”A Path Of The Few… A Path Of The Gods”
I have always held that one particular quality which makes the Kenyan rock and metal scene special compared to other regions all over the world is how inextricably connected the music is to the culture in general. You can almost always tell the state of the scene at any given time from the kind of material bands are putting out. To claim that we have finally come of age would hardly be an overstatement.
A fortnight ago, local metalcore overlords Irony Destroyed dropped their highly anticipated debut album titled ‘Strife To Legacy’ to the delight of fans, having initially released their first single ‘Oreon’ a few weeks earlier. The album is a six-track piece of work that is without a doubt the most audacious of anything I’ve heard before in any album by a Kenyan band. It is iconoclastic in both composition and presentation, profoundly confessional in its tone and unrelenting in its message. A very personal album indeed.
The album opens with the 1.45 minute intro ‘Strife’ which begins with a gloomy atmosphere punctuated by winds and thunder before guitarist Lenny Kiano and vocalist Lawrence Muchemi break the transient grey with high-octane guitar riffs and quite possibly the most impressive harsh vocals I’ve ever encountered on a metalcore record. ‘Strife’ ,in spite of its brevity is one of the best tracks on the album. It crystallizes the experiences of the band leading up to this release and the clusterfuck of challenges they have had to endure on their journey to realize this dream. It certainly cozies up the listener for the mindfuck that is to follow up shortly.
Second track on the album is ‘Oreon’ which most metalheads would have heard prior to the release of this album. ‘Oreon’ was released as Irony’s first single and the band has played it at shows in the past, most notably at ‘Nairobi Rock Showcase’ in December last year. This track for me sums up pretty succinctly what Irony Destroyed are as a band: an experimental metalcore act (and I have strong reservations about describing them as metalcore, but more on that later) that is not afraid to step out of their comfort zone. Carrington Kabatha’s masterful drumming on this track makes it one of my favorite. It seems some glitches occurred during the recording of this track but it’s easy to overlook them in the face of such overriding talent.
Like I said before, it’s difficult for me to conceive of Irony Destroyed as a plain-old metalcore band. Nowhere else does this become more apparent than on the next track – ‘Fight Back’ . Lawrence incorporates his black-metal influenced vocals on this track to great effect. One minute into the song a whistle can be heard before Lenny’s guitar breaks into a rhythmic death metal-tinged riff and Lawrence channels all his rage in a macabre yet infectious cry :
“Stand up for yourself
What do you have to lose?”
Very hard to restrain the ‘shower-growler’ in you when that part comes on.. lol
‘Fight Back’ introduces the second part of this album which is musically more aggressive and complex than the tracks that come before.
The track that follows – ‘Lazima Udie’ is arguably the summit of this epic album. Being the only song on the album that is written entirely in ‘sheng’ one would expect it to fall short but who would’ve thought ‘sheng’ and metal mix so admirably? This track is pure unadulterated rage. You won’t find any sentimental nonsense here. It plays like a theatre performance. In between blast beats and searing guitar riffs you hear cricket sounds , spine-tingling screams and gunshot sounds. Irony’s siren Lorena ‘Skylar’ Mbogo makes her first appearance on this track, punctuating Lawrence’s death growls with her angelic crooning. Little wonder why this song is a fan favorite.
After ‘Lazima Udie’ comes ‘The Dreamer’, which is the longest song on the album clocking at 4.44 minutes. It’s comes as a breath of fresh air after all the rage and violence your ears will have suffered from the two previous songs. It’s cathartic melodies will purge you of all prior emotion induced by ‘Lazima Udie’ (no, please don’t sacrifice yer cat to Satan mate). This song is an anthem for dreamers everywhere. It reiterates the underlying theme of the album: that only we can design our realities and that whatever dreams we may harbor are never too far-fetched. Skylar’s fragile vocals appear once again on this track twining and complementing Lawrence’s in a style that is reminiscent of bands like ‘Tristania’ and ‘Trees of Eternity’
The album concludes with ‘Dissolving The Bully’, a 4.03 minute track which is most confessional of all the songs on this record. On this track, Irony once again manage to step out of their niche to showcase the tech-death influence on their sound with riffs that sound similar to the chugging of a train. Halfway through the song, a guitar solo can be heard which although not very complex in construction accentuates the mood of the music surprisingly well.
This album is generally very poignant and introspective with a timely message that most everyone deserves to hear. The only downside to this album is the fluctuation of sound levels on some tracks, a problem that I hypothesize came about during recording. Nevertheless, this is a wonderful offering especially for a band making its first foray into the world of metal and one that is unapologetically DIY.
I honestly have to confess I haven’t listened to a debut record this impressive from a local metal act since Mortal Soul released their ‘Ashes In The Wind’ EP back in 2013. I cant wait for Irony’s sophomore album. It is surely an exciting thought. Meanwhile I’ll be blasting me some ‘Strife’.
Mordecai Ogayo is a multi-instrumentalist that operates from Nairobi, Kenya. He plays bass and violin for “The Seeds of Datura”. He is also associated with Imber Luminis.