Skinflint Represent African Heavy Metal On New Album “Hate Spell” (Interview)
Heavy metal in Africa has been attracting the attention of local and international media fairly steadily over the past decade, and Skinflint from Botswana are one of the main bands who are leading the charge. The trio from Gaborone in southern Africa has been creating its brand of Afrocentric metal since 2006. Featuring guitarist/vocalist Giuseppe Sbrana, bassist Kebonye Nkoloso, and drummer Cosmos Modisaemang, the band creates intriguing, groove-based riffs and rhythms with lyrics about African mythology and folklore.
On its seventh full-length album Hate Spell, its 12 tracks with a 68-minute overall runtime may seem a bit long in this modern age. However, the band’s catchy songwriting skills keeps the listener’s interest level high throughout the entire recording. Compared to the band’s previous releases, the album is more streamlined and fluid.
“Hate Spell is still raw and retains African methodology, [but] at the same time it sounds new and aggressive,” Modisaemang explains to us during an email conversation. “We wanted to retain the raw energy of the band playing live and we usually write music as a band. Everyone has an input in the music making.”
The African methodology that Modisaemang speaks of is instilled in the band and inspired the music for the album. While some of their African metal peers have tried to Westernize their music, Skinflint has expanded on the African metal genre by incorporating more elements from African culture into their music. Even the vibrant album cover art by veteran metal artist Chris Moyen captures the band’s nomadic aesthetic.
“We are inspired by our environment and we wanted to talk about these stories because mostly they are not covered by the media and we also wanted to retain our identity,” Modisaemang says. “Traditional music is paramount to our song writing and it has contributed very much to the signature sound of Skinflint.”
With a professional production, done in the band’s own studio, Hate Spell is of high quality; aggressive and gritty with a thick and robust sound. As one would imagine, some of the opportunities afforded to musicians in Africa are lacking as far as abundant studios, proper metal venues and quality equipment. Unfortunately, playing this type of music on this continent still invokes cries of “devil worshipers” from non-metalheads.
“We have limited venues and fortunately we have our own studio and we normally order equipment from abroad,” Modisaemang admits. “Disadvantages are lack of support for the music we play. However, we are getting a good reception since we have been around for quite some time and we have grown a decent fan base. So far we are looked up to as ambassadors of African Heavy Metal.”
Skinflint wear their influences on their sleeves, culling elements of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Darkthrone, and Bathory. The thick, pulsating bass lines from Nkoloso and the energetic, syncopated thrusts from Modisaemang accompany Sbrana’s potent riffs, tasty guitar leads, and menacing vocals. The band’s first single and video, “Sasabonsam,” is a savage track with a quick-paced rhythm and D-beat drumming. The mythical meaning behind the song is about a female bat-like creature with giant wings and a snake tail who can replicate your deepest fantasies in your mind to haunt you.
Although Skinflint hails from one of the most unlikely places for metal, the band is making a significant dent within the African metal community and abroad. Their first European tour was in 2013, followed by headlining shows in Sweden and locally around southern Africa and Kenya. The band recently embarked on a highly-anticipated US tour with Soulfly, playing dates in February and early March.
“We have played in the US before and we loved Soulfly so much that we want to continue doing tours with them,” Modisaemang concludes. “We are looking forward to more tours and to keep producing good music.”
Hate Spell released on February 17th via Into Records.
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