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You can never truly understand the present day rock scene by being indifferent to modern permutations of the genre and its sub genres. But doing a thorough examination of a band’s style requires a bold and sober approach to the roots of the genre itself and also what inspires the band and most importantly their own interpretations or innovations. July the 5th was another day set for the annual hosting of the heavy metal event dubbed ward 7 and the new kids on the block, Rash were scheduled to perform.
The front man sounds as genuine and rock solid on stage as he does in the recorded material. His stage presence is exceptionally well grounded keeping the crowd entertained. Even when playing for a small group of people he still managed to radiate that rock star persona. I have combed through so much material to find where to place his vocal range. It sounds oddly familiar but like a déjà vu completely eludes to my recollection. The fast paced lyrics are somewhat akin to what old school hard rock sounded like. But clearly the vocal range and technique is borrowed heavily from what characterises iconic bands like Metallica and AC/DC.
But it lends itself to the latter’s style with that feel of uncorked flow of a mix of testosterone and adrenaline that it gives you. The best picture illustrative of their style of vocalisation is a ride down a hill on a bike without breaks with fireworks going off in the background. Or better yet imagine yourself as Marvel Comic’s ‘Ghost Rider’ raising hell and meting out retributive justice on the highway 49.
Content wise its swings more to hard rock with a slight touch of the diabolical and raw content that characterises the more extreme sub genres of metal. It then swings you directly to something more home grown and nascent; like a whiff of the familiar it brings you a side of swa-rock so refined you’d question how long this band has been together. The front man does it in his own idiosyncratic way that stays true to innovation and what defines the bands ideology; in a way only vocalists like Nambari Tisa of Murfy’s flaw and PLG’s former and present front men have managed to carry themselves. If I was to sit here and tell you about guitar riffs and crescendos and that kind of technical stuff I’d be deceiving both you and myself.
To be honest, I’ve never been to a single music class and the little that I know will just suffice to keep me in a conversation. My reviews are more amorphous and abstract, sort of the kind you’d find in a social science research or rather the speculative philosophy of classic Greece. Mine is about the experience and the intangible feel of the music. That which there can be no precise phraseology. And that fact is the more crucial when it comes to talking about how these guys play their instruments. Listening to them you can identify the high pitched rhythm guitar and the stronger role of the bass guitar that identifies with metal and hard rock bands.
When I first listened to Rash I posted to their wall encouraging them to come out with more of the same stuff and saying it was some of the hardest material I have heard come from a Kenyan band. And that is a consequence of the quality and style of their guitarists more than anything else. Rock music for me is a genre that is unapologetic for its mode of delivery and content. For its enthusiasts such as myself it appeals to our ideology and lifestyle. Those who have rage boiling within us and are unafraid to go against the established order. Forget demonstrations and democracy and religion. We are those anti-heroes that believe in bringing change by doing whatever is necessary. If the earth is to be doused with hell-fire or reborn through an alien invasion then so be it. We don’t live by fate and/or destiny and can’t and don’t want to be controlled.
For a band to deliver that brand of ideology with their music, their audience must feel that through their guitarists. Bands like Black Sabbath established their dark ideology even before their vocalists opened their mouth. It was that low, heavy and electric play on the guitar that did it. And I believe that Rash has managed to do that as well. A sound that is as much a war cry as it is a ballad for a weary traveller on a well-trodden path.
When I choose my music I am as sentimental about the drumming as the next rocker. But when listening to the recorded material you sort of get the feel that the producer didn’t do any justice to the drummer’s technique, energy and talents. To be sure rock music has come a long a way in Kenya as a far as recording quality is concerned. And perhaps it can well be said that you may never experience a drummer’s true talent except with a live performance. It is impossible to dress the experience with enough semantic clarity to give you the whole picture. But with a live performance it is undoubtedly true that a band’s most outstanding sound is the beat on their drums and percussions. And this particular drummer didn’t disappoint on that front delivering a performance reminiscent of the best bands in the business.
I won’t try and classify what sub genre they fall into but it felt to me that they are a mix of punk and hard rock with slight similarities with the heavy metal subgenre.
All that being said I have one final observation to make; coupled with a statement at the tail end of it of course. One thing worth noticing is that the Kenyan music scene in general, artistes make money off shows. No one buys albums and you can speculate that they don’t make much out of royalties either. The same is true for the rock genre which is an emerging trend. It is far from being mainstream and I don’t expect it to become popular with the general public. But that however is an expected thing since rock music has never been mainstream. It identifies with a certain kind of crowd.
Bands like Green Day and the Offspring made a living out of playing in clubs and backyard parties before eventually going global and playing for monster crowds in packed stadiums. So as a rocker subscribed to Rash’s page or whichever band it is you fancy, this is your music and no one else’s. Only you can promote it and make it grow. So don’t sit at home and complain about how bad the final product sounds on radio; come out and enjoy the real music at their shows.