The SAMMA Scripts 2018: The Audio and the Visual

Johannesburg, South Africa: As South African Metal fans, we live for the live shows, regardless of the size. There are not very many venues left where we can get our Metal fix, however there are still some old faithfuls where we can always be sure to find some heavy entertainment. From the stage to the screen, to every other outlet where we can see and hear what is on offer, here we take a look at some of the Top 5 nominees for Best Live Band, Best Music Video, Best Single, Best EP and Best Album.

Setting The Stage

The stage is a second home to most SA bands and those that ooze stage presence at every opportunity are the ones that bring the crowds back for more every time. The performance is just as vital as the sound when trying to gain new fans at shows and extra exposure. Bands that get this right are reflected in the nominees for Best Live Band including Deadline, Megalodon, Ohgod, Riddlebreak and Red Helen.

Deadline hit the road for their Black Wolf City album tour, finally letting loose their Pretoria Metal on the nation.

“For us every show is amazing and, whether we make one new friend or a bunch of new friends, getting up on a stage in a new city is always worth it. Durban didn’t go down as well as we had hoped but Cape Town really blew our minds. We made a ton of new friends, sold a lot of copies of our album and were then asked to return to play Metal4Africa’s SummerFest’18 which was absolutely amazing. Cape Town has become like a second home to us. Not only did we have our album mixed and mastered by Heinrich Kollner from Burning Tone down in Cape Town, but the way the people embraced us has been phenomenal and one of the highlights of our short career as entertainers! Cape Town we salute you!” ~ Jessy Switchblade (vocals, Deadline)

Megalodon represented South Africa on the International stage at the Holy Land in Wacken.

Megalodon 2017 press picture
Megalodon: image courtesy of Henk Steyn Photography

“We wanted to show in our performances what the new material makes us want to do on stage. And that’s to break our necks and backs. Of course, we were surprised to take the final of the Wacken Metal Battle in South Africa due to there being technical difficulties with Andrew’s guitar, but the lad put aside the negativity during the performance and still brought his A-Game as an entertainer. We didn’t travel to Johannesburg for nothing. That was followed by a phenomenal album launch at Metal4Africa’s WinterFest’17 literally a night before we left for Germany to perform at Wacken Open Air. All in all, it was one hell of a crazy and busy year.” ~ Louis Henn (guitar, Megalodon)

On the local front, Ohgod played alongside international acts as well as a fantastic SA band line up.

“Playing at Krank’d Up festival last year supporting Intervals and Memphis May Fire was definitely one of the local highlights of 2017. The guys at Turning Tricks really know how to put together a great event. I think Krank’d up was certainly one of our favourite moments, playing our music to close to 2000 people just as the sun is setting. What a vibe!” ~ Danny Harris (drums, Ohgod)

Riddlebreak always sets the crowd alight and took their show to some new venues over the past year.

“Our tour to Botswana was definitely one of the craziest experiences we’ve ever had. The drive was really long but the countryside is very beautiful and clean. It was also a great time for the band to bond even more! We had an awesome time in Botswana and hope to go back soon!” ~ Julian Vosloo (guitar, Riddlebreak)

“It’s difficult to sum up the experience. It was very different to South Africa. People support every sub-genre of Metal. People were dressed head to toe in metal paraphernalia; they went all out! The show carried on into the early hours of the morning but people were still there to support. They were shocked to see a female member but incredibly happy because they want to encourage more women to play instruments. They embraced us wholeheartedly. It was amazing being in a different place, in a different cultural experience and feeling so welcome.” ~ Roushan Van Niekerk (bass, Riddlebreak)

Image courtesy of Nathan from Snapback Photography

“We filmed a mini documentary about Riddlebreak to show people more about who we are, what we’re about and why it is we do what we do. Nearly every show we played last year surprised us! With the crowds only getting bigger and bigger. It was an extremely busy, but successful year in our opinion.” ~ Gordon Bosma (drums, Riddlebreak)

Red Helen also took their latest album on tour.

