RAMfest has been and gone, but certainly is not forgotten in the minds of everyone who attended. The Metal4Africa stage was an absolute riot with a stellar sound and lighting rig, as well as a great and varied selection of bands. Two stalwarts of the Cape Town metal community, George van der Riet and Pieter Roodt give their opinions on the acts that they caught on the weekend that was.
Tombstone Pete was a rare gem in the metal tent, and a very good start to Saturday’s proceedings. Pete is a one man instrumental band, playing his own unique brand of acoustic and percussive tunes. His sunny yet crass disposition really adds to the seemingly effortless performance, as he threw in some hilarious quips between songs. Not being metal, he obviously drew a varied crowd. I was quite amused how various indie kids and hippies flocked to the metal tent to hear his curiously soft melodies. His easy listening but cheerful songs helped lift spirits on the lazy and hot Saturday afternoon, and I was pleased to have finally seen and heard this care-free bard.
Haggis and Bong
The band in question calls themselves Haggis and Bong, a Celtic fusion band. The moment they started playing I was blown away. What was particularly impressive was how they managed to make really good metal music with just 3 bagpipes, a bass player and a drummer. No guitars involved. The band was professional and put on a great show. It was refreshing to see something new and out of the box. I would recommend this band to anyone who has the chance to see them, purely because they are doing something different. The face paint and uniforms show that the band is serious about what they do; it’s this approach to what you believe in that adds a certain credibility and enjoyability to a show. One criticism that I do have is that after a while the bagpipes start to bore into one’s head and become a bit annoying, but that was just a minor issue in an otherwise mind blowing performance.
After Haggis and Bong warmed up the crowd sufficiently, Symphonic Schizophrenia arrived to stoke the flames even further. I have been an apt follower of Symphonic Schizophrenia for almost 3 years now and this is has been their most interesting show to date. Their music style is instrumental experimental progressive metal with blazing fast leads and amazing melodies that will screw with your head.
For Ramfest, the band had a few interesting additions to their normal show. Besides playing in lab coats like they usually do there was an extremely eerie clown that brought Bruce Sonnekus (lead guitar) his guitars between songs whenever he needed to switch. They also had a baby doll without a head that Nico Botha (bass) would play around with on stage whenever he had nothing to do. They also added a new song to their set which was even more dynamic and energetic than their other pieces. The introduction to the song was a metal version of the South African national anthem that managed to get people in the crowd singing along. They are by far the most technical band in SA and they perform on a level that boggles the mind. Unfortunately, because of this technicality they tend to have a few hiccups, like Bruce stepping on his guitar cable while caught up in the moment; however by the end of their set, they managed to impress the audience so much that the crowd unanimously started chanting for an encore and would not take no for an answer! A most impressive gesture considering the deadening effect the brutal sun had on people by that time and also considering that they were one of the earlier bands playing.
Every now and then a band comes out of nowhere and just blows your mind. A few months ago that’s what Juggernaught did for me and judging by the response of the Ramfest crowd, I’m convinced that they did the same for them. The response from the crowd was overwhelming, people were going nuts like I have rarely seen before and were sporting smiles so wide that they almost fell of their owners faces. Juggernaught, for those of you who do not know, play a rough blend of southern metal, blues and classic rock, mixed into a dirty combination. They sell themselves as “Hairy, whiskey guzzling, guitar slingin’ men, who play hairy, whiskey guzzling, guitar slingin’ music.” And they don’t just say it either. They completely live the description with beards long enough to graze their nipples. Despite their rough and sloppy appearance, they delivered their music with the utmost professionalism. Their songs were well performed, well written and played with spirit and passion. The only downside to their show was the low turnout, despite their furious marketing efforts. I would have loved to see at least double the amount of people who were actually there.
There is one local band, very aptly named after a prehistoric, over the top, bad ass party animal; Sabretooth. They’re retro, they’re flamboyant and they party hard. They have quite a dedicated following who showed up in support, and the rest of the crowd also got into their 80s inspired, neo-classical grooving. All their members are very accomplished musicians, and there is no shortage of lightning fast guitar solos, keyboard solos, intense drumming and melodic vocals. One gripe I do have about their performance however is the fact that they tend to look more like a 80s wax-statue band on stage at times. Granted, they do play some complex bits and they do have those awesome fans on stage, but their live performance needs way more energy. Two rather enjoyable parts from their set were the covers they performed; a Steel Panther number and a Van Halen classic, “Jump”. Both were well received by the crowd and despite my lethargy from the day, it got me moving and plastered a great big grin on my face.
Theatre Runs Red was the absolute highlight of the festival. Whenever they come down to grace Cape Town with their brutal presence, I make an effort to see them. The best aspect of the band is the all out black metal stage presence they possess. They dress in full corpse paint, and they also command the “I will fuck you up” attitude on stage. The music is equally brutal and executed flawlessly. What is more amazing about this band is the vocalist. In a genre that is predominantly lead by males it is very refreshing to see a woman on stage for once, and she’s not just for show either; Ebony Aberdein (vocalist) has a voice that sounds like it comes from the deepest pits of Hell and she will not only give any male vocalist a run for their money, but will blow them completely out of the water. The Ramfest crowd seemed to appreciate the band as much, if not more, than the rest of the metal acts of the day.
Theatre Runs Red
All things considered, A Walk With The Wicked is pretty damn wicked. They are a hard working, professional and dedicated group of musicians who have made something quite unique here in South Africa – a death metal band that doesn’t suck. They’re work ethic was showcased by a merch stall they set up in the metal tent, with various bits of eye candy to entice the passing metal-heads. On to their show. Personally I would’ve liked to see more people in the crowd when they were playing, but those who were there were dedicated. A solid performance from them saw the crowd really getting into the “Death Groove”, and again, sound-wise it was excellent. These boys really have a knack for getting the hair spinning and the fists pumping. After the show a friend of mine who hadn’t seen them perform before walked up to me, eyes bulging, and said simply, “Wow. Just wow, man.” I must say, I concurred.
A Walk With the Wicked