"I don't give a f*** what people think": trap metal pioneer Backxwash makes an emotional, triumphant UK debut that shows there's more to metal than riffs

Trap metal pioneer Backxwash shows that metal has never been more diverse with her UK live debut at Supersonic Festival 2023

Backxwash Supersonic 2023
(Image: © @snaprockandpop/joe Singh)

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Speaking to Metal Hammer in November 2022, Ashanti Mutinta - aka Backxwash - described her new album, His Happiness Shall Come First Even Though We Are Suffering as "like the end of a horror franchise when they close the door on the protagonist and they can move on." A little over nine months later, her debut UK performance at this year's Supersonic Festival brings that vision to life. 

Capping off a day that has featured the wailing black metal meets anarchist jazz of Ashenspire, ear-splitting drone from Divide And Dissolve and a long-overdue hometown return from industrial metal pioneers Godflesh, Backxwash arrives to a vocally ecstatic crowd. 

Set in the hinterlands between the rhythmic crush of industrial, propulsive delivery of hardcore and vivid lyrical narratives of rap, the set starts out with a sense of abject fury and defiance, Mutinta stating simply: "My name is Backxwash, I'm from Montreal and I don't give a fuck what people think." 

Lines like MUZUNGA's "Let's take it back and just Pay 'em back for every happenin’" are delivered with such ferocity that Mutinta is doubled over at points, matching the harsh, dystopian beats with a flow that hits like a sledgehammer and feels like a vitriolic exorcism. Elsewhere, Devil In A Moshpit sees Mutinta leap down into the pit, the titular refrain as hard as any mosh call or 'blegh' you could offer from metal's more heartland elements. 

Even with just backing tapes and sparse visuals, Backxwash conjures an atmosphere of abject dread that rattles the bones and raises hackles, songs like Black Magic crossing the divide between hip hop horrorcore and the snarled angst of nu metal. Mutinta's massive smile between songs betrays just how cathartic the set is however, and massive cheers from the crowd are met with unabashed gratitude. 

By the time the strings of closing track MUKAZI start to swell, the mood is positively ecstatic; tears flow from swathes of the audience and even Mutinta herself seems to need to steel herself to deliver the triumphant and cathartically defiant final lines of the set, riding out on an emotional high. 

Supersonic Festival has long boasted the talents of the most unique sounds in music from metal and beyond, so it feels fitting that in its 20th anniversary edition it would host an artist who so brazenly embodies the spirit of heaviness whilst sounding worlds away from traditional metal. That such a joyous and undeniably heavy artist has made her debut in the heart of the Home Of Metal only further cements the notion that Backxwash is representative of where heavy music in 2023, no longer defined by riffs and horror movie aesthetics alone. 

Backxwash Supersonic Festival 2023

(Image credit: @snaprockandpop/joe Singh)

Metal Hammer line break

Backxwash Setlist Supersonic Festival 2023

  • Terror Packets
  • I Lie Here Buried With My Rings And My Dresses
  • Devil In A Moshpit
  • Into The Void
  • Nyama
  • Muzungu
  • Black Magic
  • Nine Hells
  • Blood In The Water
  • Wail Of The Banshee
  • 666 In Luxaxa
  • Vibanda
  • Burn To Ashes
  • Mukazi
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.