In a small garage in Greendale, ears are ringing. Literally. The result of electric guitars and a drumset amplified to the max. The four wielders of these instruments are members of Dividing The Element, a heavy metal band trying to expose the genre locally.
Heavy metal or simply metal, originated from hard rock in the 1960’s. Fueled by social injustices, the war in Vietnam and technological advancements in sonic distortion, acts like Jimmi Hendrix, Cream and Led Zeppelin cranked the volume up to fuel their social criticism.
1968 saw the birth of heavy metal in its truest form in Birmingham, England. Where Black Sabbath took inspiration from the clamour of the steel mills which once dominated their environment. Ever since, metal has branched out into many subgenres which is a challenge for bands such as Dividing The Element to place themselves.
Since the group’s inception in 2012, the key metal components were added: Chris Van on vocals/electric guitar, Nick “Newbz” Newberry on drums, Archie Chikoti on electric guitar and Mat Sanderson on bass guitar. But which style do they represent?
“What we do, I don’t think the genre has been defined because we are fusing a lot of elements,” says Van. “Our latest songs have kind of been westernised in the instrumentation but we sing in Shona.”
There is some traditional African percussion in songs like “Upenyu” and “Magetsi” which Newberry controls. However, the recent addition of talented percussionist Othnell “Mangoma” Moyo shows that they want the style to feature permanently.
“I saw him play with Chikwata 263 at The Mbira Center,” says Van. “He’s only been with us for two rehearsals but that’s because he’s a busy guy. He’ll bring another dimension, I like the idea of heavy guitar and rhythm playing over.”
Van’s parents’ garage is the place where the group rehearse once a week; their busy lives do not permit them to do more unless they have a show. Van and Chikoti teach music, Newberry runs a fumigation company in town and Sanderson balances fatherhood with a family business selling herbs.
Their love of metal and mission to “take metal to the people” as Chikoti puts it or “metal evangelism” in Van’s words is the driving force behind their music which has been well received when performed live. “There are people who’ve never heard anything like it before,” says Newberry. “The shows are quite energetic, it’s a wall of sound.”
The group have aspirations to perform at big festivals, like Metal4Africa in Cape Town where some of the big guns play. But Sanderson believes they need to “create a ripple in their own back yard” before going anywhere else. A view shared by his band-mates, “It would be cool to play in places like Kadoma, Kwekwe and Bulawayo,” says Van. “It’s a Zimbabwean metal band so this is where we should start.”