"She looks and feels like a next-gen star." Zambia-born Canadian rapper Backxwash looks to evolve beyond her trap metal roots with surprise set at Roadburn Festival 2024

A surprise last-minute addition to Roadburn Festival 2024, trap metal star Backxwash shows just how far she's come from her Sabbath-sampling roots

Backxwash at Roadburn 2024
(Image: © Youtube (Live Maniacs))

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Twelve months on from making her European live debut at Roadburn Festival, Backxwash makes a surprise return as a late-in-the-day announcement, closing out the main stage of the festival's first day. It's testament to just how much the Dutch event has evolved from its doom and stoner roots over the past 25 years that the Zambia-born, Canada-based artist - real name Ashanti Mutinta - doesn't feel like a stylistic outlier so much as the perfect send-off for a day that has seen the likes of Clipping. and Lord Spikeheart - frontman of Kenyan grindcore transgressives Duma - show how hip hop is intersecting with the modern alternative music scene. 

Mutinta might have started out in the realms of trap metal, but set opener - and new single - Wake Up shows she is on the cusp of something altogether different after finishing a trilogy of releases with 2022's His Happiness Shall Come First Even Though We Are Suffering. Across a sprawling eight-minutes, Mutinta's furious flow and titanic beats remain instantly galvanising, but its the track's incorporation of gospel and R&B elements that suggests Mutinta is breaking away for new territories. 

Right now, that progression is in its embryonic stages, however. We're back on familiar grounds as I Lie Here Buried In My Rings And Dresses blares, tooth-gnashing screams colliding with industrial-press percussion while Mutinta raps, snarls and howls with gut-wrenching intensity. Devil In A Moshpit is a perfect clapback to anyone wondering how Backxwash might fare alongside more traditional metal fare, the track's frantic, near-claustrophobic bass veering into crossover territories, every bit as electrifying as Suicidal Tendencies or Body Count, while the droning roar of Into The Void and Nyama could just as easily fit into a Swans set.

But when the apocalyptic intensity lets up, so too does the atmosphere of the show. At times, Mutinta seems swallowed by the size of the stage and between songs banter is kept to a minimum, meaning some of the swagger evident in her Supersonic Festival appearance in 2023 is lacking. Which isn't to say Mutinta isn't a powerhouse on-stage, vocally: in fact, her percussive stylings mean gentler instrumentals on songs like Nine Hells feel lethargic by comparison. 

But although the set feels uneven at times, its peaks easily make up for any lulls. Afforded possibly the biggest live production of her career, Mutinta offers some stunning visuals throughout the show; striding on beneath her silhouette projected onto a massive screen, or projecting a raging church fire during the Sabbath-sampling God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It, she looks and feels like a next-gen star in the making. And who knows - with more massive shows like these under her belt, maybe she will be.  

Backxwash Setlist Roadburn Festival, Tilburg April 18 2024

Wake Up
I Lie Here Buried In My Rings And Dresses
Devil In A Moshpit
Into The Void
Black Magic
Nine Hells
God Has Nothing To Do With This Leave Him Out Of It
Wail Of The Banshee
Burn To Ashes

Rich Hobson

Staff writer for Metal Hammer, Rich has never met a feature he didn't fancy, which is just as well when it comes to covering everything rock, punk and metal for both print and online, be it legendary events like Rock In Rio or Clash Of The Titans or seeking out exciting new bands like Nine Treasures, Jinjer and Sleep Token.