“Last year was a really big year for us! Shows and events that were definitely highlights have to include all of the TPFP Album launch tour dates – every show on that tour was amazing, signing with Monster Energy, Opening for Tesseract (a major dream come true!) and Krank’d up Fest!” ~ Brandon Pratt (vocals, Red Helen)

Video Stole the Radio Star

Music videos are a visual expression of the creativity which sits behind the bands; an illustrated story book so to say, showing us some of the meaning which has been poured into the tracks. The nominees who have brought their tracks to life visually are L.A. Cobra, Nerve Zero, Ohgod, Red Helen and Mezzanine Floor. These bands have had some other great opportunities and collaborations along the way as well.

L.A. Cobra worked with Martin Sweet as the producer of their Shotgun Slinger album

“We were very fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Martin. We were pretty deep into the recording of the album before Martin joined the process. Don (Cobra) went to Sweden and met the guys of Crashdiet and had a chat with Martin to discuss the possibility of having him on board. We wrote a song called Ride and sent the recorded tracks to Sweden and when it came back we were simply blown away. That really sealed the deal and the result is an album we are truly proud of.” ~ Slade (guitar, L.A. Cobra)

They have also been invited to play a festival in the US.

“Since the launch of our Shotgun Slinger album we’ve seen immense interest from the international community in L.A. Cobra. I think our sound and attitude resonates with the fans overseas. We’ve especially seen a lot of interest from the Scandinavian countries where there seems to be a new wave of Sleaze Rock emerging. The US festival booked Martin’s band (Crashdiet) and made contact with us to also be on the bill. Apart from that we’ve received offers to play at a number of European and Scandinavian shows. Obviously, we can’t announce anything before all the contracts are in place but we are very excited about the prospects of the next two years. The US show is in Illinois but we are planning to do a couple more dates while we are there.” ~ Slade

Mezzanine Floor was another SA band to share the stage with Intervals and Memphis May Fire at Krank’d Up last year

Mezzanine Floor 2016 press
Mezzanine Floor, from Port Elizabeth

“Words cannot actually begin to describe it. From the moment we received word that we would be included our phones became hotlines among each other and I don’t think we slept for a couple of days. The event was phenomenal as was the level of talent on display. It is definitely something we will remember for the rest of our lives and the friendships we forged will last an equal time span. We were fortunate enough to be hosted by our good friends in Deadline and other than being incredibly talented musicians they are also now our extended family. It was an amazing experience.” ~ Dylan van der Merwe (guitar/vocals, Mezzanine Floor)

Ohgod took South African Progressive metal to India

“India was crazy, a little brutal at times, but also spectacular at other times. It really pushed us to the extremes. The people there are so awesome and welcoming, we are definitely going back there again. It’s not really a top destination for SA metal bands no, but we kind of knew that going in, we did not know what to expect in terms of attendance or anything for that matter, but it was really one of the best experiences we shared together as a unit.” ~ Danny Harris

The Starting Point

What better way to get more people listening to your sound and entice new fans than with the release of a single? This is always a great way to get your band into the wide world without needing to wait for the release if an EP or Album. The nominees for Best Single are Nerve Zero, Megalodon, My Columbine, DevilSpeak and Ohgod.
My Columbine released the single and then a few videos leading up to their Album launch this year.

“We’ve been dying to get our music out to a bigger audience and at the same time give the fans who know us the ability to really get to know the songs. We’ve started noticing people singing/screaming along to the lyrics of our songs while we play and that just pumps us up with so much energy when we’re on stage!” ~ Sven Borgstrom (bass, My Columbine)

My Columbine 2017 press photo
My Columbine, from Pretoria

“We couldn’t have done it though without with some awesome help in getting the videos out to people from the likes of Kontrast, Draconem Media, Metal4Africa and Recordingstudios.co.za who felt that our releases were news-worthy enough to publish on their platforms and Sashquita Northey who kindly assisted us with the press releases and release schedule.” ~ Sven Borgstrom

Nerve Zero have followed up their single release with their album which will be launching this month.

