Various Artists - Brutal Africa: The Heavy Metal Cowboys of Botswana
Svart Records
Various styles, mostly death metal
11 songs (40' 30")
Release year: 2019
Svart Records
Reviewed by Andy

Africa may be famous for its musical traditions, but to put it mildly, Africa is not famous for its heavy metal. Despite its African-American ancestry, rock was slow to catch on in many African countries, and metal was even more so. But Svart Records has managed to put together a sampling of metal tracks from Botswana, one of the most prosperous countries in Africa -- though the listener will quickly discover that the bag is decidedly mixed.

Twenty years after Botswana's only rock band formed in the 70s, the first metal band appeared: Metal Orizon, and two of the tracks are from them. I liked Ungazetted Mortuary, a rhythmic piece with vocals that remind me of Mortification's Steve Rowe, quite a bit -- but We're Rolling, from the same album, is a sloppy rock jam straight out of a high school band, with little relationship to the laser-like focus of its predecessor. Most of the other tracks are from bands influenced by Metal Orizon that had also been exposed to a wider range of extreme metal sounds. Wrust, coming in at the end of the album, mixes African folk sounds with blocky death metal riffing, while Crackdust's offerings are tight, Carcass-influenced death metal with a fatter guitar distortion.

No one can say the tracks aren't fairly unique, and the paucity of bands in Botswana probably contributes to that: When you've got nothing to lose and few role models, you might as well make something up and see if it works. A definite subscriber to this theory, and one of the strangest tracks on the album, is PMMA's Imprisoned to Death, a melodic rock piece with clean vocals set against harsh death metal vocals. The other two contributors are more conventional and easier to listen to for the extreme metal fan: Overthrust, a Wacken guest whose death metal riffing throbs to primitive, punkish beats, and Stane, whose vocalist's scratchy roar matches up very nicely with the melodic power riffing on Run for Your Life, which is short on technical ability but has a lo-fi charm.

This is a novelty collection, originally sourced for a documentary, and the sample tracks show compositional weakness, in addition to often being rather old. Botswana isn't the easiest place to get music recorded, or metal listened to -- it's one of the most sparsely populated countries in Africa, with cattle-raising being one of the largest sources of income there (hence the name of the album), so there are only about ten active bands in the country. But Brutal Africa is an interesting collection to listen to, if not the most technical.

Killing Songs :
Ungazetted Mortuary, Run for Your Life, The Day of the Sacrifice
Andy quoted no quote
Other albums by Various Artists that we have reviewed:
Various Artists - Servants of Chaos II reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Various Artists - In Mordor Where the Shadows Are - Homage to Summoning reviewed by Andy and quoted no quote
Various Artists - A Light in the Black : A Tribute to Ronnie James Dio reviewed by Alex and quoted no quote
Various Artists - Re-Machined: A Tribute to Deep Purple's Machine Head reviewed by Stefan and quoted No Quote
Various Artists - Illud Divinum Insanus - The Remixes reviewed by Charles and quoted no quote
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