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BLUNT review: Nairobi’s one and only grindcore band, Duma

Shane Embry, bassist and longest standing member of Napalm Death, states “The key factor with grindcore is that it is so extreme, it’s not ‘normal’”.

Pushing the boundaries that envelop the metal genre is a prime component of grindcore and Duma take this to heart by delivering a complex and chaotic debut album with soundscapes that resonate like they were crafted in the deepest, heaviest and darkest pits of hell.

Grindcore is not the most accessible genre of music, especially for first time listeners. It’s brash, loud, frantic and honestly, it can feel like a sonic assault. It’s fucking brutal, even by metal standards.

Caught between punk, hardcore and death metal, grindcore is the unholy offspring that spawned from the fusion of these contrasting musical genres and it encapsulated the best, and worst, aspects of each genre. The ferocious death metal blast-beats were met with a blasé and rebellious punk attitude. The coming together of the two opposing forces ultimately led to the creation of what is plausibly the most extreme genre of music yet.

Duma’s self-titled debut LP effectively shuns any and all forms of restraint when it comes to their songwriting. The genre typically doesn’t play by the rules, by any account, and Martin and Sam push the sonic boundaries even further with their experimental approach. The duo makes use of heavily distorted synths, eerie drones, distorted drums and harsh banshee-esque vocals.

‘Omni’ is a tribute to the band’s willingness to push the boundaries of what it means to experiment within the extreme metal genre. Seamlessly fusing elements of electronic music, trap and metal, ‘Omni’ trades out traditional bass drums for 808s that perfectly compliment the unfettered direction of the song.

Rather than trying to standout from the musical grey area that defines the genre, they openly embrace it and make it their own, taking up the space with authority and making an unabashed statement of intent with their dulcet aggression.

‘Sin Nature’ is the auditory equivalent of knocking down the door and coming for the throne without regard for who you trample on your pursuit. Sam’s haunting work on the synths perfectly captures the feelings of frustration and disdain towards the status-quo.

Prior to Duma, both artists were part of several Nairobi based bands and they have each played a role in how the scene has evolved over the years. Apart from their contributions to the metal community in Kenya, taking a look at their past projects and bands highlights that they were always destined to commune with the extremities metal had to offer.

“Some days you wake up and you just want to fuck shit up, cue ‘Pembe 666’ as the soundtrack to that.”

Before moving to Kampala, Martin was the vocalist of Lust of a Dying Breed, the first Kenyan deathcore band. Now defunct, the band played an integral role in paving the way for more extreme metal acts in Kenya. Soon after he began doing vocal work for The Seeds of Datura, an experimental progressive metal act that has attracted listeners from all corners of the world.

As for Sam, he was the bassist of Nairobi based skate-punk band Powerslide and occasionally held it down for bands like Seeds when he was needed, before making his way to Kampala. From our earliest encounters, it was always clear that he had an affinity for the experimental side of music as he was always interested in bands that used synths and heavily modulated instruments in their music.

The duo are now based full-time in Kampala and it’s worth noting that the city has produced some of the most extreme metal acts out of East African soil. Duma now join the ranks of Vale of Amonition, Uganda’s only doom metal band. Although now scattered across Kenya and Uganda, the African doom metal stalwarts began their journey in the Pearl of Africa.

Despite how long you’ve been listening to extreme metal, grindcore isn’t a genre you instantly fall in love with. In my view, perhaps the biggest appeal of grindcore is its revulsion towards structure and order; the chaotic nature of the music offers a purgative release that acts as an antithesis to restraints imposed on us by everyday life. Some days you wake up and you just want to fuck shit up, cue ‘Pembe 666’ as the soundtrack to that.

Much can be said about grindcore, whether you love or hate the genre you could argue that it is essentially one of the purest forms of self-expression there is. The ability to muster one’s rage, hatred and pain and perfectly translate that into music speaks volumes of the musical prowess of Duma.

Duma epitomises the genre blurring nature of grindcore through the sonic collision of musical extremities. Rather than playing by the ‘rules’ of the genre, which we’ve come to learn are few and far between, they interpret the stylistic nature of grindcore in their own unique and individual way. So much so that Duma doesn’t feel like a byproduct of grindcore but rather it rings like an outgrowth of the genre.