“It’s taken the better part of a year, on and off. At first, we were only going to put out 4 tracks, but then we decided a full-length album is the route to go. We wanted to get all the songs we perform live on one album, and then we can start focusing on new material. Clint from WATTS STUDIOS has been at the helm of the recording and we are so amped to hear the final mix which should be available soon. We launch our album at Rumours on 21st. April.” ~ Kevin Kirkland (guitar, Nerve Zero)

DevilSpeak released ‘Unearth Hell’

“It’s one of the few songs we have with no swearing, and it’s the shortest track on the EP. We got a great reception from it on release, it was unexpected in how far around the world it was listened to, spun on radio shows and written about on sites and mags and blogs and the like. It’s still played at least 3 times a week on radio shows somewhere in the world, which is amazing to us.” ~ Derrick Leppan (bass, DevilSpeak)

“People seem to like it. My dream is to try and make metal in such a way that people immediately think of South Africa and Cape Town with our special African flavours.” ~ De Wet Loots (guitar, DevilSpeak)

Eep, an EP!

The first time a fan actually gets to indulge in more than a few minutes of their favourite bands, to hear all the tracks they love without having to wait for a gig every few weeks or months. Disarmageddon, Last One Alive, The Fallen Prophets, Technopath and Ruff Majik are all up for Best EP this year.

Last One Alive is getting some good feedback from it’s self-titled debut.

“We’ve had some warm feedback from some great people, primarily concerning the production quality of the music. We spent a lot of time and money on those six tracks, went to the trouble to track live acoustic drums for that thick organic feel, Bob spent many late nights chipping away at it and getting it mastered in The States was a lengthy but worthwhile process. We feel people have been getting to access the song writing and performance through the highest fidelity offering we could supply. As far as sales have gone, we hope to get on some stages and entice more people to invest in us, but hopefully our online streaming proceeds will start to accumulate so we can commence the next ambitious record.” ~ Ric Shields (guitar/backing vocals, Last One Alive)

Disarmageddon released a Contagion of Thrash.

“Generally, the reception for ‘Contagion’ has been positive. More and more people have been asking where they can get copies from, whenever we play shows. The online reception has been quite good as well.” ~ Desmond Cook (drums, Disarmageddon)

“For an independent album recorded in a bedroom, we have gotten more positive feedback than expected and we are extremely thankful for the support from our fans.” ~ Lance von Buddenbrock (guitar, Disarmageddon)

Ruff Majik helped to point out ‘A Finch in a Cherry Tree’ and managed to get some reviews on international platforms.

“‘A Finch in a cherry tree’ is not so much an EP as it is one chapter in a number of releases we’ve been doing working up to our full-length release titled “Seasons” out on April 20 2018. With these releases, we decided to take an approach where we would release three tracks every season (A Finch in a cherry tree being released for Spring) and with each season we would play around with entirely different styles. The spring “EP” saw us delve into funk crossovers, some more sludgy sounds, and even some slow build, ballad type moments. Thematically it’s all about death and rebirth, and musically it’s all about experimentation – seeing how many pretty bits we could mix with dark and nasty bits.” ~ Johni Holiday (vocals/guitar, Ruff Majik)

“The reviews for the EP, from sites like MoreFuzz, The Sludge Lord, Heavy Planet, Metal Nexus were all very positive. A lot of the reviewers were very into the experimentation and fusion of different fuzzy sounds, and we were commended by quite a few for our elaborate song structures and interesting tempo changes. All in all, pretty good reviews, I just wish people could stop comparing my voice to Jack White’s hahaha.” ~ Johni Holiday

Ruff Majik also has the opportunity to take on Europe and play to their fanbase there

