In any small music scene, there is always a feeling that a band needs to “pay their dues” to receive any sort of recognition. Occasionally, there is a flash in the pan band that everyone loves, but it’s those who have worked hard and put in the effort who eventually come out on top. No matter how you look at it, Somerset West’s Mind Assault is definitely one of those bands. Having existed for over seven years, they have certainly flown the flag for South African metal and have now released their six track EP, Metal Rites as a follow up to 2008’s Stigma.
Mind Assault are one of the few local bands that I would consider truly South African. Aside from having a very unique sound in comparison to their trend-following peers, the mix of English and Afrikaans lyrics certainly solidifies their image as a South African band. The tracks on Metal Rites switch between the two languages comfortably and thanks to the consistent guitar work and rock-solid vocal delivery, there is never the feeling that you are listening to two different bands.
From the opening track, it is very apparent that Mind Assault is firing on all cylinders. Catchy guitar hooks dominate “Retaliate”, backed up by thunderous drumming from drummer Andries Smit. The first track also showcases the band’s use of symphonic elements, something that a lot of bands try and very few perfect. Instead of sitting high in the mix, the strings and choral elements serve to back up the guitars, making the melodic lines that much stronger.
The traditional melodeath continues with “Die Rejected”, which features catchy guitars and some real strength behind the vocals. If anything, Jacques Fourie can hold a growl with the rest of them! It’s also refreshing to have intelligible lyrics on a death metal album, making it easier to sing along and certainly causing the tracks to stick in your head for longer. The chug of the rhythm section during the bridge of this song is absolutely immense, and even though Donovan Tose’s bass feels a little lost in the production, the sheer force of the riffing feels like you’re being kicked in the head.
“Dark Continent” is one of my favourite tracks on Metal Rites, combining a blistering tapping riff (courtesy of lead guitarist, Francois “Flapper” Pretorius,) a great melodic hook and a lyrical concept about our mother-continent. This song is already a major hit at Mind Assault‘s live shows and I’m glad to finally hear it in a more controlled setting.
After the slightly doomy, but mostly forgettable “Vrede Deur Bloed”, another stand out track in the form of “Volksmoord” comes tearing out of the speakers, this time avoiding the blasts of previous songs and settling for a bouncy, almost folk-tinged riff that drives the verses and the main chorus hook, which I’m sure will receive a lot of fists in the air and echoed chants of “Fok jou!”
Patrick Davidson and Francois do a great job of trading off guitar elements and as a package, I feel “Volksmoord” is one of the strongest songs on the EP.
The production on Metal Rites is a tough subject for me to discuss. In some places it is absolutely stellar, with all of the instruments sitting comfortably (except for the aforementioned bass problems) and delivering an absolute pleasure to the ears. In other places, however, there is the occasional strange guitar tone, that will definitely make a seasoned metal listener twitch.
Finally, the title track; “Metal Rites” bursts forth into its nine minute-plus glory! Easily the most elaborate song on the EP, incorporating a clean guitar intro, Cannibal Corpse-esque riffing, a stadium-rock solo passage, a dictionary-definition epic symphonic break and lyrics about just keeping it fuckin’ metal, with the refrain, “We don’t owe you a fucking thing, we stand by our metal rights!”
This line perfectly embodies Mind Assault‘s ethos. As one of South Africa’s longest running metal bands, they deserve all the recognition they get. 2011 seems to be the year for bands to release EPs, and so far the bar has been set pretty high. One of the best things about Metal Rites is the pop sensibility and sheer accessibility of the music. The songs are catchy and memorable, and multiple genres are captured in the sound. It feels pointless to say that if you like a certain band, you will like Mind Assault because there is so much variation in the music, but suffice it to say, if you like your metal hard, fast and dirty, Metal Rites won’t let you down!
Metal Rites is available for FREE download from Subterania.co.za.