After those two massive concerts in March, the year is rolling on pleasantly from the ides and it continues to lend testimony to the aspiration that this is going to be an awesome year for rock music in Kenya. For much of the time preceding March, the rock landscape had been watered solely by the torrential rain off the single “Tri-infestation” by death-core band IN OATH. They’ve been scaling the continental charts too. In the mainstream sector Rash’s – “Let it be rock” has been doing rounds on the local charts for a while now and some of us felt that there is need for something new. It has taken disappointingly long for things to take off, but when they finally did they’ve taken most of the rock fraternity by surprise. It’s been an unending succession of breathless release of rock songs from the constant neighbourhood haunts and also some material from bands that have been silent a while. In honoring this blog’s culture and also to give tribute to those bands for the work they’ve put in, we’ve decided to do a review on all four tracks. We’ll just plough through them randomly without giving any ratings whatsoever. We’ll leave that to you.
RASH- BEER PARTY
First to kick off things was Rash with a song titled “Beer Party”. It was released off the cuff of the “Hard and Heavy Concert” that featured bands like Last Year’s Tragedy and the sleeping dragons Mortal Soul, with the latter look set to take a bite out of the pie a few years after the release of their EP. “Beer Party” like most of Rash songs gradually reveal the band’s musical identity. And it is almost clear by now that they are taking the cue from the Australian Hard Rock band AC/DC. Furthermore this song carries elements which crystallized the identity of heavy metal. The theme is centred on revelling and self-indulgence, which alongside darkness (a theme Rash already covered in songs like “Msafiri” and “Darkness and Witchcraft”) constitute the axiomatic twin gods of the conscience of heavy metal. They continue to pay respect to those foundational ideals with a simple rhythm structure that is easy to rock to, leaving the technicality to the guitar solo which continues to be emphasized with every new release. The Swahili touch to this song isn’t as apparent as the previous tracks with only slight allusions tucked away in obscure parts of the track. The only downside to this song is that the band hasn’t ventured to make this song stand out creatively and they may risk bogging down the album with material that instinctively sounds the same. Nevertheless manages to charm by packing a sharp punch of adrenaline into just over 2 minutes of runtime and maybe that’s the reason it was received so well at ‘Merch from the Underground’.
SIMPLY TOMAS – MENTAL POWER
The second song that was released is from another familiar face in the scene and that’s the solo artist Simply Tomas. We have also learned that along with the other acts that feature in this review, Tomas’ song “Mental Power” is part of an ensemble being put together for the release of an album. The release date, together with the track list for that album is yet to be made available but we will keep you little monsters informed of any developments. The song itself feels like a soliloquy about self-actualization, harnessing the power of the human mind as well as summoning the powers of the cosmos. This is one of those songs that I feel, if nothing else, can be lauded for carrying an ingenious element in the guitar work overall. The riffs sound like a nostalgic homage to that delightful homeless band, headed by a blind guitarist that used to play along Aga Khan Walk. It makes use of largely acoustic elements in the instrumentation. This dynamic seems to have slowly creeped in to Tomas’ work and have become an identifying marker from the time we first heard ‘Tafadhali’ and more recently ‘Mpenzi’. Tomas’ soft style serves the scene well; attracting the wider public who are more averse to the harder edge that characterises other underground acts. There is definitely less use of Swahili in the lyrics. However where it’s used sparingly, it works to properly put a shimmering glimmer on the English lyrics, like a cherry on top of the cake.
PARKINGLOTGRASS ft CLAY – TURN AROUND
Next we sample “Turn Around”. It is the 3rd single ParkingLotGrass’ album “Turn Around”. These guys keep refining their sound as they go along. Listening to how distinguished its sound is from the other tracks like ‘Naweza’ and ‘Rainman’, it’s a testament to how musically diverse their second album ‘Tusk at Hand’ will be. We don’t like making comparisons with other acts but for those who haven’t given a listen to this piece, it sounds like a slice off the Linkin Park cake. Throwing Nigerian pop rock songstress Clay into the fray colours this song with a gothic hue reminiscent of the Amy Lee fronted outfit Evanescence. Again if you are yet to listen to this song, it fronts some fresh ideas. It includes a piano something that’s seldom used in PLGs work. The guitars aren’t as overwhelmingly loud as to muffle Dan Muriira’s voice; they actually play to enhance it. They are restricted to the background except for the solo. They choose instead to let the piano stand out and let the main riff be largely a chugging along of guitar play. This song is perhaps the best example of what Dan Muriira can offer as a vocalist, very composed and restricting versatility to proper moments. He isn’t so gung-ho as to throw the whole spectacle into disarray. Clay sounds majestic, fiery and inspiring, a songstress in the true sense of the word.
DOVESLIMME – FINGERTIPS BLISS
Next up is a band that I feel sort of rushed their work on this particular piece. Doveslimme released ‘Fingertips Bliss’ which seems to play off of the chaotic elements of punk rock. Either that or the quality of the sound is just poor falling short of everything they’ve worked on before. On a positive note we get to hear Jillian and Dimmz combine on the vocals once again, it’s a spectacle that we always look forward to if songs like ‘Identity’ are anything to go by. They maintain that fun atmosphere that they rarely depart from which gives their songs a form of predictability. The song features some great guitar work that adds a funky feel to it that is worth jamming to.
LUST OF DYING BREED – DIVINE DESIGN
Crowning off our review is another band that has ventured to feature female vocals, perhaps not only in this particular piece but as a long term plan as the band works on the second offspring to its discography. If you had any doubts as to the unmatched technical and vocal prowess of these fellas then this song just sold itself to the jury, even though we’ve had to wait a few years for that. The song is titled ‘Divine Design’ and its said to be a tribute to compatriot of Martin Kanja who recently passed on. It starts off with humming from a female vocalist who we are yet to identify. The main riff kicks in after that, then the double bass drumming paves way for Martin’s entry. He makes his entry like a pack of hellhounds that just rolled off the dragons’ tongue ravenously focussed on tearing everything in their path to shreds. The female vocals aren’t much used save for that beginning section and in the refrain. That is something we can venture to forgive because we are definitely gonna hear more of what she can do in subsequent releases. Minute 1:02 keeps the bands promise of featuring some traditional pieces in their music with a short detour into Maasai singing. The guitars sweetly mull around in the background as these traditional chants interject. With that slight cultural indulgence the song rages into the frenetic heaviness once again. The growling, to our relief, is a varied display of everything this band can do; the final sequence of the song is dedicated to a few pig squeals as the guitars trot out a seething breakdown sequence you head bangers will undoubtedly love.
If you’ve listened to the song tell us what you think in the comments section down below. We always enjoy feedback. You can get in touch with the bands by checking out the ‘Band Profiles’ tab. Keep ‘rocking’!!!