Album Reviews

Mdou Moctar – Funeral For Justice

(Matador) UK release date: 3 May 2024

This may be the best of an already-excellent run of albums, produced by the greatest rock band in the world

Mdou Moctar - Funeral For Justice Mdou Moctar – the Nigerien mountain of a man, born Mahamadou Souleymane – is the best guitarist in the world. Mdou Moctar  – the band, comprised on Souleymane, Ahmoudou Madassane on rhythm guitar, Mikey Coltun on bass and Souleymane Ibrahim on drums – may be the best rock band in the world, too.

Funeral For Justice, their new album, is their third as a solid lineup, and each album has been a substantial improvement on the last. The first of the trilogy, Ilana the Creator, was fiery and furious and full of the relentless, vivacious African rock music that had previously been pioneered by Tinariwen and Bombino – just turned up to 11.

The follow-up, Afrique Victime, seemingly found the 12. It was (unbelievably) more powerful, more muscular, more fluid and utterly more engaging in every way. These are albums where the lyrics are made seemingly irrelevant by the firepower of the band, but they’re utterly enthralling when you take the time to understand them. They speak of pain, particularly that of Nigerien, and nomadic people in Africa, and match that hurt with explosive guitar pyrotechnics and endless motion in the rhythm department.

Funeral For Justice, rather than amplify the rock (an impossible task, anyway) amplifies the social critique of the lyrics. The album opens with the title track, which starts by threatening Black Sabbath stomp before placing you firmly in the heart of Mdou Moctar world. The lyrics speak of injustices in Africa while the band unleashes a furious groove.

Imouhar roars and thunders, hurtling towards an unbelievable, almost comically powerful guitar solo – of the shredding, face-melting, face-contorting variety. Insanity. Takoba may act as a soothing balm, but it’s still hotter than a jalapeño in a sauna. Kind of like a rocking aloe vera gel for the burning craziness of the previous track. Then Sousoume Tamasheq screeches in and burns you once more (and it feels so good). The spiralling riffology of Tchinta recalls the very brightest moments on their previous couple of albums, but Imajighen offers a darker, moodier variation on the band’s signature sound, making them sound menacing and sinister where they’re usually exploding with energy. It’s a great sound for them to pursue.

Oh France, about the withdrawal of the French from Niger (which brought about a military coup on the democratically elected government), is a bittersweet reflection of Moctar’s thoughts on colonial occupation: “I don’t support the coup,” he says of the woeful situation, “but I never in my life liked France in my country. I don’t hate France or French people, I don’t hate American people either, but I don’t support their manipulative policies, what they do in Africa.” Album ender Modern Slaves pays homage to Tinariwen – the pioneers of Tuareg rock – by adopting a looser, rougher acoustic mood, with some contemplative gang vocals.

If you can’t tell already, this is a fantastic album. It may be the best of an already-excellent run of albums produced by – and it really does bear repeating – the greatest rock band in the world.

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Mdou Moctar – Funeral For Justice
Mdou Moctar – Afrique Victime