SAMMA Chronicles 2017: Evolution – Single to EP to Album

SAMMA 2017 album nominees
SAMMA 2017 Best Album top 5 nominees

Johannesburg, South Africa: After the roars of the crowd have died down and a last bit of feedback has shrieked it’s final say, what is left for the metal fan? How do they bring back that experience of watching the live show and listen to the tracks again and again? Play at home – and anywhere – options of course.
More and more South African Metal bands are releasing albums, but what is there to satisfy the avid fan while they wait for a full length masterpiece? A single for starters, and maybe an EP as a palette cleanser, while we wait for the main course with baited breath.

SAMMA Singles for starters

Most bands will release a single when they are at the very start of the recording process. This gives the fans a little taste of what is to come and also helps the bands promote their music on a wider scale.

“Seeing that our style of Progressive Metal – which we like to call Terror Metal – is very obscure and intense, we challenge ourselves on every album with a song that is outside our comfort zone. Overall, our music is very slow, so a song like ‘Dimorphism’ forced us to up the tempo to appeal to a wider audience. We chose it as a single to showcase our growth from the first album in terms of intensity, structure and song writing.” ~ Thomas Theron (vocals, Megalodon)

To get the greatest benefit from the recording process, which can prove costly for the bands, singles are also a great way to get more exposure before funding full albums.

“Well, recording ain’t cheap, so we just chose the most recent track we wrote and decided to release it as a single. It will keep the fans happy until we release the album later this year. This track (‘Till Death’) is about overcoming one’s inner demons and most of our material is dark and sinister.” ~ Kevin Kirkland (guitar, Nerve Zero)

The single which a band releases does not always have to be the newest track, sometimes the single chosen to be released is an old favourite with a new angle which demonstrates the versatility and technical capability of the members.

“‘The Group’ was the first song I learned when I joined Raptorbaby. It was the song that set the mood and defined what Raptorbaby would become. It was also bloody difficult to play… still is! It was also the first track I recorded for Citadel. It felt a bit like a full-circle. That’s why it felt right to release the first… first.” ~ Lolke-Louis Claassen (drums, Raptorbaby)

“‘The Group’ was one of the earliest songs written, and the first song the band ever learned to play together. It’s got a lot of fast and technical bits, but also beautiful moments of melody which serves as a payoff to the more challenging parts. So, in a way, it encompasses all of what we are stylistically. And it’s a real bastard to play, so it is good to show off our technical chops. We had actually phased it out of the set list in favour of newer songs over a year ago, but while recording, Vincent (vocals) came up with such a beautiful striking chorus for the song, that we knew we had to release it as the lead single.” ~ Doug Jenkinson (guitar, Raptorbaby)

EP for the win

Extended play… on the road to a full length album. A number of bands go for this option, especially for their first releases, as it is the “Best of Both Worlds” so to speak. It gives the listener more than one track to listen to, allowing the band to showcase more of their work whilst being a bit more affordable than a full album.
Monolith 2016 Memory PalaceUsually the most popular, as well as tracks which show the capability and sound of the band, are selected to be on these EPs. What are some of the nominees favourites from their nominated EPs?

“Our favourite track would have to be ‘Relic’ as it is a blast to play live.” ~ Christopher Paterson (guitar/vocals, Monolith)

“It changes as often as we lose plectrums. It mostly bounces between ‘Your Faith Suffocates’, ‘Rogue’ and ‘Something Sick’.” ~ Gareth Reed (guitar/backing vocals, Riddlebreak)

Sometimes the individuals differ, as each takes their own from the music:

All We've Known 2016 Human Nature artwork

“Title track ‘Human Nature’.” ~ Vaughn Botha (vocals, All We’ve Known)

“Downright Disgrace.” ~ Dill Jones (guitar, All We’ve Known); Shaun Manley (guitar, All We’ve Known)

“As if it never mattered.” ~ Joseph Quinn (bass, All We’ve Known)

What most the fans will want to know is if the guys are working on a full length album.

“We are currently finishing up the writing for the full length album. We hope to have it out by early next year.” ~ Christopher Paterson

“We have been working on new material, some may have heard us perform a new heavy song called ‘The Hog’ at a few gigs recently. Be on the lookout for more new heavy stuff! We’ve got some groovy tunes in the works. We do ask our fans to be patient with us though, we are busy writing new material but no set date on a new album as yet. Watch this space.” ~ Gareth Reed; Julian Vosloo (guitar, Riddlebreak)

“We are currently working on our first full length and people can expect it towards the end of the year, or perhaps early next year, depending on how the process goes. We are big believers in taking as much time as possible as a rushed output is never really a good idea when you want to make an impression.” ~ Dill Jones

How art thou album?

There is a lot which goes into the art of album writing, recording and releasing. Often times, a daunting task for bands, but one that the fans appreciate very much.

