Unearthing The Metal Underground: The "Black Metal" Scene Part 3
The U.S. and a couple of other nations celebrate Black History Month, which was created back in February of 1926 to coincide with the birthdays of Abe Lincoln and Frederick Douglass - and to highlight the achievements of noteworthy black citizens and events shaping black history. It may be February, but here at Metal Underground we feature metal from all ethnicities on any given week.
But in keeping with the Black History Month theme, today we will explore three groups that are composed partially or entirely of all black members. The aggression and power of metal is a worldwide phenomena that crosses all genders, races and creeds. Something about metal just touches your soul, blacks and non-blacks alike, connecting you to this style of music that you just instinctively know you were born to listen to.
I was thinking about the various contributions that black band members have made in several noteworthy rock/metal groups throughout the past four decades when my thoughts drifted to the interesting and amusing frontman Ohene 'Lord' Ifrit of Jamaican black metal band Orisha Shakpana. The guitarist/frontman of that band has personality plus, talking about his Niger-Congo roots, misconceptions white people have about black culture and how black metal should remain pure. Lord Ifrit likes the rawer, Hellhammer-era sound, and likes to change things up by incorporating African stringed instruments into his music. While not all black musicians take the traditional approach, Lord Ifrit has brought plenty of attention to the Caribbean, where he produces the Barbadian band Conrad and remains a unique presence in a scene replete with reggae. He even did a cover of "Insanity" from the Guyanan band Et Tu Brutus on "Caribbean Metal Storm." Check out his new single "The Jamaican Misanthrope" from the upcoming Orisha Shakpana album "Decapitation Lust."
And metal is supposed to be about individuality and not conformity, and coming together via a common thread - perhaps being the reason several ethnicities embrace the genre. This was summarized fairly eloquently by the Canadian journalist Laina Dawes in the fourth chapter of her book "What are you Doing Here?" Laina gravitated towards metal at a very early age, becoming a musician and journalist. It was hard enough to find believable women in the scene a couple of decades ago, but imagine the case with Laina who is a black woman. The book takes us through the journey that she, as a woman of color, has endured as a metal fan. People of her own race shunned her and questioned her own blackness, while many whites left her struggling to feel accepted and be taken seriously as a metal fan.
People would tell her she wasn't really 'black' since she was adopted and raised by a white family - and that would explain her musical taste. Through a series of insightful interviews Laina and her colleagues do, we catch a glimpse into a mindset possibly different from our own. Vignettes from Alexis of Straight Line Stitch, members of God Forbid and even the rock-loving Jada Pinkett-Smith imbue the manuscript with thoughts we may never have even bothered to ponder. Check out a brief piece that NPR Radio did with Laina Dawes, along with exerpts from her book "What are you Doing Here," at this location.
Today on Unearthing the Metal Underground, we will cap off Black History Month by taking a trek down the Americas and getting a closer look at three bands from the Caribbean and from Central America that have afrocentric ethnicity but sound just as metal as anyone, painting a different scene from one that used to be the bastion of mainly white listeners. These groups take the death, groove and thrashing metal sounds and add overtones from their own countries, languages and cultures - sometimes creating something unique and other times crafting a sound that easily competes with groups on the international front. While inherently black, they are undeniably metal.
Lasher Zombie comes from the country of Belize, a protectorate that used to be known as British Honduras. The trio hails from the northern town of Corozal, about fifteen miles from the border with Chetumal, Mexico. Originally started as a two-piece by Lasher (Alfonso Witz) and Howler Zombie (Andy Chuc), the band became a 'killing machine' when Lowell 'Nekro Negro' Gillet answered a MySpace ad and joined on bass. An EP, "Life Final Warning" followed, along with the full-length "Back from Death" on the U.S. label Torn Flesh Records. This album was the first release in Belize's history. In 2012 the Mexican death metal band Lisergia collaborated with Lasher Zombie on the track "Motheruniverse vs Satan."
Lasher Zombie - "Infernal Dreams"
Lasher Zombie - "Back from Death"
Lynchpin is made up of four metalheads who grew tired of the rock scene in Trinidad and Tobago. The masses in that sovereign island nation in the West Indies just off the eastern coast of Venezuela mainly listen to island-infused pop and bands that are offshoots of the ragga/rock band Boomslang. Lynchpin knew they were different, and all had a history in various heavy local groups such as Krucifix, Abaddon, Necropolis, Overdose and Vox Deus. The band leans toward groove metal and has already released a two-track offering, "Six String Demo," in 2011. In August, the band played at the Lockdown 2012 All Star Music Festival with several other bands, just east of Port of Spain on the big island.
Lynchpin - "Rage.Fuelled.Hate"
Lynchpin - "Softest Floor"
Off the western coast of Venezuela in the Netherlands Antilles east of Aruba lies the autonomous nation of Curacao. This is where the band known as Morto Kacho has started its identity shrouded in mystery. Morto Kacho plays brutal death grind from the ghettos of Willemstad, pixellating their faces in promo photos and covering their eyes with black tape a la Brujeria in band shots. They sing in the local language of Papiamentu, which is a mix of Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. Morto Kacho just added the new song "EGObernante" from its album "Wega di Droga," to its reverbnation page.
Morto Kacho - "Morto Kacho"
Morto Kacho - "Tula"
There is no such thing as an unlikely place for a band to hail from anymore, nor an unlikely person to purvey it. And while countless black musicians helped give rise to the beginnings of rock and metal and figure prominently in all kinds of metal bands, the number of black people whose soul is spoken to directly via metal has increased astronomically - as these bands show. Join us again next week when we unearth another scene or genre here at Metal Underground.
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