And just how is it that a spark struck in Wales, some 13,000 kilometers away, can ignite a flame which is now burning bright in Gauteng, South Africa? We preempted an interview with the Grinch from Octainium before the band rolls into Cape Town for their first trans-provincial tour, along with Gauteng’s Beseech The Enemy and Saints Method in mid-December.
What is surprising to me is that Octainium is not yet a better-known name in the South African underground scene. I’m certain that this is likely to change in the near future, as the band already has an impressive album behind their name, and a track record of a few really amazing gigs; which may have launched them into bigger things had they not been spread so few and far between. However, before looking into the present and prospective future, I wanted to learn a bit more about where the band had come from, and how a great album like The Prophecy (reviewed here) was able to blindside me. As it turns out, although the band became active in South Africa in 2009, its roots had already taken ground in 2007 with vocalist Maritz… all the way in Wales! Although Maritz had got the band started with some locals over there, his work at the time required that he move about and the band was unsustainable as a result. Because Maritz was the writer of most of the songs, he maintained the band name and music whilst the Welsh members moved on to create a new band. When he landed back in South Africa, he immediately reignited the vision of Octainium by beginning sessions with his brother Gert.
“We learned the songs that Maritz had written in Wales,” Grinch told me, “and just took it from there, but otherwise started pretty much from scratch”. With that solid foundation of songs, the band was able to build an albums worth of material over the next 18 or so months, drawing from all band members creative resources, before going into studio. I was intrigued to hear that the band had used Studio Silver Frog, which is known to be operated by Michiel van Niekerk (formerly of the band Erebus) along with David Oosthuizen. “They know their stuff,” said Grinch, “They had a lot to do with making our songs sound a bit better, especially with certain vocal effects, synths, and sub-drops”.
I wanted to also know about some of the lyrical content, since it struck me initially that the content seemed pretty dark – not that I’m saying this is a bad thing; but it is interesting to get a feel for where a band is aiming and to whom they might appeal. “It differs from song to song, although a lot of the songs are aimed at addressing a certain problem”. Grinch went on to describe how it may take the form of political, religious, or personal issues, and would often take on the role of third person. Mostly, he suggested that each song should have a positive message or aim towards a positive outcome. Despite any views I’ve personally had on the album (which, mind you, seem to be similar to the popular view), it seems the band has done well with rave reviews all around. Sales seems to be creeping along at a satisfactory pace too, the Grinch told me, adding that a reprint was going to soon be necessary.
Of course, an album is one thing, but with the anticipated tour just looming over the horizon, people are interested to know what they can expect from a live show. I was actually impressed to hear about some of the shows which Octainium have performed, albeit few of them. Most seem to have been alongside fairly high-profile names, including a show at Hatfield Square with Cutting Jade and Black Cat Bones, an even an acoustic show with The Narrow. I suspect, however, that the reason we in the metal community has not heard about these shows is that although those bands attract huge crowds, they are not metal crowds. Despite having landed those shows, there can be no doubt that Octainium will do well in front of metal audiences too. In fact, this band represents a little strength in what I have always felt is a rather lacking division of South African metal, and that which I describe as: cross-over appeal. Nonetheless, it looks like the band is all set to drive hard into the metal masses in 2013, but not to neglect their cross-over market in the process. Grinch promises “We’d like to start doing some more acoustic shows in 2013, mostly so that we can play more shows in general; unplugged and metal”. He also speaks of the possibility of a new album before 2013 runs its course! Given the listening pleasure I had personally enjoyed from the debut, I am very much looking forward to a follow-up.
For more information on Cape Town Coastal Crusade Tour dates and local support in December, see the official facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/123916997752337/
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