May 30, 2024

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Lord Spikeheart: The Adept review – Duma star’s relentless metal isn’t for the fainthearted | Music

Over the past decade vocalist Martin Kanja, AKA Lord Spikeheart, has become a figurehead of the burgeoning Kenyan metal scene: first with frenetic speedcore group Lust of a Dying Breed, then to international acclaim as part of industrial duo Duma, cultivating a distinctive blend of guttural yawps, screeching screams and gravelly rap verses that seep menacingly through headbanging instrumentals.

Lord Spikeheart: The Adept album artwork

The Adept is his debut solo album. Across 13 tracks barely lasting three minutes apiece, Kanja displays the breadth and depth of his vocal experience, acrobatically veering from doom-laden growls to falsetto screams, fast-paced verses and textural noise, his voice a penetrating instrument that can compete with the distorted guitars and thundering bass. It is a condensed and relentless listening experience, launching with the scattergun fuzz of warped kick drums and Kanja’s alternating screams of “yeah” and “go” on opener TYVM before speeding through the industrial techno of Rem Fodder, death-metal percussion on Acts of God and swaggering trap rhythms of Emblem Blem.

The record is loud, brash and anchored in kick drums so full of depth they feel ripe to knock you sideways if played at the right volume. Kanja’s indefatigable vocals maintain the intensity, while the album keeps from slipping into monotony with its range of features. Italian producer Talpah adds a hip-hop bounce to Djangili, while Kenyan guitar virtuoso Hybrid Intuition lends fret-tapping glam rock intricacy to Nobody.

The Adept isn’t an album for the faint-hearted. There is little room to breathe among the instrumental onslaught and its ceaseless percussion can play like a fierce heart palpitation. Allow yourself to sit in this chaos, though, and you may begin to feel strangely liberated, as if screaming into a raging wind or, like Kanja himself, harnessing a prodigiously expressive power.

Also out this month

Kora maestro Ballaké Sissoko finds intriguing common ground with classical guitarist Derek Gripper on their self-titled debut (Matsuli Music). The pair dialogue intricately and effortlessly across seven instrumentals, reaching a fiery crescendo on Basle. Taiwan-based singer-songwriter Yu Ching releases The Crystal Hum (Night School Records), a charming if overly sparse blend of gossamer Mandarin vocals and wistful 80s electro pop. Multi-instrumentalists Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti and Frank Rosaly play freely with the nuances of Latin rhythms on their debut Mestizx (International Anthem), producing infectiously kinetic compositions that reference jazz, cumbia, bomba and much more.

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