“Our inspiration (for Convergence) was to almost reinvent ourselves. This required upping our game musically, lyrically as well as writing and performance wise. We were lucky enough to have Vinnie form Dead Letter Circus produce the album for us and he played a massive role in the song writing process too. It’s the only album I’ve been involved in which a year down the line I’m still very happy with. Vinnie was brutal in his constructive criticism of us. He basically shook us back to life. If an idea wasn’t ‘great’ but merely ‘good’ it didn’t make it onto the album. Were a better band today because of the making of Convergence.” ~ Wayne Boucher (vocals/guitar, Deity’s Muse)

Raptorbaby 2016 Citadel

“We wanted to have a concept behind the album (Citadel) to tie it all together, but that was a challenge because all the songs that we recorded were not necessarily related, so we came up with the idea of a lonely character who is the last human on Earth, studying history and stories in a grand library call the “Citadel”, with each song serving as a story or lesson that this character encounters. The album was written over the course of about 4 years, but really the goal at first was to just write songs, and eventually have a collection that we could sit down and record. We must have demoed about 20 to 25 different songs over that 4-year period, and 10 made it onto the album.” ~ Doug Jenkinson

“We kind of had most of the basic song ideas over the last few years, then we coupled ourselves up on Herman’s plot for a couple of months, took a lot of hallucinogenics and deconstructed the [email protected] out of everything.” ~ Jovan Tutunovic (guitar/backing vocals, Juggernaught)

Mezzanine Floor 2016 Architecture Of Aeons

“The interest has always been there to write concept albums and towards the end of our previous album, Feed the Machine, we had already started dabbling with the idea; although still very much in its infancy and limited to stand alone tracks and not collectively to a single driven theme. We approached Architecture of Aeons very differently… we began with the story… The album is loosely based on The Odyssey but in essence this is just a vessel for the far deeper underlying story about the quest for self-discovery, a spiritual journey.

It has been the most special project to date as well as a highly emotional process because we had to face inwards and it’s only natural to feel this profound connection to the catalyst that leads you to open up in that way. We recorded, mixed and mastered this album ourselves from the comfort of our very own jam room which we converted into a makeshift studio. The months that ensued were the most testing and rewarding in the history of the band and it’s just truly special to have been able to do this all from the comfort of an already creative space. To have been involved at every single point of the process is priceless and ultimately brought us closer together. There was a point during the raw recordings of Withered Calla where all five of us were sitting in a circle sobbing as we listened back to the track and I thought to myself ‘five grown men facing each other and crying together in a room, there’s no coming back from this’… to connect with the music, character and story in that way is just evidence of how deep you went and how special this is for every single one of us. It’s the collective inner voice laid out for all who wish to see.” ~ Dylan van der Merwe (guitar/backing vocals, Mezzanine Floor)

Where visual and audio art collide, this is where great album cover art comes to the forefront.

Deity's Muse 2016 Convergence album art

“I like the mystery of the image. We wanted to capture the word ‘Convergence’ in one image. Hence the four elements colliding to form one face. To me it also tells a story of explorers finding an orb on a desolate planet. The orb reveals a face and the face tells a story of how the planet came to be desolate and how to avoid such desolation in future.” ~ Wayne Boucher

“Once we had a concept and a name for the album, the actual cover art was conceptualised pretty quickly! We envisioned a post-apocalyptic city, and we wanted to have a man ascending into the sky through a beam of light, with the books from the Citadel circling around him, basically gaining his ascension through the knowledge and history he had acquired. Originally we wanted it to be hand painted and very detailed, but after we were introduced to the work of Julian Fischer, we decided to go with his style instead and commissioned him for the artwork. He introduced the more clear-cut, almost digital look and feel of the cover art, and the glorious orange colour which made a post-apocalyptic setting so bright and inviting.” ~ Doug Jenkinson

Juggernaught 2016 Full Grown Woman original version

“We saw the basic painting in the bathrooms of a pub years earlier, and decided on it as artwork immediately. Then when the time to get artwork done came, we went and bought it. Then Alexis (drummer) who does all our designs went and made it weird.” ~ Jovan Tutunovic

“A highly talented, very good friend and unofficial sixth member of the band, Mr Simon Subrosa, deserves so much credit for the artwork, its beautiful and he absolutely nailed the connection of the visuals to the concept. As with the previous album, many hours were spent over drinks, discussing a multitude of various angles to the broader concept. He is a wealth of knowledge and an absolute muse when it comes to setting us off in a lyrical direction and deserves so much credit for the part he plays in the Mezzanine Floor brand as a whole. Time is a major theme throughout the tale, the eternal quest/journey towards the eventual ascension. The sun dial also plays the role of one of the main protagonists of the story and ultimately sets every chapter that follows in motion. Hence, the cover artwork perfectly encapsulates the broader theme as well as each chapter graphic, perfectly capturing the corresponding tones of the album at that particular point.” ~ Dylan van der Merwe

Whether it be a single, an EP or an album – the fans will always eagerly feed on what is released and share their thoughts and unofficial reviews, all the while helping to get extra exposure for South African Metal.

Be there when it happens!

Catch the SAMMA official awarding ceremony on 1 July 2017 at Rumours Rock City starting at 16:00 to find out who takes the award for Best Metal Single, EP or album in South Africa. To see all final nominees in each category following the public participation polls, visit this article.

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