March of the Gods Review

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AKA: March of the Gods: Botswana Metalheads
Genre: Music Documentary
Year Released: 2014
Distributor: Unlicensed
Origin: Italy/Botswana/England/Scotland/Greece
Running Time: 87 minutes

Rating/Recommended Audience: 16+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Death Metal Angola, Bones of Brundage, Afro-Punk, Metal From the Dirt, A Slumdog Metal Fairytale, Benda Bilili!

-March of the Gods is streaming on YouTube.

-Feel free to check out Wrust’s Bandcamp page here.
Fun Facts:
-Wrust is a death metal band from Gaborone, Botswana and have existed for twenty years as of this year. The sole original member is lead vocalist/guitarist Stux Daemon. They’ve played shows with Sepultura and Carcass.

-Speaking of Gaborone, that’s the capital and the largest city of Botswana. It’s named after a notable chief in the country named Kgosi Gaborone. There’s roughly 273k+ people living in that city as of this year which is close to ten percent of Botswana’s population.

-March of the Gods is directed by Italian filmmaker Raffaele Mosca. He’s originally from the Milan area, but has lived in multiple European countries before settling into Canada after the fact. This documentary is also Mosca’s debut feature documentary. Interestingly enough, part of March of the Gods involved Wrust playing in his hometown for one of their first European shows ever.

-A band that was briefly featured was Metal Orizon. They are considered to be the first metal band in Botswana who are originally from Gaborone, but now currently based in Francistown. Metal Orizon has existed since 1990 and are still playing music to this day.

I have touched on various genres of music here on Iridium Eye. There have been music documentaries and even some musicals covered in this blog. One genre has been sorely missing in this blog: heavy metal. I used to be a huge metalhead during my high school and early college years even though I listened to other genres as well. My first death metal show I saw was Becoming the Archetype at Cornerstone 2006. Metal music certainly has captivated so many people for decades and there are notable scenes across multiple countries. America is one example, but you have nations such as Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, and Mexico having their own national and regional scenes. Shoot, even Mongolia has been getting attention with the band The Hu (not to be confused with The Who, obviously) who incorporate indigenous instruments and throat singing in that context. They’re even the first Mongolian band to actually have a hit on an American radio chart (US Mainstream Rock, US Rock, and US World). People may not know this, but Africa has metal bands, too. I became aware of this a couple of years ago when I stumbled upon bands such as Arka’n from Togo, Scratch from Mozambique, and Irony Destroyed from Kenya to name a few. Sure, you might throw in Seether from Pretoria, South Africa who’ve had mainstream success in America, but they’re a hard rock band at best, let’s keep it real.

Did you know that a certain nation just one country north of where Seether’s from that happens to have multiple extreme metal bands while having their own take on the subculture?

Now, you will!

March of the Gods deals with the metal scene in the Southern African nation of Botswana. Despite being a small country with just a little over 2 million people, there are multiple heavy metal bands coming up from the Gem of Africa. One of those bands that’s prominently featured is the death metal quartet Wrust. Lead by founder Stux Daemon (real name: Tumelo Matshameko), he was inspired at a young age by rock and metal music to create something new in the music scene. It goes through the history of the band, playing shows in their home country as well as South Africa, recording their albums, being on a brief hiatus, and also playing a major festival in Italy. In addition to past and present members talking about their experiences, other metal bands get interviewed, some locals talk about the ideology of the Botswanan rocker/metalhead subculture with their idiosyncrasies, and some regular people talk about the impact of the music in the country. Can Wrust and the other bands turn Botswana into not just the metal capital of Africa, but also a destination for international bands to play in this nation?

Wrust was actually one of those African bands I had heard of years ago, but didn’t get into their music until I listened to Arka’n when I wanted to check out African metal bands. I bought both of their full-length albums and their “Too Deep” single. Seeing a documentary about them let alone the Botswana metal scene was something that caught my eye. There was a great range of interviews from all the bands, the metalheads who go to the shows, producers, and everyday people. While most of the interviewees were African, there were also a number of white musicians, fans, and audio engineers who expressed their thoughts and even liking a lot of the bands that they were exposed to. The production of the documentary was wonderful as it mixed live footage, archived videos, and crisp visuals for the interviews and backgrounds. The cinematography was brilliant with the lighting, Botswanan scenery, and concerts. It was also great seeing parts of Gaborone that besides the flora and environment that could pass as a middle-class environment. Sure, Botswana may not be as rich as America, but they are a developing nation as well as them being stable and safe. Not everything in Africa looks like a slum or a random safari, and I’m sick of having to repeat this every time I review and African film or at least a movie that was filmed in those countries. Going to Wrust’s music, they really are hard-hitting and are more authentic than so many bands in America and Europe with the music and lyrics. If you are going to give them crap about the spelling of their names, yet like bands such as Paramore, Phish, Slightly Stoopid, or The Beatles, then you have no right to talk. Here are a couple of music videos from them, so you know what they sound like.

