Album Review: Duma – Duma [Nyege Nyege Tapes; August 2020]

When Venom’s legendary album Black Metal came out in 1982, ‘black’ meant two things: a vague reference to Old Nick himself and a fashion statement. Not one metalhead could have foreseen that it would be in – of all places – Nairobi where the mosh pits would be heaving with headbangers thirsty for the latest acts: Lust of a Dying Breed, Mortal Soul, Vale of Amoniton, Aphasia, Void of Belonging. The list goes on and on.

A clear sign of the boom is the self-titled debut Duma by the gutsy new converts Martin Kanja and Sam Karugu, which dwells in the Stygian depths we last went with Nekrasov, Pharmakon, and Prurient – the abrasive, noisy variety that overlaps with post-industrial and power electronics while retaining the shrieks, hammer drill tempos, and harmonic minor scales.

The key achievement here is the duo’s ability to bring fresh ideas to the table, despite what sounds like a tight budget and bare-bones technical set up. Those fractured, flanged keys of ‘Sin Nature’ battered by techno kicks, or majestic synths looming behind salvos of snares in the downward spiralling opener ‘Angels and Abysses’… they are out of this world.

What’s more, they execute all this while still sounding Kenyan. In ‘Omni’, half-time rhythmic backing vocals blend in seamlessly with a barrage of beats blasting at 250 BPM. Even an average death growl becomes a very different beast when the lyrics in Maasai are based on a brutal rite of passage which ritual track title ‘Lionsblood’ refers to. As the album artwork implies, this is not for the faint of heart.

Officially the fastest growing genre in the world according to TuneCore, the victory march of metal continues. What gives? “We don’t care about how much money you’re making or what race you come from – the connection we have is really deep,” Kanja explained in an interview. “You can just pull up at a show and everyone loves you, and they love you for real. They don’t even want you to change, they accept you the way you are.” How many other artists out there can say the same?