2020 has been a year of overwhelming strife, anxiety and hardship. The ongoing global pandemic has rocked the world in a way that none of us could have possibly imagined and at some point it felt as though the world had essentially come to a grinding halt. In the world of music, tours and live shows were effectively off the table for the foreseeable future for much of the planet.
Despite this, light always finds a way to shine even in what might feel like the darkest of times. The African punk, metal and rock scene has been one such light and despite all the hardships we’ve faced this year, the African scene has managed to make 2020 that much more bearable thanks to the music produced by bands on the continent.
As such, it is only fitting that we share some of our favourite releases from the African punk, metal and rock community.
Broken down by region, our end of year list looks at some of the bands and artists that impressed us over the past year, going above and beyond sonically.
File under: Grindcore
Duma’s self-titled debut album is arguably the number one highlight of 2020 and without a doubt a true testament to the growth and progress of the Kenyan, and to a wider extent African, metal scene.
Their debut full-length is a statement of intent by the only existing Kenyan grindcore band in existence – and you can read our Blunt Mag review of this most excellent album here.
Apart from releasing a stellar album, Duma have had a busy year, even with the ongoing pandemic. The band have managed to play a variety of international digital festivals, including Planet Afropunk as well as the annual Nyege Nyege Festival.
Whether or not you’re a fan of grindcore, you owe yourself the pleasure of listening to this record. It’s not a stretch to say that Duma’s exploits this year have propelled the Kenyan and East African metal scene to greater heights thanks to the sheer brilliance in quality and finesse that this record brings.
File under: Metalcore
Kenyan metalcore stalwarts Last Year’s Tragedy have garnered a formidable cult following over the years. Their melodic metalcore sound easily swoons the most obstinate of listeners thanks to the utter quality, and charm, of their music.
Although the band have stated that they are fully focused on delivering their full length album, they nevertheless released what is one of the best African metal singles of the year in the form of ‘Pounds For Flesh’, a beautifully arranged composition that we have been unable to stop playing all throughout the year.
File under: Grunge
Formed in Nairobi in 2019, Dead Skin Remedy are perhaps amongst the ‘youngest’ bands to be part of the East African rock scene. Stylistically speaking, they may also be the only active East African grunge band. 2020 saw the band release two singles in the form of ‘On Death and Dying’ and their latest ‘Nostalgia In Black’, both of which are taken off their upcoming album titled Paralysis.
File under: Atmospheric/Post black metal
Formed in 2016, Ethiopian atmospheric black metal band Nishaiar has earned profound loyalty over the years from both die hard fans and casual followers of the African metal community. The band’s sound is nothing short of unique to say the least, and they have carved a space for themselves in the murky waters that encompass black metal.
2020 saw the band release Awaxhun, a beautifully composed album that encompasses the best of atmospheric black metal and post black metal. The band make the sound their own and what you get in return is an extremely immersive album that highlights their prowess when it comes to crafting sonically stunning music.
File under: Metal
Released in June, AFROMETALOKALYPSE is the first all Kenyan metal compilation album of its kind and was released via Bin Khaled Sonic Pollution, a Nairobi based label and publishing house with a focus on the Kenyan punk and metal scene.
The compilation album features music from the Bin Khaled Sonic Pollution roster including the experimental progressive metal outfit The Seeds of Datura and Kenyan skate punks Powerslide. Also featured on the album is music by Mortal Soul, one of the most impressive metal bands born of Kenyan soil but unfortunately inactive at the moment.
AFROMETALOKALYPSE is an impressive display of the diverse offering of the Kenyan punk and metal scene despite the limited number of bands and artists that choose to explore these niche genres.
File under: Rock
Uganda has produced some of the most extreme metal African acts including Vale of Amonition, one of the only East African doom metal bands, and now plays host to grindcore duo Duma.
On the opposite side of this musical spectrum is Phyv5, an emerging rock band from the Ugandan scene that contrasts this with a more traditional rock sound. 2020 saw the band release its first official single in the form of ‘Little Devil’ and the song is a testimony to the band’s musical influences, which include the likes of Chevelle, Three Days Grace and more.
Having burst onto the East African scene with fury and a sound reminiscent of the 2000s rock that many African bands and artists grew up on, it will be interesting to see how Phyv5’s journey unfolds especially seeing as they are, technically, the only rock band that is currently active in Uganda.
File under: Thrash/Old school metal
Location: South Africa
Deadline’s sophomore album Cathedral Point was one of the finer thrash and ‘old school’ metal releases from African soil this past year – in fact we’re willing to go as far as saying that it simply was one of the best thrash and old school metal releases the world over.
The Pretoria based five-piece are amongst the forerunners of Africa’s new wave of metal bands. Deadline were also voted as the ‘Best Old School Metal Band’ at the recently concluded South African Metal Music Awards (SAMMA).
File under: Stoner/Doom
Location: South Africa
Hailing from Pretoria, South African based stoner and doom rockers Ruff Majik released one of the most anticipated African metal albums of the year with their The Devil’s Cattle album.
The Devil’s Cattle follows up from the band’s equally as impressive 2019 album Tårn, but with their latest offering they kick things up a notch in terms of songwriting, music production and overall intensity. The album is produced to perfection thanks to the phenomenal work of Evert Snyman, the band’s recording engineer who ended up joining the outfit.