Very brutal, right?

The subculture aspect did fascinate me since I started listening to Wrust’s music and seeing some videos about how Botswanan metalheads are compared to their American and European counterparts. They do wear black which is par for the course of metal, but the thing is they get decked out in cowboy gear. I’m not making this up, you have people in the humid Southern African landlocked climate in chaps, hats, boots, long sleeves, yet adorn them with band logos, spikes, skulls, and other symbols. They mosh around and rock out to this stuff. Botswanan businessman A. Rahman El-Kindiy, while supportive of his countrymen and women doing something with the music was weirded out by the morbid take on the cowboy attire as he believes that the bands and fans should be playing country instead to fit the image, yet they are re-contextualizing this Western attire (speaking in the terms of Western civilization and the genre) to be synonymous with metal and rock music in their home country. In the film, the cowboy thing might have started with some rancher dressed like one and allegedly went to a concert on horseback instead of driving or taking a bus there and that’s the legend. Not only that, but you even have these Botswanan metalheads that even have bunnies around them. I can’t even make this up if I tried.

This subculture certainly had bizarre elements, but I did appreciate how they’re making music in the country as well as not doing anything destructive despite facing stereotypes of being aggressive or satanic.

March of the Gods does miss a few notes here and there. While I was impressed with the balanced interviews and showing various viewpoints from several people, I did think there were so many bands to keep track of. Wrust does get most of the spotlight which I do understand, but I barely know anything about some of the other bands like Amok or Stane despite the latter having great insight on the perception of other people’s perception of metal music in Africa. I thought that there wasn’t enough information on what Botswanans like outside of metal as a noticeable contrast. There was a “softer” rock band called Kamp13 and El-Kindiy did mention popular genres of music in other African countries in passing, but I have no idea about the music in Botswana outside of metal which would’ve helped with some perspective. Going back to the metal subculture fashion, there were some lingering questions in my mind. Is this a reaction to Western media? Do the Botswanans actually know about cowboys? Could this be cultural remixing of sorts? I couldn’t help but think about how some other African nations use Western fashions as a statement much like the sapuers in both Congo countries (Kinshasa, DRC and Brazzaville, ROC especially) dressing up in luxury clothes, so I wonder if there’s the same ideology, but more focused on the music. What would happen if these same metalheads went to shows in America or Europe wearing those jet black and skull-adored cowboy guises? I’m sure they would get some raised eyebrows and insults thrown their way (there are some racists in the metal scene, let’s be honest). I felt like there were a few missed opportunities in this documentary. This is also a more subjective aspect, but if death metal or thrash metal is too much for you, then March of the Gods won’t be your flavor. Sorry.

This snapshot of Botswana’s metal scene was certainly a great watched. I learned so many things from Wrust while also getting exposed to other bands in that country and a couple from South Africa. The production was as thrilling as some adept guitar shredding solos going on. The music is on par with other bands which is amazing. I do wish that there was more of an exposure to more bands as well as answering some questions that were in my mind. If you want to know about African metal bands, then March of the Gods is a fine introduction to bands such as Wrust, Metal Orizon, Crackdust, and so much more.

Rock on, Botswana!

Adjustable Rating System:

Add 1-2 points if you like heavy music.
Add 1 point if you’re a Wrust fan.
Subtract 2-4 points if you’re not a fan of extreme metal genres.

-Excellent metal music on display
-Phenomenal film production
-Great perspectives from so many people of different races and walks of life

-Not for those who can’t handle death or thrash metal music
-Unanswered questions about Botswanan metal subculture
-Lack of music representation besides Wrust and Metal Orizon

Final Score: 8/10 points

Content Warning: March of the Gods is best for older teens and up. There’s strong language including interview clips with multiple F-bombs from fans and bands. There’s a brief scene of a couple dancing very suggestively to the music (This isn’t a rap video! Get a room!). There’s talk about violence with the lyrics and one of the Wrust members owns a gun. One other Wrust member has a chicken farm. He casually talks about killing one and there’s a close up scene of him beheading a chicken where you see blood and guts. Also, some of the fans flip the bird including someone wearing a shirt that involves the same gesture on it. There’s also some smoking and drinking in different scenes.

-Curtis Monroe

All photos and videos are property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. March of the Gods is property of Raffaele Mosca. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of Raffaele Mosca.

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