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Contrast The Water

Refugee Metal

by Max Barashenkov / Images by Kevin Goss-Ross / 26.10.2011

On Friday the 21st, ABC7, the San Francisco Bay Area news channel, ran a story on the Alliance For Artist Rescue, a semi-humanitarian effort to help metal musicians escape prosecution in various countries around the world. The article featured ArtakOzan, an Iranian heavy metal guitarist, and his account of suffering. Beatings at the hands of his government and his eventual escape, with the help of AFAR, to the United States. A noble effort, no doubt. The story then proceeds to describe the plight of a South African band, Contrast The Water, also currently in the US, and how their “political message… has put them and other metal bands on their government’s radar!” Naturally, when the news hit the South African social media channels and the local metal scene erupted in a flurry of violence.

The State Of Metal - ABC Story

Liters of comment-bile were dished out onto the Contrast The Water (CTW) and AFAR walls, accusations flew like bricks, the words “traitors” and “liars” flashed like knives. The metal crowd flexed their outraged muscles in all their petty and ugly glory. CTW and Chris Kontos, the man behind AFAR, responded in an equally childish manner, at first trying to brush the attack off by deleting the various comment threads and banning users from the Facebook page and then, when good judgment took hold, issuing apologetic statements citing the fact that they were severely misquoted by the US news channel and proclaiming their love for the South African metal scene. At that, a sour stalemate was reached. One reading is that we have a band, whose dedication to South African music can hardly be doubted (the CTW vocalist and his wife own Durban live music institution, Burn), who have stupidly blundered into a PR fiasco while trying to honestly achieve something few local bands have. On the other, the story raises parallels with Brandon Huntley, and CTW can be perceived as a band of assholes who would do anything to claw their way out of the metal doldrums of South Africa, selling out their country for a few minutes of media attention and perhaps a prized celebrity-refugee status in the States. Which perception is right is hard to tell. The Bay Area is a hotbed of metal music in the States, but it’s also home to a whole horde of burnt-out acidhead opportunists who love adopting causes such as AFAR for commercial and social gain. Only time will tell how honest Kontos’ intentions are, but for now, one can only wish him to be more cautious before issuing statements such as the one below.

The real matter of this story is not the happening itself, but the way with which the happening was dealt with, a way that is very revealing of the problems plaguing local metal. However you spin it, the scene is infantile, fractured by squabbles, strangled by bands gnawing on each others throats for the limited gigs and audience. A brush with the savage nature of international media highlighted how unprepared we are for a proper metal industry – the fans and other bands too quick to judge and attack; CTW too media illiterate to know that deleting threads on Facebook only incites more anger and puts them on the defensive. With all the semi-recent bitchfests over local metal, with all the chest-beating and electronic devil horns thrown in the air, conducted on this very website, people don’t seem to realize that such a thing as South African metal does not exist, not in musical terms. South African metal is not the bands, who barely produce anything of international value, or quality, and disappear after a few frustrating years. South African metal is the clubs, the promoters and the dwindling fanbase.

Contrast the Water

The pond is small and it is not going to get any bigger anytime soon. If the internet zealots are serious about their pride in the local scene, attention needs to be shifted away from the bands and onto the logistics. Say what you will about the indie-rock wankers, but they did introduce an element of professionalism to their sandpit, an element that is so lacking in the SA metal circles. A stable gig circuit needs to be established, with trusted promoters and bands that realize their own limitations. Realistically a metal band in this country should aim to play a good show to around a hundred people, and everyone of those people needs to go home satisfied. Enough with the badly organized shows that run ungodly late, with shitty sound that leaves the bands themselves fuming, while cramming six acts on a line-up with three of them not being worthy of the stage time. Before these hurdles are overcome, there is no point in fighting over who is more metal, who is more South African and thus deserves the limelight. Only from a stable and down-to-earth culture will bands arise that are able to compete internationally, without sneaking in the backdoor, or raising outrage, concern and the spectre of “white genocide” as their means of getting there.

*Contrast the Water images © Kevin Goss-Ross.

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RESPONSES (18)
  1. Chinless Fake Titted Ho says:

    metalnazi wankers

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  2. Ineedacrap says:

    Metal is shit! except for Truth and its burden, Dead will tell.

    They pretty good.

    Metal as a whole just seems so dead!

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Contrast the Water? What does that even mean?

    Verb the Noun. Verb it. Verb it hard.

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  4. YsterHart says:

    Man, I love metal, but I battle to separate the music from its fans, and its getting harder and harder to defend the precious fuckers.

    How does a scene that once championed open, free thinking, militant individualism turn into a bunch of whiny fascist bitches? You’d almost think we were listening to jazz.

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  5. Rok en Tjop says:

    People give too much of a fuck about following trends in metal rather than just listening to what hey like, like they used to. Now bands have to adjust to the audience.
    Fuck that! If the audience wants bands to sound like their favourite international bands then they must start their own fucken bands!

    Metal is alive, the people are just wankers.

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  6. Emile says:

    I think the spirit of metal and alternative music has been lost along the way. Bands got cought up into pushing ideals rather than music. Shows these days seem like competitions to see who’s the most ‘br00tal’, what happened to riffs?

    The JHB/ DBN/ BLOEM bands have a fairly active circuit. Cape Town metal bands just seem to stick to their city.

