Its a wrap: SA Wacken Metal Battle 2016

Wacken Metal Battle 2016 South African finals

Johannesburg, South Africa: with this country’s third year participating in the global Wacken Metal Battle, which sees approximately thirty (number varies from year to year) bands representing different parts of the world competing at the legendary Wacken Open Air festival in Germany this August. Representing South Africa will be Cape Town band Zombies Ate My Girlfriend who, incidentally, also reached the local finals in 2013 at which point they fell out of the competition for that year. www.metal4africa.com attended the local finals at Rumours Lounge in Johannesburg this weekend to review.

Zombies Ate My Girlfriend victory picture: courtesy of Sammy SlabbertRumours Lounge proves itself as a more-than-suitable venue for this caliber of event, with this being the second year of them hosting the finals event. It is situated in a shopping center with ample safe parking, nearby pharmacy (earplugs!) and supermarket (other urgent requirements for a long day) and in itself is very well equipped with two stages, a kitchen, and some of the most amazing staff. With people beginning to arrive as early as 11h00, and musicians and judges expected from 12h00, an amazing spread of food was provided to feed the VIP’s free of charge, and tantalizing menus laid out for regular patrons. Considering that many people would be bound to the premises for approximately fourteen hours, this was very welcome.

Zombies Ate My Girlfriend victory photograph: courtesy of Sammy Slabbert ~ Sammy SF Photography / The Metalist.

Apart from a hearty lunch, the formalities kicked off at 15h00 with a Wacken Metal Battle-sponsored workshop hosted by our own writer/editor Patrick Davidson. The topic discussed was focused on allowing bands to gain a better understanding of widely acceptable conventions within the local and international Metal music industries, and with particular focus on the importance of active media interaction. Patrick will be summarizing the notes from the meeting so as to distribute to interested persons in the week ahead (if interested, inbox Patrick with your email address requesting the notes). Members from many bands were in attendance and a lot of great and informative ideas shared openly in a very positively cooperative atmosphere. The workshop was followed by a Q&A session by organizers Louis Du Pisani and Sashquita Northey, providing an opportunity for members of the press or public to ask questions about the workings of the battle concept, mechanisms, and proceedings.

After a draw to determine the running order of participating bands, Johannesburg’s instrumental Posthumous performed a riveting opening slot to set the mood for the night of high-octane entertainment which followed. By 18h40, the audience and participants were ready for battle with Bulletscript from Cape Town taking the stage.

Reminiscent of a groove-laden variable of Machine Head, Bulletscript looked an impressive sight with matching guitars and a red-on-black colourscheme. With the evening’s entertainment already kicked off by the guest opener, a ready crowd engaged the bands music in glorious headbanging.

They were followed by Johannesburg’s death/melodic metal hybrid Octainium who, arguably, displayed the most remarkable vocal performance of the night and frontman Mauritz demonstrating a firm command of the crowd. They definitely represented one of the crowd favourites for the event.

Desolation from Durban brought a Death Metal onslaught featuring dual-vocals with husband-and-wife team Aldine and Nic Venter leading the charge (Nic on drums, for those who didn’t see the second vocalist). The band belted out a solid performance, showing Gauteng that brutal music is alive and well near the coast.

Cape Town’s Zombies Ate My Girlfriend took to the Wacken Metal Battle South Africa finals stage for their second time since 2013 and gave a fine display of what three years back at the drawing boards can achieve, delivering an electrifying and unified performance of savage modern Metal songs. The amount of collective stage and performance experience was easily visible by this “all-star” act in which each member is a scene veteran having accomplished significant things even before the formation of ZAMG.

Durban’s Vulvodynia have shown a remarkable entry to the live circuit since upgrading from “studio project” as recently as last year with their take-no-prisoners and business-like attitude. Extra points were scored for their noteworthy merchandise stand, selling anything from t-shirts to mousepads. Most remarkable, however, is how the bands energy translated into the audience. There is no doubt that this band is on an upward trajectory which may likely outpace any other from this country with time.

From Pretoria, bringing a groovy Thrash/Death-inspired apocalypse to the stage, Killatoria provoked an ironically cheerful moshpit, with everybody involved grinning like idiots (meaning this in the best spirit, of course) most of the time.

Johannesburg’s fast-rising Riddlebreak brought an eclectically-charged dose of Alternative Metal to the stage, and in the mind of this particular reviewer, delivered the most musically interesting performance with lots of aural-dynamism and changes of mood and pace throughout the set.

Lastly but certainly not least, Cape Town’s final contribution to the competition arrived on stage with Subject To Slaughter whose offering of a brutal djent-infused massacre certainly added a few bruises to any who still had the strength to mosh; which still numbered a goodly amount of metalheads for the lateness of hour and intensity of entertainment before.

Closing off the evening’s entertainment were the previous (2014) South African representative at the international finals, Red Helen, who performed a guest slot whilst judges went behind closed doors to tally up their score sheets.

The announcement of Zombies Ate My Girlfriend as this year’s South African representative was warmly received by many in attendance. Obviously, some disappointment from the die-hard fans of other bands and genre-styles visibly ensued, and the emotional residual from other participants will take some time to clear. These things are expected and no matter how brave a face people put forward, it hurts not to be chosen for such an honour after so much hard work. Though what can be said is that everybody put on sterling performances and delivered one of the highest standard of local entertainment that could be expected from an all-South African line-up. For all bands and fans, surely this will be remembered as a very special date which was a privilege to witness and partake in first-hand.

Zombies Ate My Girlfriend 2015

To the guys in this band now charged with the responsibility of representing South Africa in Germany, well done and all the best. Go forward and make your countrymen proud!

Wacken Metal Battle 2016 South African panel

Pictured above from left to right are the organizer and judges panel: Søren Kristiansen (experienced international Wacken Metal Battle judge, writer/co-founder at www.blastbeast.dk and musician from Denmark), Sashquita Northey (local events promoter at Emalyth/Arts Expo and band manager), Louis Du Pisani (local battle organizer/non-judge), Duncan Bell (local events promoter at Turning Tricks Entertainment/Krank’d Up music festival), Ebony-Rae Aberdein (vocalist & concept designer for Theatre Runs Red, and alternative fashion designer), Kimberleigh Chaye (publicly nominated “super-fan” judge), Patrick Davidson (writer/editor at www.metal4africa.com and local musician), and Nathan McClure (brand manager/podcaster at Build Your Scene and local musician). Photograph courtesy of Alexander Wolf at Alexander Wolf Photography.

A previous article by Patrick Davidson describes some details on how members of the judging panel might have scored participating bands and remains relevant to the current year of battle for those interested.