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Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Kenyan Metal Scene

Recently, Kenya celebrated 49 years as a nation independent of colonial rule. In the subsequent times that they have found themselves once again as an autonomous country, several bands have similarly exerted their creative independence. As can be expected, some of those bands are metal - since metal is a worldwide phenomenon. Heavier music has had a rough time in Kenya and in other African nations and cultures due to skepticism and the general belief that it is inherently satanic in nature. In a recent conversation I had with the congenial metal guitarist Christopher Lilako 'Yagami' of In Oath, he says that people are slowly growing accustomed to heavy metal in his country.

Christopher's band has teamed up with members of Kenyan alternative rock bands Void Of Belonging and Nightshift Theory, along with its own members, to help create In Oath's new harder sound. That rock/alternative sound has been more the norm in terms of popularity in Kenya for a while, a sound reflective in the newer metallic sounds emerging from the Eastern African nation. People are more likely to embrace the local favorites RSK, Dove Slimme, Murfy's Flaw or Parking Lot Grass in terms of musical sound, but there is a growing movement of bands prefering a heavier style.

African metal has its own distinctive sound, which scene producer Chris 'Sarcophagus' Marx conveyed with his 1994 compilation "The Death of Africa, Volume I." While that classic anthology contained many bands from the metal powerhouse of South Africa, there were also bands from other parts of the continent. In fact, Marx is putting out a Volume II sequel to that release, which will undoubtedly feature a Kenyan, Botswanan or maybe even an Angolan band. Check out the Facebook page for news on this compilation over at this location. Possibly the one documentary streaming now on Kenyan metal is Rock Scene Kenya, which features many of the musicians we will explore for you today on Metal Underground. Get a glimpse into the Kenyan scene of African metal through its participants as we unearth three bands from Nairobi today.

In Oath

This combo is one of Kenya's newest entrants. Formed in 2009 and initially influenced by metalcore, these five guys decided to hone their sound into more of a death metal style. Just this year they released their debut EP "Eulogy," four songs of Christian-themed extreme metal. "Eulogy" in its remastered form is available to stream over at bandcamp. In Oath is already recording a full-length album scheduled for 2015 release, which the band says will be its 'defining memento.'

Bassist Steve 'Gitau' Smalls from the band, formerly of Narcissistic Tendencies With Delusions Of Grandeur, made a splash five years ago with his acting debut as the character DJ in the independent film "The Knife Grinder's Tale." That award-winning short film, which received honorable mentions at fourteen foreign film festivals, told the story of a father's journey to uncover the senselessness of his son's murder in the slums of Nairobi.

In Oath - "Eulogy"

In Oath - "Dissociated Identity"

Absence Of Light

These three musicians, and their session drummers, are ranked number one on the Reverbnation charts for Nairobi, Kenya. Absence Of Light are of Indian ancestry, which is very evident when you hear the plethora of eastern influences this band weaves into its supremely heavy technical death metal. Absence Of Light's 2011 debut album, "Vyom Chakra," features nine original tracks and a cover of the Behemoth tune "Demigod." The band is composed of Shiv Mandavia on vocals/bass, along with Angad Gupta and Jay Patel on the twin guitars. Stream the entire "Vyom Chakra" release over on soundcloud.

Absence Of Light - "Samadhi"

Absence Of Light - "Daksha"

Last Year's Tragedy

These guys are the respected elders of the Kenyan metal scene and deliver a post-metalcore sound that infuses several elements such as piano. Sometimes referred to as LYT, these six friends met in college at a time when there were very few rock bands in Nairobi, let alone metal ones. Last Year's Tragedy tirelessly plays festivals, most recently the Rocktoberfest 2012 one. Earlier in the year LYT headlined March From The Underground, a Kenyan rock event that featured free beer. Andromeda Music will be producing the band's new album, and the group plans to film a video for one of the songs which will include shots of its fans. Right now they have a few live videos, although the sound quality is off. What is interesting is seeing how the whole pit of fans bangs their heads in tandem - so different from most scenes.

