Extreme metal recently made a welcome return to Mercury Live in Cape Town, which used to be a hub of alternative music a few years back. George van der Riet of Strident was in the mosh pit on the 21st of May.
I was recently unfortunate enough to be subjected to a night of Drum and Bass at Mercury Live. Now, seeing as this is a site called Metal4Africa and not Shit4Brains, I am going to assume most of you reading this have no qualm with me shamelessly debasing this genre of so-called “music”. I don’t want to take up space with endless lamenting about what’s wrong with the kids of today and how popular music is brainless and repetitive (hey, some would say this about genres of metal) but gosh darn, what the hell is wrong with the kids of today? I find it disturbing the gross misappropriation our local youth place in what they consider art or entertainment. A man with a box and epileptic lights makes display of musicianship not. But let’s move on shall we – recently I was also at Mercury Live for an evening of entertainment. It was rumoured by some to be Judgment Day on that date, but a hell of a wholly different kind than Drum and Bass and religious fanaticism awaited me and I can tell you my ears were bleeding for a completely different reason.
Mercury have apparently found their balls again and for the first time in a while, the stage saw three of Cape Town’s foremost extreme metal outfits; Suiderbees, Heathens and A Walk With The Wicked. Upon entering I noticed a number of upstanding members of the local metal community present and knowing their discernment for quality in the scene for a good number of years, I knew it was a gig that promised to deliver the goods.
Suiderbees were up first brandishing their own brand of symphonic death metal. Having heard them before I partially knew what to expect, but to someone new to Suiderbees this night they would’ve been forgiven for not noticing the “symphonic” part. This was mostly due to the sound quality, which surprisingly, was not up to par. The keyboards were totally drowned out by the guitars and drums, and although crushing and at times lightning fast, simply became a muddy sea of harsh noise. The band themselves played decently, and their song structure really sets them apart from your run-of-the-mill death metal band (also, their catch phrase is “Beespoesbrutal” which I guess can let you gauge the heaviness of the music). The poor sound made listening and headbanging to them quite awkward at times though, the flow of the songs broken and transitions between them a discomfited lull instead of anticipation. This was a good and solid performance, but not Suiderbees’ best.
Up next was a type of progressive black metal band not usually seen in Cape Town – a good one. I am going to be frank, I am by no means a fan of black metal but over the last couple of years it has grown to mean different things lyrically, visually and musically. Heathens manages to capture both a sense of sweeping, icy vistas and headbanging beats that pummel. Their vocals are not comically black metal but have a hint of piercing harshness that fits in well with the music. Visually, Heathens could be mistaken for a grunge band (I would make some wry reference to how they do visually represent black metal but I imagine Keenan would have something humorous to say about it). This takes nothing away from their music, in fact it shows a lack of pretense which is refreshing, and the band’s idiosyncratic appearance and onstage personality add to the performance. Interesting and dark riffs and intense beats mixed with speed made for a unique sound and although I thought the sound problems would have been ironed out by now, the sheer volume of it again made things difficult to discern.
After Heathens, the Death Groove Train pulled in in the form of A Walk With The Wicked. These guys are no strangers to the local scene and have since they started, in my mind, set the benchmark for local death metal bands who want to create a stand-out sound. Their songs do have an intrinsic groove that gets the heads windmilling and the fists pumping without sacrificing brutality, and some key, old-school death metal elements. Like their song titles – “Medical Miscarriage”, you gotta love that. You also have to love their riffs, because really, they are as catchy as the Ebola virus. Again, I know this from having previously seen and heard them, but much of their machine-gun riffing and deep growls were lost. The sound had evened out somewhat by this point, but it certainly wasn’t the best I’ve heard them. They were joined by Sabretooth drummer, Damian Rijkers, on the thunder-sticks for this gig as a stand in, but he seemed to fit into the groove of the band quite easily. By the time they had finished their set, the evening had gone on well past midnight and there were fewer people left than I hoped would be.
All in all I enjoyed the night’s entertainment, save for the debilitating sound quality and the waning attendees, it was fun. A great show that could’ve been excellent – but certainly a fitting, brutal welcome back for metal to Mercury. And by the looks of things on Drum and Bass night, by Lucifer they need it.
Photography by: Cathryn Golby