Infanteria: mark 10-year milestone with gig

Infanteria 10-year anniversary

Cape Town, South Africa: we’ve been hearing those rare stories about local metal bands achieving their 10-year milestones every once in a long while. V.O.D (Voice Of Destruction) and Sacraphyx in Cape Town, or Agro and Architecture Of Aggression up North… and then the extraordinary case of Johannesburg’s SacriFist who have just put out their latest album to punctuate a career of 23 years. But all of these bands were pioneered by instigators born of a previous generation, where the same applied for later long-stay arrivals such as Terminatryx (co-founded by ex-V.O.D drummer Paul Blom) or ING (Infiltrate Neutralize Govern, co-founded by ex-Insurrection frontman and guitarist Brian Viljoen). What happened to those which were formed by the youngsters of the post-apocalypse (supposedly) Y2K?

Well, in Cape Town the apocalypse was apparently real… for traditional and extreme metal bands, at least. Most new bands at the turn of the millennium were focused on the then-fresh sensation of internationals such as Korn and Limp Bizkit, throwing the likes of Thrash, Death, Power Metal, and any close relatives out into the wind. It was as if somebody had gone and pushed a big red ‘reset’ button on the local Metal Scene. But hark! A new generation slowly rose from the ashes. Mind Assault emerged in 2004, echoing a more traditional metal sound again, and thrashers Infanteria came hot on their heels. Cape Town had begun actively forging it’s new generation of decennial legends-to-be; only not limited to traditional sounds, but also including from the nu-metal ranks with Ill System.

Infanteria original bandAnd so Infanteria are celebrating their 10-year milestone with a special performance this weekend at ROAR. We caught up with founding member, frontman and guitarist Christopher Hall to trace the band’s journey and achievements for the last decade.

“My love for rock music started with my Dad playing music by Queen, Elvis, The Eagles, etc, and as my teens took hold, I heard Guns N Roses and Metallica for the first time. I had only just started learning to play guitar at the time, but that was the game-changer for me. I knew I wanted to play guitar and be a performing artist. I was obsessed! We lived in a tiny, mainly Afrikaans-speaking town in the Klein Karoo and the way I got heard was through my guitar playing. I was extremely shy so I didn’t make all too many friends. I would stay at home on weekends and play guitar. My brother, Rob, had the ‘metal bug’ too and my parents bought him a drum kit for his fourteenth birthday – there began Infanteria, basically.” ~ Chris Hall

With M4A achieving our own decennial milestone this year, we took a moment to reflect with Chris, considering that Infanteria was, in fact, the first band to ever play on “the M4A stage” by being the openers at our very first one-day festival event A Showcase Of Africa Metal on June 16, 2007.

“It was only about a year since we moved to Cape Town and got Barry and Jarrod on board. We were very fresh and naive, but we knew we had decent songs and we believed in ourselves wholeheartedly. I think that was the important thing – we took our music and band seriously, and we had aspirations for success. We were also completely honoured to be asked by the Mind Assault guys to open the show. They believed in us and we took that to heart. The M4A shows have always been very dear to us because it was the gateway to many more people listening to us and getting us on the ‘big stage'” ~ Chris Hall

Infanteria at an early M4A show

Of course, through six years of hard work and the eventual release of a debut album in 2013, Infanteria had grown up sufficiently to not only return and headline the M4A stages in that same year, but also to take part in – and win the South African leg – of the global Wacken Metal Battle competition. This great display in the virtues of patience and perseverance beg the question to be asked, what are the key’s to longevity for a band in such a small scene? Of course, this question applies largely to Chris himself, being the only founding members still in the band – yet each line-up change over the years has seen the band grow in strength and tenacity.

“I definitely didn’t plan for so many changes (laughs). I think when you start a ‘high school band’, there will always be casualties along the way. People grow up, get jobs, marry, move overseas… shit happens! But I’ve always felt confident in Infanteria and what it stands for, and how much more I still want to achieve with the band. I’ve also been extremely fortunate to know the right people at the right time. I’ve always had someone to go to when a member has left and, unbelievably, each member has made the band better. Adriano has been in the band for five years now and Tim, three. I was saddened beyond belief when Rob had to leave but, again, we’re so fortunate to have Adrian in the band now and it’s the strongest Infanteria line-up yet.” ~ Chris Hall

Infanteria live at RAMfest 2014
Infanteria @ RAMfest CT 2014: photograph by J-H Bartlett

With a claim to the band being stronger now than ever, one can assume that on the one hand, Infanteria – at it’s base level – was already an attractive enough force to be able to seduce high-caliber new players, and; has somehow evolved to gain more momentum with each new face appearing over the years.

“Each member has given so much to the band. Barry (first lead guitarist) was and still is a complete guitar virtuoso. He really made me push myself as a guitarist and songwriter. Jarrod (original bassist) was all passion and a great stage presence – you wanted to rock out with the guy! Rob (Rob Hall, brother of Chris and long-time drummer) was my right-hand man. He knew me and I knew him, and the two of us worked so well together. Mark (bassist) was the anchor and voice of reason. If we got a bit carried away with an idea or something, he would help pull us back to reason. Jared Phillips (ex-keyboardist) really helped us work with melody and think about melodic parts differently. Adriano (current lead guitarist) pretty much saved this band. When Barry left, I was seriously down and had no idea who could replace him. Right now, I can’t imagine playing guitar with anyone else. True talent and a great friend. Tim (current bassist) is an absolute behemoth. He completely controls the stage and is a pleasure to be around with his abundance of positive energy. And to end it of, Adrian’s (current drummer) accomplishments speak for themselves. He is the complete professional through-and-through. Absolute pleasure.” ~ Chris Hall

Of course, we would like to bring focus to Saturday night’s 10-year anniversary show with Infanteria headlining, and support only from one other band, Wargrave. It is interesting to note how many bands in the local scene often tend to lack the confidence to host a ‘headline’ show where they feature themselves as the key act, rather than piling in with a whole lot of other bands. We asked Chris what he thought the key elements are to reaching this point.

“Not many bands in South Africa get to this point and with two albums under our belt, and the pedigree of shows we’ve played in the last three years, we thought we could make a statement with this anniversary show and get all our mates in one venue to enjoy it with us. I’ve been friends with the Wargrave guys since 2010 and they’ve gone from strength to strength too. It’s going to be one hell of a party. Another massive call card for this show is the fact that we’ll be playing our latest album Where Serpents Conquer in it’s entirety.” ~ Chris Hall

With that, we also wanted to know what kind of mileage Chris sees for the band once this decennial hurdle had been leaped. By all indication – for Chris, for sure – Infanteria has every desire to knock the block off another decade. There is talk of more touring, and definitely another album in the foreseeable future. This is a productive metal machine which shows no sign of stopping or slowing any time soon!

To conclude, and for other decennial hopefuls who might be reading, we asked Chris to comment on what elements – in his experience and views on some of the other above-referenced longstanding bands – should one focus in order to achieve such longevity in music?

“All those bands have the same attitude of ‘We’re not giving up and fuck you if you want us to! This shit is fun!’ For me, I really enjoy playing live with Infanteria and writing music with my best mates. We have expanded our sound and added to it, and that’s all part of the fun – improving your band rather than breaking it down and starting all from scratch again.” ~ Chris Hall

If the poster below should somehow prove insufficient for info on this weekend’s Anniversary show, then also visit the official facebook event page.

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Infanteria 10 year anniversary poster