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  7. BLEGH! says:

    people are too caught up in what is ‘scene’ and I don’t like to name genres because people seem to like fighting over what is hardcore, metal or metalcore, so I’ll just say heavy to cover them all. . . If I listen to a fake band just copying the sound of another I find it boring, I don’t like much indie but I’ll enjoy a good indie band before a bad heavy band. . . So many bands are just passionless right now, I don’t know why you got into music but I did for the passion and the fun. If bands don’t have that, they have nothing and you can’t have that while copying a certain sound to be cool…. I’m almost certain that any music fan will enjoy a heavy band if they’re having fun and dig what they do. Not just trying to be heavier than the next…. You don’t need to follow trends if you’re good enough trends will follow you

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  8. Devon says:

    Great!

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  9. dudie says:

    what do all these comments have to do with the story?

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  10. Max says:

    Not much 🙂

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  11. LORD ABADDON says:

    Freedom of speech…wonderful isn’t it. The pussy who wrote this obviously went to town with it. And quite fuckin evidently,also (as with most asshole journalists) turned something miniscule into more than it really is. Why not try pull your head out of your arse,wipe the shit from your eyes and look at reality. The truth is it is people like YOU who are the reason bands seek refuge somewhere else,because with over opinionated pricks here in S.A,they don’t have the opportunity to grow. I have watched them play countless times,and every fuckin time they’ve played their hearts out. NOWHERE in that interview was there any mention whatsoever of “white genocide” but it is a reality (farm killings,where the fuck have you been?). Show some fuckin respect,they’re probably more skilled and influential than you’ll ever be. So if writing blogs filled with absolute propaganda makes you feel better,then you’re a really sad excuse of a person.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    haha – written by a jerk who knows nothing about the scene. Fuck even the picture is outdated!!

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  13. dude says:

    Another piss poor attempt with this pathetic low rated news site, its so sad but reading this is like reading a copy of heat magazone only with extra shit stains from the low life uneducated asshole who hates on metal. Its so sad that who ever wrote this actually studied to clog the internet with arrogant white nationalist sensaulism. Well done mahala for being another fuck up in our media society. I hope the anc puts you behind bars for media bullshit. Fucking stupid assholes. Mahala is fucking the gayest wanker site. Thank god no one reads this bullshit! Contrast the water is the best band who have achieved more than this stupid white piece of shit reporter. Typical. Well done mahala. You fucking depress sa news

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  14. Guy says:

    Its really sad to think that this asshole who wrote this actually went uni. But typical of an arrogant caper, the sad thing about mahala is that its of NO SIGNIFICANCE to anyone. I only heard of kakhala when they decided to diss ctw. But now they can really suck a dick cause ctw have been some what prophetic, infact they promote the well being for all, but mahala had to make it a race issue as well, we all remember when the anc created the protection of information bill. History is history, and what i learnt in history is that there are many forms of oppression. Social, ecomonical, etc of course mahala wouldnt know this. So basically in the small small clip of what barry said, you could say he is 100 pervent right. Cause we live in an illusion of freedom. Why is it that people of south africa still live in poverty and the gov makes a new 50 rand bill? Tell me mahala? These guys constantly tell from their own experience about south africa, i’ve seen these guys talk to the street sweeper on the street and ask his opinion about the government. And you go and blast for refugee, the funniest thing is at they never ever went over to do that. But you wouldnt know that cause you spend too much time dissing everyone, its pathetic, low, cowardess, i bet if you said it to their faces they would beat the shit outta you. And then wash their hands from having even come in contact with all the low life disser bloggers from mahala. I bet they even had a huge boner when they wrote this article. Instead they looked like a bunch of small dick fuckups running a wankerish blog. Now you know why no one has heard of mahala.

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  15. Averatu says:

    Contrast the Water rips, the album rips, and they rule live! Fuck all the politics!

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  16. dekker says:

    i love this band so much. i think the issues the band raises in their music and interviews is on i think the country as i whole. on how socially things are fucked still. in terms of education – not only does the standard drop daily but another mindset has now plague poorly educated people and partly to blame for too much media given attention to reckless mouthpieces (who themselves actually dont have a proper education and therefore wasted their freedom to further themself). people that squat and build tin shacks on the hill many if not all have housing back at “the farm” – probley they could learn to run a farm but they come to “THE CITY” build a shack (shanty version of an apartment hand build from the best tin stolen of course). because they want the ANC to build there house when the same anc comes to destroy it. most of the voting fodder in south africa for the anc totally believe that by voting for the anc that the have done this party a huge favor. and the anc must give them what they want. mina ewant house and merceds bendz. so the government responds by Never promoting how one can achieve those dreams of a better life. The Government would rather slogan things “we will give you whatever you want for nothing” provided you hand over your tax or point out shenanigans. to recite the words from N.W.A
    “FUCK DA ANC
    Comin straight from the underground fight
    Young mhulgu got it bad cuz I’m white
    And not the other color so THE ANC think
    They have the authority to kill a minority

    Fuck that shit, cuz I ain’t tha one
    For a punk muthafucka with a badge and a gun
    To be beatin on, and throwin in jail
    We could go toe to toe in the middle of a cell

    Fuckin with me cuz I’m a teenager
    With a little bit of gold, hot fone, rager
    Searchin my car, lookin for the product
    Thinkin every wit ou is sellin narcotics

    You’d rather see me in the pen
    Then me and Lorenzo rollin in the Benzo
    Beat tha ANC outta shape
    And when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape
    To tape off the scene of the slaughter
    Still can’t swallow bread and water

    I don’t know if they fags or what
    Search a cracker
    down and grabbin his nuts
    And on the other hand, without a gun they can’t get none
    But don’t let it be a black and a white one
    Cuz they slam ya down to the street top
    white mp showin out for the black boss

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