March Of The Gods: Botswana Metalheads
Directed: Raffaele Mosca
Review by Chris Galea
Having grown up on a tiny and relatively isolated island but whose Metal scene endures, I can’t say that I find the propensity of this music genre to propagate far and wide to be a surprising quality. And yet I found “March of the Gods” to be deeply intriguing.
This documentary chronicles the history of Wrust, a Death/Groove Metal band from Botswana, but in doing so it also gives us an insight into the Metal scene of this country…the bands and sub-genres that tend to be popular there and the attitudes of Metal fans. For yes, there is a Metal scene in this African country. But it’s quite a particular one.
Wrust was formed in 2000 in Gaborone, the capital city of Botswana…close to the border with South Africa. Influences cited by the band members range from the old school British scene to Death Metal bands such as Varathron, Cannibal Corpse and Rotting Christ. Into all these influences, Wrust seem to infuse the musical roots of their own country.
The ambitions, accomplishments and longevity of Wrust seem to have made them a point of reference of Botswana’s Metal scene. But to achieve that level of regard, Wrust have had to overcome numerous difficulties along the way – difficulties such as apathy and prohibitive financial costs. We discover that the band has often had to travel hundreds of kilometres to play for a handful of fans and for zero remuneration….but they still put 100% effort into those performances. I’m sure that many European and North American bands can relate to that level of dedication.
Similar feelings of déjà vu are likely to be sensed when we learn about the prejudices that Botswanan Metal fans are forced to refute: you know what I’m talking about…Satanism, metal fans as ‘troublemaker’ stereotypes and so on.
The documentary goes on to illustrate how invaluable the direct assistance of established bands is. For example, although many European and North American bands tend to neglect the area in their touring schedule, when Swedish band Entombed played there and offered genuine encouragement, fans and local bands seemed revitalised and their ambitions galvanized.
“March of the Gods” examines how the Metal scene of Botswana has developed in terms of crowd behaviour. Female Botswanan Metalheads share their own experiences too. The documentary also highlights the changes that the internet has brought about with regards to promoting gigs and promoting the bands themselves. In this respect, Wrust seem to have been on the forefront in embracing technology and social media to catalyse the band’s growth. Through my experience, such an entrepreneurial spirit tends to be what differentiates successful bands from the rest.
I get the impression that the link with South Africa is an important one, not only for Botswana but also for other African countries. The Metal scene of South Africa seems to be more vibrant but other surrounding countries seem eager to partake in that. Wrust even recorded their debut album “Soulless Machine” there before releasing it in 2007.
The documentary also goes into the image and attire of Metal fans in Botswana…something that European fans might find odd. Besides band shirts and denim and leather, Botswanan fans seem to have assimilated a ‘cowboy’ sort of image into all that.
I have to say that some scenes just don’t add anything of value to the documentary. For example, I got the feeling that some interviews could have been more eloquent and some political speeches came across as cringeworthy and have nothing at all to do with Metal. In fact, “March of the Gods” does suffer from some poor editing. Despite all this, though, it’s basically the only source of knowledge about the Metal scene of Botswana and therefore its charm remains immutable.
At the beginning of the interview, a music journalist speaks about his discovering Wrust and confesses that he realised Metal “transcends race and geography”…”it’s like a universal language”. And that’s probably the strongest message that can be derived from “March of the Gods”.
Postscript: What has happened since the documentary’s release?
Wrust haven’t released anything new since sophomore album “Intellectual Metamorphosis” in 2013. The band is still together though.
Amok, another band mentioned in “March of the Gods”, seem to have gone quiet in recent years.
Other bands from Botswana have made tentative steps into the international spotlight. For example, in 2016 Overthrust – a Death Metal band from Ghanzi (a town to the West of Botswana) – toured Europe and played Wacken Open Air festival.
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