The Women of Botswana’s Metal Scene

Way back in the middle of last year when I originally wrote about the metal scene in Botswana, and in various versions of the paper I have given since then, I expressed an interest in seeing more work covering the women of the scene. This article on Hyperallergic gives us just that, and again it draws on the work of a photographer – this time that of Paul Shiakallis.

Shikallis’s series Leathered Skins, Unchained Hearts is the first work I’ve come across focusing specifically on female Motswana metalheads. It seems to support most of what I have written about Motswana metal – women participate in the scene, and their experience seems broadly similar to that of male fans. Fans report a strong sense of camaraderie within the scene, the metalheads are sometimes thought of as Satanists by other Motswana, and the difficulties of navigating scenic participation alongside mainstream life are felt particularly strongly by female fans. Female metalheads dress in a similar fashion to the men, and adopt similar pseudonyms

The notes on Shikallis’s website suggest that participation in the scene is, for these fans, “a blunt rebellion amidst the ordinary of their lives”, and Hyperallergic agrees, saying it provides a means of self-expression in Botswana’s “conservative patriarchal society”.

Interestingly, Carey Dunne’s Hyperallergic article avoids the typical othering language to be found in much writing about the Motswana scene, which usually exoticises some aspect of scenic practice in order to exaggerate the scene’s African-ness. However it does instead exoticise their femininity – as frequently happens in discourse surrounding women in metal, where female musicians are either exalted or denigrated on the basis of their gender more than their ability, and female fans are singled out as being different to the majority male crowd. These women are not just fans like any other, but are referred to as queens – while male Motswana rockers are never called kings. Of course as a doubly minority identity within metal, and as a challenge to “all orthodox prescriptions of what it means to be black and African”, such titles are powerful and empowering. It’s a difficult for me analyze this, but it’s surely a point worth considering.

I am really looking forward to seeing more work on the Motswana scene, and more responses to Shikallis’s series as the first engagement with the scene’s intersection with gender. I have yet to see any evidence of female musicians in the scene, bar Skinflint drummer Sandra Sbrana; if scenic participation truly is a form of rebellion as Shikallis and Dunne both suggest, then surely more women performing metal in Botswana is a likely next step.

Gig Review – Deathcrusher Tour, October 26th, Vicar St

It’s rare that such a good lineup comes to Dublin. I’ve written about Carcass before and without wanting to sound overly dramatic or clichéd, I would not be here without them. Hearing Symphonies of Sickness when I was fifteen years old was my introduction to extreme metal, and it’s been such a huge influence on my musical tastes.

Doors for this gig opened before six, which is a sure sign that there is a long night ahead.

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Gig Review – Aeternum Vale, Malthusian, Behemoth, December 11th, The Academy

The expected Polish invasion of Abbey St was disrupted by the bad weather yesterday: with all ferries across the Irish Sea cancelled, Behemoth’s fellow countrymen Decapitated were stranded in the UK with their support bands Grand Magus and Wintefylleth. Decapitated were a big draw to this gig, and though I’ve seen them before at a festival, I’d like to see them in a smaller, club environment.

Local bands Aeternum Vale and Malthusian were brought on board to fill up the bill – Aeternum Vale play compelling melodic black metal – lots of distorted trebly tremolo guitars. Their soundcloud is definitely worth a look.

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Gig Review – The Contortionist, The Safety Fire, Protest the Hero, November 28th, Voodoo Lounge

This kind of lineup – progressive and mathcore bands – often attracts a slightly hipper crowd with haircuts and snapbacks alongside more stereotypical metal fans, thanks to mathcore’s strong roots in the (post-)hardcore scene. I’m not fully sure where I fell on this spectrum. I was there in black jeans and band t-shirt and boots, but the band was Job for a Cowboy (a reformed deathcore band), and they were kinda skinny jeans, but on the other hand my beard is a little too unkempt at the moment to be considered hip. It led to a tension of identity, but one that on reflection I think allowed me to be the ideal audience member for a gig of this kind.

I managed to again miss the opening act, on account of being on a bus to the gig while they were on stage. London’s Palm Reader seem to be a catchy, aggressive outfit, with short and punchy songs, and were probably worth a look. Their debut album is on Spotify. Sorry guys, I’ll try catch you next time!

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Gig Review – Malevolence, Goatwhore, Dying Fetus, November 20th, Voodoo Lounge

Last week was the beginning of a seriously music-heavy few months; Wednesday and Thursday saw the ICC 10 festival, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Irish Composers’ Collective. ICC are a wonderful organisation I’m involved in, allowing Irish composers the opportunity to have music performed by some the country’s top contemporary music performers. The festival was a great celebration of the past decade of new music, and it was a really wonderful experience to see so many members past and present in attendance, proving just how strong and vibrant the Irish new music scene is.

As well as ICC 10, there is a huge amount of metal happening in Dublin over the next two months, and this season was kicked off last Thursday at the Voodoo Lounge. This was a rare gig where I came away without any band t-shirts; I missed Fallujah, I wasn’t quite impressed enough by Malevolence to buy merch, and the other two bands I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing in polite company. Continue reading

Lorde: Master of Reinvention

Lorde, whose song Royals last night won Best Rock Video at MTV’s Video Music Awards, must surely be the modern-day David Bowie. No other contemporary artist has reinvented themselves so completely. Look at these photos, one from her victory for Finland at the 2006 Eurovision Song Contest, the other from a concert in 2013.

Lordei

It hardly even looks like the same person!

As well as this stunning visual turnaround, the change in Lordi’s music is remarkable. Who could believe that the woman behind Royals also wrote Bite It Like a Bulldog?

Well done Lorde, and I can’t wait to see how you reinvent yourself next!

Bloodstock Report Part Four: Summary and Other Thoughts

With a great lineup and lovely atmosphere, Bloodstock is definitely a festival I would consider returning to in future. As I mentioned in the second post, we bought the tickets almost a full year in advance, solely on the basis of Emperor’s appearance, when they were the only band announced. Though I would happily have returned to Brutal Assault, I chose to get the Emperor tickets while they were available and as it turned out, Bloodstock’s lineup was more suited to my tastes. In terms of cost, it is obviously a lot more expensive that Brutal Assault, due to their locations, but allowing for the cost of traveling it probably worked out about the same. This may change in future as Ryanair are now serving Prague airport. My choice of festival next year will again be based on lineup.

As I’ve already said, bar the issue of communicating with the fans, I thought the festival was excellently organised. The toilets were usually in great condition, the showers were adequate, and the one schedule change I was aware of was communicated from the main stage hours in advance. There were some disappointments at the merch stand; Emperor shirts  had sold out by Saturday afternoon, and Decapitated didn’t even have any shirts with them, but these problems can’t be blamed on the festival. If the CD selection from the independent vendors wasn’t as obscure as that I’m used to from continental festivals, that’s probably because it’s a lot easier for a merchant with a collection of releases by obscure scene bands to travel across mainland Europe than it is to travel to the UK. Even at Bloodstock, my hobby of seeking out the most offensive grind CDs is probably pretty niche, and it didn’t significantly impact on my fun at the festival, so I can’t hold it against them.

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