I went into listening to this self-titled debut album by Zimbabwe’s Dividing The Element with very few preconceptions – I mean, how many other metal bands sing in Shona?
You can clearly hear the African influences throughout (especially with the epic percussion), as well as from other bands such as Animals as Leaders and Slipknot. The transition between growling and screaming and singing is impressive as it sounds seamless. The harmonies are sparse, but artfully done.
While the album doesn’t overtly touch on any politics, there are one or two songs where you get the feeling they might be singing about politicians as a whole when they say “The mouth doesn’t give, what gives is the hands” and “We are left working while you are just fucking around” – of course, that is very open to interpretation. There are other themes on the album, including death, patriotism, the struggle to improve yourself and your situation and battling your inner demons.
The first song, ‘Kumba Kumusha’, gives you a rather African guitar intro (which makes sense, given that it’s a love song to Zimbabwe), but within seconds you’re thrown into a mosh-worthy melody. The guitars are heavy, aggressive, and the rhythm is primal. ‘Upenyu’ and ‘3rd Street’ are catchy as fuck – I found myself singing snippets of those songs during the course of the day.
‘Thanks for Nothing’ has deep growls that sound more like rock slides than a human voice. ‘Mibvunzo’ and ‘Mhandu’ have a very cool hip-hop/nu-metal feel to it, and it works well with those songs. T.shoC is the guest artist on ‘Mhandu’ and he has good flow and emotional expression. Honestly, ‘Mhandu’ has “radio single” written all over it.
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‘Munyepi’ has harmonies in the chorus that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. The sound is very evocative of Killswitch Engage. The final song is a remix of ‘3rd Street’, which sounds like it would fit in quite nicely on any one of the Matrix soundtracks.
When I review an album, I listen to it over and over and over again – so my husband also gets to know the music, whether he wants to or not! As he has a musical background, he listens to music with a more technical ear than I do, and is able to point out little production and instrumental touches that I normally miss. His opinion is that this album is very well produced, and he’s particularly fond of the drummer’s prowess and technique.
Over all, Dividing The Element is well worth buying. The production quality is great, the music is versatile while staying rooted in African feelings and rhythms and you can feel the musicians have put their all into this work.