Last Year's Tragedy is almost finished with recording its actual debut album, something they need to do since they are Kenya's first known rock metal band. They do have three songs that will be on it posted over on Reverbnation, which you can listen to below. On their blogspot, the band mentions that the track "A Tribute to Anarchy" is dedicated to that time four years ago in 2008 when the country erupted in chaos due to political division, 2000 lives lost in the process. The homelessness and violence from that time has still left an imprint, and the band admonishes those in power that did nothing to stop it.

The Kenyan metal scene may be a small one, but it is growing. Even Last Year's Tragedy metions that the scene in Kenya is "at the same level that it was in the days of AC/DC, Diamond Head, Willy Nelson, Queen and other rock bands of note." The great thing about their scene is how the musicians from all the different rock and metal genres come together and support each other's visions. Join us again next week when we unearth a few more bands from another scene or genre.

sonictherapy's avatar

Vicky Willis has been a freelance journalist and former college radio disc jockey for almost twenty years. She has been contributing to Metalunderground.com since 2010.

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9 Comments on "Unearthing The Metal Underground In Kenya"

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Anonymous Reader
1. Ruto writes:

This is a very good piece. I like how it's not just about the shock that there are metal bands out here, but the focus is shifted fully to the music. And that's what its about. Excellent work.

# Nov 2, 2012 @ 7:34 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar


2. hellrat writes:

How fvcking cool is this? way too cool, that's how...Vicki, you frikken rule \m/

I like what I'm hearing...at least first two bands, not so much the core dudes

I wonder if the dudes in Absence are decended from the great legions of Indian Coolies that shouldered the majority of the heavy work in the building of the East Africa rail line back in the late 1890's?

Thanks for hookin me up to these bands Sonic! \m/

NP---In Oath---Dissociated Identity

# Nov 3, 2012 @ 6:35 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Jenny's avatar


3. Jenny writes:

"[Absence of Light] are ranked number one on the Reverbnation charts for Nairobi, Kenya." That kicks ass. I can only what a live show with these guys would look like.

I quite like In Oath. "Eulogy" is a solid track; I especially liked it at 2:18.

Last Year's Tragedy isn't my style of music, but it's great that it shows that all sorts of Metal sub-genres are influencing musicians there.

It's exciting to know that the Metal scene in Kenya is growing, that's for sure. Keep it up, guys!

# Nov 5, 2012 @ 4:09 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Jenny's avatar


4. Jenny writes:

*I can only imagine what a live show with these guys would look like.

# Nov 5, 2012 @ 4:10 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
GORECUNT's avatar


5. GORECUNT writes:

Absence of Light is so f***ing brutal!!! Jenny, you always know best.

# Nov 5, 2012 @ 5:51 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar


6. hellrat writes:

hell ya, Absence IS fvckin sweet, diggin' In Oath as well... been listening most the afternoon to them two....I was curious if AoL were decended from the rail men of old, because them guys laid a LOT of heavy metal back in the early times

Thence, it kinda makes sense...no?

hell, I could be a rapper :)

NP---Born of Fire---Seasons

# Nov 5, 2012 @ 7:04 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
sonictherapy's avatar

Former Contributor

7. sonictherapy writes:

Thank you Hellrat! I sent you an email, but maybe you use a different address now. Yeah, I find that the more I explore the more interesting music that I find.

# Nov 6, 2012 @ 12:22 AM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
Anonymous Reader
8. Pacman :V writes:

Great article. How do you know so much about the Kenyan metal scene? And accurately so. Very impressive!

# Nov 6, 2012 @ 4:28 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address
hellrat's avatar


9. hellrat writes:

Gotcha Sonic! And your email address has been rescued from my evil filters and added to my contacts

Thanks again, and keep up the fine work! Always intriguing and enjoyable \m/

# Nov 6, 2012 @ 5:25 PM ET | IP Logged Reveal posts originating from the same IP address

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