The Voice of Destruction
CoC chats with François Breytenbach Blom of Kobus!
by: Quentin Kalis
Kobus! was formed in 2000 by François Blom and Theo Krous, who are both veterans of the South African rock scene -- Blom as frontman for local extreme metal pioneers Voice of Destruction, and Krous as member of the regrettably all-male Springbok Nude Girls, who enjoyed massive success as SA's premier alt-rock band.

Their first two albums fell squarely within rock, and thus never gained my attention; but their third opus, _Swaar Metaal_ (literally, "Heavy Metal") did gain my attention. For a band who were described as "progressive" or "experimental" rock, to claim that the stripped down, balls out, pure metal approach of _Swaar Metaal_ was unexpected would have been a massive understatement -- and like their previous work, it was sung purely in Afrikaans, a Dutch dialect that is the dominant language in their home city of Cape Town. Their marketing team claim it's the first metal album purely in Afrikaans, and I cannot find anything to contradict that. Still, it's taken a while -- Voice of Destruction has been active since the late Eighties, whilst there must surely have been an opportunity since then for an Afrikaans album by somebody. Many, many bands have released albums in their native languages -- including Malay (Langsuyr) and Russian (too many to mention). Why did it take so long for an Afrikaans metal album, and why didn't VoD fill the void?

"In the VoD days you didn't have an unashamed, vibrant Afrikaans music scene", explains vocalist François. "No audience for this type of thing. There was Voelvry (an Afrikaans local music movement in the 1980s that marked the first emergence of alternative rock), Koos Kombuis and the lot --which I hated -- and that was about it as far as anything "alternative" in Afrikaans goes."

Blom does most certainly have a point. Apart form a limited market, the Calvinist apartheid government was not exactly enamoured with "Satanic" heavy metal; and once the Voelvry movement died, alternative Afrikaans music was relegated to the history books (although inane bubblegum pop and adult contemporary artists continued to sell). Only in the 21st century would a serious undercurrent of alternative Afrikaans music begin to merge, with artists such as Karen Zoid and even the provocatively named Fokofpolisiekar ("hurry away police car" would a loose translation) starting to command mainstream attention, frequently appearing in entertainment sections of newspapers. Blom is not impressed with my suggestion that this environment allowed Kobus! to release a metal album: "Kobus has been instrumental in this climate shift since 2002. We've been a part of the change."

And he is right. Kobus! has been an important part of making Afrikaans music respectable. But the essence of the question remains: why release a metal album now?

"The Metal's never left us, you know, it's still my all-time favourite music. I think you're born with it! It was just a matter of time before we got back to writing and recording heavy metal. I felt the time was right, especially for an Afrikaans-language metal album, and to tell you the truth I didn't feel like recording another freaky all-over-the-show album. Not to say we won't ever again. That's what makes Kobus unique, an unpredictable band. I always say the only thing predictable about Kobus is our unpredictability. You can't copy our "non-style-all-styles" approach without being told "hey, you're copying Kobus!" We are best described or compared to probably Ween. They're all over the show as far as genres are concerned. No-one knows what the fourth Kobus album will sound like, possibly not even Theo and I."

This sounds like the metal album was a temporary excursion. Will we ever see another Kobus! metal album? "I can't be too sure about that... I really love heavy metal, recording it, writing it, performing it. So..."

Lyrically, the album seems to focus a lot on socio-political issues, but this is another idea that is rejected by Blom. "As far as socio-political issues go, there's really only three tracks on the album that can be tagged as such ("Witman", "Doodstraf" and "N.J.S.A."). Even though it's a metal album, there's still a variety of moods and topics, which is typically Kobus. For certain songs I write about the things I see or read, not the things myself or anyone in the band necessarily believe in. I keep saying during interviews regarding the _Swaar Metaal_ album that it's not social commentary, it's social observation. For all the songs from all three of our albums, I'd like the listener to get something personal, their own idea about it. That's why I mostly avoid answering questions like: "So, François, what's the song "Kinderhel" about?" You should hear the varied ideas different people have about, for example, "Witman". Some see it as right-wing, others from a left-wing perspective. And that's great, 'cos that's exactly what I intend with my songs."

To finish off, I ask what the future holds for Kobus!. Will their be any tours?

"As far as _Swaar Metaal_ is concerned, we're planning a UK, Netherlands, Germany and Poland trip soon. Yep, we'll just keep the wheels rolling. Whatever Theo and I do in other bands, we'll always record Kobus albums, Kobus will always be there, waiting to fuck with your mind!"

Indeed. Have a look at

(article submitted 12/7/2007)

6/23/2007 Q Kalis 8.5 Kobus! - Swaar Metaal
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