Heavy Metal Panic Summerfest 2015 Review

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Somewhere between receiving my M4A ink and staggering out after The Warinsane’s demolition job. Between the burlesquamatrix babes shooting off a spray of lightning bolts into the night sky and the bizarre conversations had with some of the most well-mannered psychopaths this side of the Sahara. Somewhere, between all the carnage set alight in The Klein Liebertas smoldering squared circle of death, there was a single moment when time seemed frozen in place and every inch slipped into a vacuum where even the sound had drowned out, sank to the floor and all that was left was a panoramic view of rapturous spirits sprawling in a mess of euphoria and overpriced alcoholic showers coating a battered concrete floor. The very obvious truth was that the king of this jungle had awoken once again, the tribe had arrived in their numbers and Metal 4 Africa Summerfest 2015 proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that there was still a proud heart beating in this unforgiving wilderness we call Cape Town.

I suspected 2015 was going to be a great year for local metal, i just never expected it to start so soon.

Uncharacteristically, my M4A day started at 5 pm (a bit earlier than usual) with the summer sun finally breaking free of a patch of cloud cover which nearly made a mockery of the event advertising and wife beater-wearing jocks just a stones throw away from the barriers separating us from the norms. But nothing was going to stop The Fallen Prophets from getting the pride together and kicking things off the only way they knew how.

Chapter One – A stroke of brutality

As a young band it must take a fist full of nuts to open up a major festival, but The Fallen Prophets showed no signs of swelling when they busted out the ICU with “Made to suffer” and “Conquer all”. The sun was still out and levels of sobriety reaching record highs, but this blood-soaked foursome quickly transformed the venue into a terminal metal barbeque, roasting the flesh off faces with their brand of self-proclaimed “Brutal” death metal sweeping across the room. TFP had not just confidently opened Summerfest 2015 but did so with a fist in the air and a murderous ambition in their eyes. They were also covered in blood, so that was pretty cool too.

Atlantic South followed the prophets, introducing themselves to the crowd with “Djin djin” and “Dephthcharger” before letting rip with their single “Terrorformer”. Like the prophets, this metalcore ensemble are still fresh to the big stage but grabbed their opportunity with both hands as more bodies streamed into the cramped stage area with the evening quickly approaching.

Zero Stroke entered the fray as the only progressive band on the bill and another relatively unknown entity in metal circles. But they’re not just a kinky prog outfit by any stretch, these guys take experimentation to a level you wish your girlfriend would entertain and quickly confused an unsuspecting herd of summerfesters, whos only crime was trying to get their buzz on. But in between the high pitched howls and wickedly structured versus lies an intriguing set of harmonies and a doggy balls-to-the-wall creative freedom you wont find anywhere else. They managed to pull off another tight set and had it not been for the curiously muffled vocals it would have ranked amongst one of their best performances to date.

Chapter Two – The people vs the system

With the sun now safely tucked away, the freaks started to emerge from the “entertainment area” outside (it had grass, benches, a DJ and the occasional burlesque show, cause an M4A just wouldn’t be the same without one, you know?)

Back inside All Guns Full Ammo hit the stage to a swelling crowd and started spraying their groovy metal love with the consistency of a Claremont foam machine. They were at their typical best, tight as a splif and carving into the night with shredders like “Old man jackal” and ”Mud and murder”, but were also dogged by the poor vocals that had plagued Zero Stroke’s set. It didn’t seem to bother anyone in the crowd though with AGFA raking in a turbulent pit of giggers now fully submerged in festival debauchery, lapping up every second, ready for the next assault.

Someone call the SAPS, because ill System just stole the show. These audacious ouks have been out of the scene since 2007 and recently gave into the urge of a comeback. Praise Zeus they did. Having never tested these waters before and not expecting much, I strolled into the stage area half way through “People vs the state” and immediately found myself clinging to the walls for dear life as the pit had taken on the form of a swirling ocean of bodies clamping and bashing into each other to the ska-infused metal resurrection on display. They barely left enough room to breath with every song boasting a series of pummeling beats perfectly colliding with the raw emotions emanating from the crowd. Ill System were back with a bang and by all accounts, should be sticking around for quite some time.

While the cleanup crew were still busy scraping up human remains off the speakers and other protruding objects in and around the stage area, Stellitius kept the ball rolling with another devastating set list feeding a ravenous mosh pit that had now evolved into a beastly machine, oiled by sweat and driven by a lust to pulverize and power through anything in the vicinity. Even though it took me all day to learn how to pronounce the name, Stellitius left a harsh impression and had Cape Townians eating out of the palms of their technically gifted hands by the end of that performance.

Chapter Three – Wall of flesh

At around 10 pm, with the event now fully cloaked in a pitch-black sky, impaled by a swath of thorny stars, Agro saddled up and unleashed their full-blooded aggressively charged metal into the night. Having released 7 albums over the course of their nearly 2 decades long career, Agro were by far the most experienced group here, and it showed with every dirty riff blasting off the walls and masterfully delivered song echoing through the Liebertas rickety walls. But following them was a group who proves that watching too many post-apocalyptic flicks can actually be a good thing.

Zombies Ate My Girlfriend, those cross-dressing divas, thrust Summerfest into a ruin of despair, infecting the blood hungry mob with a dose of “Appropriate hate crimes” and a firm fans favourite “Silent night”. As chaotic as the pit had become, Gavin (vocalist) still managed to “inadvertently” orchestrate 2 (or 3) walls of death, depends who’s counting. They transmuted every lifeless corpse into a moshing maverick as their death metal sliced through the dense atmosphere almost erasing the memory of all acts who had come before. Continuing on their sinister mission, ZAMG hurled “Maranatha” and “Hail the disaster” into the pit hoping to fend off the hysteria, but only succeeded in leaving behind a crowd still hungry for more as their set was brought to a sickening end.

Last on the agenda was The Warinsane, who rounded off a pulsating evening of pure South African treffers with their very own concoction of bone crushing metal, destroying a lethal set list consisting of titles like “Thundersteamer” and “Burial Rites”. Besides the unlucky pedal break midway through “Grape on command”, they brought the house down with a solid performance, wrapping up this mammoth lineup of bands and an evening of the heaviest music Stellenbosch had witnessed since August 2014. Those poor souls.

Even though Metal 4 Africa has become a double stacked staple diet on the Cape Townian heavy metal calendar over the years, the buildup to Summerfest 2015 had a slightly fresher seduction about it, boasting a lineup of a few heavy hitters, but also a clutch of bravely chosen surprise acts that more than justified their place. The metal community also seemed to want it more this time around with the event page exploding over the last few weeks leading up to the big day and the shear number of metal heads showing up to crowd around the eerie fires lit by the M4A team.
After all said and done, drank and spat, stomped and punched, I left Liebertas with that familiar feeling of a day well spent and a stinging reaffirmation that the metal community in Cape Town were still in good hands and will remain a dominant force in the SA underground for years to come.

Official HMP Photography by Leon Lucas
written by Zain Domo