“Well, the festivals are Freak Valley Fest in Germany (31 May to 3 June) and SonicBlast Moledo in Portugal (10 – 12 August). I think we’re looking forward to seeing the super cool international headlining acts, such as OM, Russian Circles, Kadavar, Conan, Earthless and loads more. Those are all bands we’ve been dreaming of seeing and the fact that we get to share line-ups with them is quite mind blowing. Also, we don’t really have a big fan base in SA, but we’ve got quite a large fan base in Europe – so I think it’s gonna be nice to just be able to actually play for them!” ~ Johni Holliday

Releasing The Kraken

And finally, the main event, the album release. 2017 was a great year for releases and 2018 sets to carry on the trend. The Top 5 nominees for Best Album are Megalodon, Deadline, Ohgod, Red Helen and Kings of Improg.

Kings of Improg released Henosis, which is a mix of Prog, Post Rock and Metal tracks.

“We recorded with our own Byron Muller at Audio Nebula, he produced and mixed the album as well. We left the final finishing mastering touches for Larry DeVivo at Silvertone Mastering, NY. The album is a 45-minute eclectic mix of Prog genres culminating into a free-flowing concept record, with themes of dark and light, cheer and sorrow, clarity and madness, all rolled up into a whirlwind ride of driving guitars, deep growling bass and thumping drumbeats, with a particularly local element and feel.” ~ Lloyd McKeen (guitar/bass, Kings of Improg)

Deadline 2017 band photograph
Deadline, from Pretoria

Deadline delivered on Black Wolf City and proved that Old School lives strong, even when it comes to physical album copies.

“Reception was better than expected but ok we were really not sure what to expect. But yeah, we sold a bunch of physical copies which many people said we wouldn’t get right (In light of the day and age we are currently in) and even more amazing is we shipped orders off to countries like Portugal, Greece, Germany, Poland, the States etc… That totally surprised us and it is always an amazing feeling when you know that somewhere in the world somebody is rocking out to your tunes.” ~ Jessy Switchblade

Red Helen released Trading Past for Pathways which was a long time in the making.

“The reception to the album has been very positive! After three years of hard work on TPFP there’s always a little concern as to whether or not fans that have been waiting the full three years or longer are going to feel it was worth the wait and thankfully many fans did! We have the best fans in the world and we really appreciate their patience and support! The tour was also a success and was a ton of fun! It’s always an amazing feeling seeing fans at shows singing the words, knowing the songs and making their own personal connections to the music!” ~ Brandon Pratt

Ohgod 2017
Ohgod, from Cape Town: image courtesy of Jean-Pierre Whitfield

Ohgod have been getting positive feedback internationally from the release of The Great Silence.

“We have been getting allot of great feedback from all around the world, the internet has really made it so much better for bands to get their music to fans. I’m sure all bands feel like this at some point during the production of their album, but you kind of put everything into it, and really try to make the best product you can, and at the end of the day, when the feedback is good, it really makes it all worth it.” ~ Danny Harris

Megalodon has also kept fans waiting for Illusion of Origin.

“People have been waiting for a second Megalodon release for four years. We kept the audience informed of progress without giving away dates. We didn’t want to commit and under-deliver. Our music is intricate, technical and progressive. Those 3 elements take time to pull off and we didn’t want to rush this. It became the first band in the history of the 5 people who make up Megalodon to release a second record. From the moment the first single “Sanctum” dropped, we saw an immense response followed by good sales and commentary on the YouTube video of the album. It was a good reception overall and we’re happy with the product. For the record, we are going to change things up quite significantly for album 3.” ~ Louis Henn

And with that, we sum up the build up to the South African Metal Music Awards. The evening is sure to dazzle and we will see the SA Metal Community at their finest.

Be there when it happens!

Catch the SAMMA‘s official awarding ceremony on 7 April 2018 at Rumours Rock City starting at 18:00 to find out who takes top honours To see all final nominees in each category following the public participation polls, visit this article.