The Devil’s Cattle is an album of immense quality and ultimately should be on any metal lover’s playlist due to its undeniable excellence on all fronts.
File under: Punk/Skate punk
Despite the ongoing pandemic, Soweto based thrash punks TCIYF have shown absolutely no signs of slowing down and, if anything, they seem to have increased their intensity when it comes to their outlook towards life and how they have rallied amongst themselves and their community to respond to the challenges brought on by the outbreak.
Having steadily released a string of singles throughout this year, the band also teamed up with iconic skate brand Vans to release their own string of custom decks and other merch as part of the brand’s DIY initiative, which showcases artists from all over the globe making changes within their communities with their musical endeavours.
Blunt Mag wrote about TCIYF and the African punk and skate scene extensively. Learn more about how the alternative communities intertwine here.
File under: Modern metal
Location: South Africa
Metal has grown leaps and bounds over the years and the sound that once defined the genre has changed, shifted, mutated and so on. One such band that has been willing to experiment with these changes is South Africa based Dream Demon – often described as ‘modern metal’.
Dream Demon’s ‘Fool Me’ single was one of the highlights from the South African metal scene owing to the fact that they are one of the fewer bands pursuing a ‘modern metal’ sound and approach when it comes to music. The band is clearly influenced by the likes of bands like Bring Me The Horizon and, dare I say it, they could give them a run for their money.
Despite releasing a brilliantly crafted and well produced single, 2020 has been an otherwise quiet year for Dream Demon in terms of releases as we eagerly await more.
File under: Groove metal/Metalcore
Zimbabwe is known for many things the world over, but their music scene is often overlooked when it comes to the global music conversation, especially a scene as niche as their small, but steadily growing, metal community. Bands like Dividing The Element are slowly, but steadily, shifting the conversation around Zimbabwean punk and metal with their music.
Caught between groove metal and metalcore, Dividing The Element have found ways of incorporating their African heritage into their music as evidenced by their latest single, ‘Pakaipa’.
File under: Symphonic/Power metal
One band that have managed to rally through the adversity brought on by 2020 is Cameroon based symphonic and power metal outfit Roar Of Heroes. The symphonic metallers recently released their EP The Obsessive Imposter and it was the band’s first release after some time. Their gothic influences are evident all throughout the record as well as hints of folk and celtic metal.
Worth noting is that the band announced that this would be their final release as an outfit and all we can say is that they are bowing out with absolute class and grace by giving their fanbase, both new and old, a well arranged record to see us through the remainder of the year.
File under: Soul rock
Since their inception, Dark Suburb has become one of the fastest rising acts in the African rock and metal scene thanks to their perseverance, humility and all around class. The award winning Ghana based soul rockers have had a fairly active year given the circumstances.
2020 saw the band release their self-titled album Dark Suburb as well as officially joining DogSled Music Group. Since signing with DogSled Music the band have gone on to work with the likes of Grammy-nominated producer Roger Ryan and to collaborate with Nickie Conley on their ‘Mama’ remix.
File under: Progressive
Pre-pandemic, Myrath were constantly touring and playing shows all over the world as well as regularly releasing content. 2020 saw the band take a step back from their otherwise usually packed touring schedule. Despite this, Myrath remain one of the most active metal bands from Tunisia and they recently released their Live In Carthage DVD which, as the name gives away, is a recording of the band’s brilliant and spectacular live performance in Carthage.
Despite their relative slow-down, Myrath are constantly releasing play-through videos and they remain active by sharing and promoting music from their scene as well as music from their global counterparts.
File under: Death metal
After a five year hiatus filled with writing, recording and so on, African death metal giants Scarab burst back onto the metal scene with their 2020 album release in the form of Martyrs of the Storm.
Released via Stockholm-based Vicisolum Records, Scarab unleashed a behemoth of an album and once again let the world know why they are considered the best. The Egyptian death metal outfit is renowned for incorporating their cultural heritage into their music and creating soundscapes directly influenced by their Egyptian background.
As an indication of the band’s prowess and musical ability, Karl Sanders of legendary death metal giants Nile features on the record and played a brilliant guitar solo (see: ‘Kingdom of Chaos‘). Apart from being an outstanding record in every way, it also highlights the sense of brotherhood and camaraderie that is fostered simply through our shared love of music regardless of who we are or where we are originally from.
File under: Folk metal/Hardcore punk
North Africa has accumulated a reputation over the years for producing some of Africa’s finest folk metal bands with artists choosing to create music that directly draws influence from their cultural backgrounds. One such band to fully embrace this is Znous, a hardcore punk and folk metal band from the town of Al Rudayyif.
2020 saw Znous release their second EP in the form of Znousland II, a powerful submission exhibiting the band’s growth as artists and a brilliant follow up to their Znousland I. In true DIY punk fashion, the record is wholly produced by the band themselves and addresses social and political topics that continue to affect the inhabitants of North Africa. One such song is the opening track to the EP, which tackles issues such as the treatment of the land’s indigenous population.
Despite being rough around the edges, Znousland II is one of the most exciting hardcore punk and folk metal releases to come out of 2020. Few bands the world over would be able to compete with the storytelling of Znous, in all their musical prowess and authenticity.