these guys delivered!
In Other Climes got the show on the road by vocalist Michael declaring to the awaiting masses that “this stage is yours!”. This was promptly followed by a hoard of fans jumping on stage with the band. I was a little concerned that this may interfere with the bands performance, however it only added to it as I had personally never seen a band pull off such a fete. Michael urged all the fans to stage dive and without needing any further convincing, bodies were raining from all directions – I got headbutted in the face and left with a bloody nose, and I’m pretty sure at least 4 people fell face first on the floor, it was epic!
Metal. As. Fuck.
Those 3 words are the only way to describe In Other Clime’s maiden African performance. From stage dives, circle pits, a mosh pit from hell and Michael pouring whiskey down the throats of fans; In Other Climes undoubtedly delivered the most hardcore set of the night – as evidenced by the battered and broken crowd after their extraordinary performance.
Apart from their sensational act, the lads from In Other Climes are some of the nicest people I have met my whole life and they had nothing but thanks and praise to all the local fans that showed up to watch them tear the house down.
Having been turned onto this band a few months before their Nairobi show, I became obsessed with these Italian lads and I waited eagerly to watch their on stage performances. Italian hardcore punks Slander are famed for their intense live performances and their rock n’ roll lifestyle. Let me just say, there is no other band in the world that epitomises all the rock n’ roll stood for like these guys!
Blast beats, roaring guitars, intense vocals and exceptional showmanship – in a nutshell this is what Slander delivered, but you had to be there to experience it in all its glory. The highlight of their performance was them playing ‘Numbers’ of their latest E.P Calunnia. I had been playing this song on repeat almost daily as I patiently, not really, waited for them to grace Kenyan shores and deliver this masterpiece in front of my very own eyes.
The Italian hardcore gods will hold a special place in our hearts for delivering one of the most enthralling and impressive performances I have ever seen in Nairobi. Apart from being exceptional musicians, the boys from Slander were amazing people to talk to face to face and it was an honour to speak to them and hear all the kind words they had for the Kenyan scene. How nice were they? So nice that I walked away with a physical copy of one of my favourite records to date!
Nairobi based metalcore outfit Irony Destroyed was the final act on the bill and they ensured that the crowd got its money’s worth as they had us all moshing until the final note was played.
Powerful vocals from Lawrence and very solid guitar work from Lenny were the highlights of the bands exceptional set. Lenny delivered some of the best guitar work I have seen in the local scene and he managed to hold it down despite playing as the sole guitarist. Lawrence had fantastic stage presence. Irony Destroyed have refined their sound by leaps and bounds over the past few months and have gone on to solidify themselves as one of the stand-out bands within the local Kenyan scene.
The ninjas from Irony Destroyed – please don’t kill me – literally destroyed the stage and left Nairobi begging for more. I am eager to see what these talented ninjas have in store for 2018, and I am patiently and excitedly looking forward to seeing them hit the stage again.
Nairobi turned into a wheat-field of people headbanging and moshing late into the night. Bodies were bouncing off every surface. Smiles and laughter, accompanied by metal horns, illuminated the venue. For a brief period, it felt like time had stood still and everything that has happening outside the venue was irrelevant. I say thank you to all the bands, organisers and staff involved in the Nairobi Metal Festival, it was a truly unforgettable experience for fans and musicians a-like.
The next instalment of the Nairobi Metal Fest will be in November 2018, and we are already patiently waiting to see how the Yu Rock team will top this year’s event – because this edition really set the bar high!
Nairobi, you’re beautiful, what a night it was.
Lead guitarist and primary composer at Crystal Axis
Title Image courtesy of the Alchemist Bar, Nairobi.