Like scientists discovering life somehow existing at extreme temperatures or conditions against all odds, March of the Gods: Botswana Metalheads introduces a thriving metal scene in Africa that would have never been thought by many to be blossoming in the region. Despite some imperfections, it's a fascinating and inspiring portrait of the influential power of music and the enduring spirit of heavy metal.
Though we meet a bunch of different groups and figures within the community, the most prominent is the band Wrust, and their tireless frontman Stux. As committed as he is charismatic, Stux went so far as to teach a couple of his band members how to play their instruments from scratch; listening to drummer Master and bassist Oppy Gae discuss the bond that has developed between them helps illustrate the unique connection that can be attained through music.
The group discusses the making of their 2007 album, Soulless Machine, and we get a glimpse of the meticulous process of putting together their new album in the studio. To further legitimize the movement that is happening there, we're introduced to other groups like Metal Orizon that have also emerged from the area. The many admirers that have warmed to the region's unlikely export also help put it all in perspective.
The scenes of the groups playing live are such an exhilarating peek at the transformative energy of a metal concert that you only wish they were presented a little better. It may be a choice to capture the events from a fan's perspective with all of the grimy visuals and sounds of the experience, but if these performances looked and sounded a little better, they would be even more essential to showcasing the true impact of the bands.
It's a problem that bleeds over to the film's haphazard assembly as well, as it succeeds in offering a broad snapshot of the metal boom but lacks a coherent structure or narrative. Though it does explore a number of different issues related to the genre's migration to the area, there are still questions that are not answered or points that could be better clarified. For as much as we learn about the musicians, there's little discussion of their day-to-day lives outside of playing music to help understand them better as people, or much of an attempt at a comprehensive and straightforward timeline of how metal has evolved there over the years.
Being at the forefront of any movement is never easy, and what remains remarkable is the passion these musicians have for what they do. They may not ever receive the type of recognition or financial compensation they deserve, but they're still having the time of their lives.