Monday, December 22, 2014

heavy metal: SKINFLINT (Botswana): Nyemba (Pure Steel Records)

Skinflint (Botswana): Nyemba (Pure Steel Records)
Skinflint is a traditional heavy metal band from Botswana, a band that records its music in such a way that, as much as possible, what the listener hears, is what the band recorded. The band’s philosophy, more or less, is to play the music so that the listener can hear the drums, the bass, the guitar and vocals clearly. It is a type of rebellion against the perfectionist/clicky sounds of so much metal music. Skinflint is critical of drummers that do not actually play the parts heard on the recording, critical of programmed/modified/repaired drums with sampled drums; critical of bands with highly processed vocals, vocal effects, vocal corrections, so on and so forth. Skinflint does not want to be like those bands that sound perfect on the recording, then you see them live and you feel disappointed because it sounds like a different band altogether due to “the studio magic.”
Skinflint’s approach has not been understood well in some quarters. Some people have said some condescending things about Skinflint, that this African band needs to be educated in a so-called proper studio in Europe or the U.S.; some people have also made racist comments about the band, so the level of ignorance can go rather high in some cases. Yet, Skinflint is not some young or insecure or confused band. Skinflint was formed about 2006. Including this 2014 album called “Nyemba,” the band now has at least four full-length albums, plus a couple of EPs, and some singles, and possibly other recordings that have not yet been published. I have not heard all of Skinflint’s recorded output, but I do have the 2010 album “Iklwa,” the 2011 EP “Gauna,” the 2012 album “Dipoko,” and this new one. The band has consistently followed its principles about recording metal music. Each album sounds fresh, genuine, transparent, and clear in sound, with certain values that at times recall the direct, less-tricks production of “No Prayer for the Dying”-era Iron Maiden (but, for instance, not the more glossy “Somewhere in Time”/“Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”); at other times, you might think of late 70s/early 80s heavy metal recordings; still, at some moments, you might detect early Led Zeppelin/Deep Purple/Black Sabbath aesthetic values of not overcrowding the song with outside distractions, a bit more upfront, and that don’t-overdo-it-in-the-studio sound.
Unfortunately for Skinflint, some people have strongly disliked the band’s traditional recording values for heavy metal and have gone out of their way to insult the band, but the band makes highly interesting music. Every time a new album is published I am reminded of what a gem the band is. It seems to me that the band’s songwriting has expanded a bit, like the band is letting the songs breathe even more now. They sound further along into the Skinflint style of metal, of recording and of writing songs. The vocalist/guitarist Giuseppe “Juice” has semi-growled vocals but in an intelligible way, while the guitars explore melody, upbeat riffs, a bit of doom, even tiny bits of the Zep/Purple/Sabbath blues in selected spots. The bassist Kebonye “Raskebo” always finds creative ways to make himself heard, working in unison with Sandra “Fire” and her steady, heartbeat-of-the-band sound and her feel for keeping a song in vibe. In short, Skinflint has done it again. Remember that the first time listening to the band might require you to adjust your mind to a band playing metal that sounds more honest. Who knows, you might start to hear metal in a new way, too, maybe.
Skinflint - Veya

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