African metal shines bright at Wacken Metal Battle final

When the Wacken Metal Battle sub-Saharan Africa kicked off a few months ago, something extraordinary began to unfold. Six countries, numerous competitors in each heat, and finally, one night to crown a champion. One band was victorious, but the true star was seeing the vibrancy of the metal scene in sub-Saharan Africa. 

The atmosphere at Sognage for the final was electric. A diverse crowd embraced each performance with fervour, and their enthusiasm was rewarded with an unforgettable experience. The event kicked off with killer opening sets, the highlight of which was Lefokolodi, who continued to prove their chops. Guitarist Shinesh Ramballi shared the band’s insights on the experience, saying, “It was metal heaven. It was an honour to share the stage with these bands.” 

The contest lineup featured a myriad of sub-genres and styles. South African juggernauts DOOMTRIGGER, Human Nebula and Your Cynical Sanity delivered impassioned and memorable performances. Desert Mother and Fading Gray led the charge in reminding everyone that heavier music is not a boy’s club, the female-led bands stood their own ground and no doubt garnered new fans. 

The pool of talent from Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia and Mozambique reminded everyone of the continent’s rich musical diversity. Standout performances included Ressurreicao’s brutal performance and As Night Fades’ impressive showing, while Last Night’s Tragedy closed the competition with a solid set. In a discussion with Last Night’s Tragedy, the Kenyan sextet highlighted how the experience has helped contribute to their growth, saying, “We were in South Africa for Wacken Metal Battle last year and being a returning band has been an eye-opening and humbling experience. We have received so much positive feedback, especially with people here now knowing who we are a bit better.” 

When it was all said and done, Sunken State won the privilege to represent the region at Wacken Open Air in Germany. With their explosive set and captivating stage presence, the Jozi band’s victory was more than well-deserved.

Vocalist Dwayne Hees reflected on the overall experience and victory, saying, “Wacken was a blast! The crowd was insane. The venue and staff were so good and the bands all crushed. It was amazing. Winning this is a dream come true. And what we worked hard towards. We are proud to represent South Africa at Wacken Germany.” 

Beyond the excitement, the event provided a significant platform for bands and venues, nurturing the burgeoning sub-Saharan scene. Sludge Underground’s Marcel Smuts emphasised a sense of community, saying, “Everything from the venue, the bands and the crowd was absolutely top tier. Seeing so many passionate people pull together and support every band is a sense of community that we love to see. I don’t envy any of the judges, making a choice from so many talented artists was so tough.” 

Last year’s winners, Middle Grounds, stayed true to their high standard with a sensational performance on the night. Vocalist Brandon Render shared the band’s experience with the competition, saying, “Winning Wacken was one of the most exciting and memorable experiences of our lives and being able to pass the torch to Sunken State is nothing but the biggest honour!” 

Following this success, the competition is poised for further growth in the future. Next year may include the addition of Madagascar, further strengthening representation. Music influencer Ian Van Der Merwe summed it all up eloquently, saying, “African metal is in a really healthy place right now. The turnout was great, the bands were insane and the community has grown significantly in the last two years. It was an honour to be a part of it.” 

Euphoria, a word used eloquently in an ongoing rap beef wraps up the feeling bands and attendees were left with. The show of unity in supporting a scene many consider to be “small” or “dying” was astounding. The contest might be done but the work continues, and remember to contribute to the backabuddy campaign, every rand counts! 

For those who want to relive the magic or discover something new, we’ve curated a playlist featuring the artists from the event. Listen here

Photo credit: Keets Productions