From Middelburg, Mpumalanga, South Africa, one-third of Code 106, The Best Rock Band Of 2021 at Blue Rhymez Entertainment, released an unexpectedly satisfying solo project. That’s Michael Botes with SKIN CONE, or as we’ll now know him by, DIGITAL COMA. Both the artist’s moniker and his EP’s title are busy and anecdotal. But that’s probably because the guy has a knack for turning weird into Rock art, such as the first song’s name, Crocodile Candy. If this goes on for the entire EP, it should feel nothing short of Alice in Wonderland or a trip to the Land of Oz.
“I was scrolling through the heaps of content on social media realizing how uncomfortable people are in their own skin and the idea of this EP came to me. It kept bothering me. Then I wrote Crocodile Candy based on Ed Gein who’s the real-life inspiration for Leatherface. I know, a weird angle to start off on this sensitive topic but that’s just my sense of humor,” shares DIGITAL COMA exclusively for Blue Rhymez Entertainment.
Keep on reading to discover the sonic intricacies and visionary train of thought behind SKIN CONE.
1. Crocodile Candy
“Hey dear/ Crocodile candy/ Don’t you fear/ We’ll hope for a fast bleed,” immediately jumps in the artist with the distant vocals rendering the overall effect one of eerie anticipation. All instruments are treated with drama and a grand scale of gravitas. One has to admit that for a one-man team, DIGITAL COMA is surpassing the expectations. His passionate involvement in creating the song, writing the lyrics, recording the vocals, and curating the mix and master, is to be applauded.
The furious guitar leads the audience to the soaring narrative: “Dear young sir I hope you made her feel at home/ Instead you went and said she’s only skin and bone/ Wishing that you didn’t take her home at all/ But you argue that she’s perfect for another bowl/ If you run you’re dead meat/ Do you know what that means?/ Do you know?/ Do you know?” Well, this is refreshing! We’re used to hearing Chad Abnett as the lead voice of Code 106 and we did not suspect that Michael Botes is very much of a qualified singer as well! DIGITAL COMA’s pipes are vigorous but relatively more stylized if we can use that term whereas Chad Abnett’s register tends to lean a lot more towards classic Rock shouting and growling.
Now speaking of those lyrics… Those are some sharp bites! A dialog with Leatherface? Sure. A dialog with society? Definitely. An accusation towards the men in power deciding what’s in and out? Oh yes. The hysterical yet gratifying lyrics are the coolest, most exciting thing we’ve witnessed in a long time from a Rock act. Michael Botes is doing to Rock what usually rappers do to Hip Hop: he veils his narrative in double, triple, quadruple coats of meaning letting the audience choose their direction.
The second verse of Crocodile Candy occurs with the same type of frequency and metal agitation as during the first part of the song: “Well congrats on making it to the silver screen/ You’re killing and wearing them all over town and you’re loving it/ You’re stealing, abusing, and stuffing them all just like animals.” This might as well be called an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg and his power over social media. While it is not known for the guy to actually do that, he sure does it through his stupid algorithm prioritizing influencers and fake curated photos over simpler people talking about simple things. Michael Botes, you’re our hero today <3
The latter part of the record turns out to be portrayed mainly by the instruments thus fulfilling the role of a bridge. Around this same area, we notice a fine arrangement of back vocal tracks aiding the music in sounding more punchy and glorious. And DIGITAL COMA did this all by himself? Hum… Industry plants, how do we put this nicely? It’s time for you to sh*t your pants and pray for the day all travel restrictions are lifted. Just kidding! NOT.
Crocodile Candy is a mind-blowing opening of the 3-track Rock project. Michael Botes defied any assumptions or expectations. He didn’t originate DIGITAL COMA, he BECAME it through the strangeness of it all, the aggressive instrumental, the astoundingly creative lyrics, and his reckless spirit.
2. SKIN CONE
Before we delve into the track that sports the EP name, let’s discover why Michael Botes went for DIGITAL COMA as his solo artist moniker. This is mighty interesting. “I went for DIGITAL COMA because my solo project is something I think I will only do for fun and only digitally. I don’t want to think about it too much. I just want to write and release music as I go. Maybe one day it’ll become something more. Something with a band and a live set. The COMA bit personified my feeling of being trapped in one musically because of the pandemic stopping me from playing shows and doing what I love.” There you have it. Michael Botes is far more entertaining than one would ever guess a guitar player to be.
On the same threatening tone, the song commences with a strong foresight given the entertaining details we are now aware of. Call it great f*cking noise. The type of clustered instrumentation that compels your dormant ass out of bed. Great ringtone for your alarm. But as fun as our comparisons are, the narrative is on the other side of the spectrum: “It seems like we’re all in charge of it all/ Allowing us to, allowing us to/ Fight over each other’s private parts/ Don’t worry we need you/ We see you/ Don’t hurry we believe you.” So Crocodile Candy minus the female reference.
The production is curiously different than the first track. The verses are dirtier and the hooks are cleaner and crispier. The vocals on the verses are also distant while the ones used for the chorus are nearer. Was DIGITAL COMA trying to experiment? Probably.
“Aren’t we all dressed up and groomed?/ To just accept one another isn’t that hard to approve?/ I hope mommy and daddy approves/ Of what you chose to do,” now this… This will hit you no matter how much you’ll try talking yourself into believing that it doesn’t talk about you. If you’ve been traumatized by helicopter parents type, it becomes a mockery of your need for parental approval. Equally, if you’re engaging in some really embarrassing activities, it makes fun of your double life and how you could never be yourself around your family. DIGITAL COMA wants everyone to fall balls deep into the darkest corners of their own minds. Michael Botes feels like a Rock mix between the Joker and Willy Wonka.
And sure enough, if you thought that peace and quiet will ever be restored, you’re in for a disappointment. “They can’t stand in the way of scratching open wounds/ Suddenly you’re asking them what to do/ She’s lost herself in his skin too/ Now we’re all so confused.”
SKIN CONE is a thunderous follow-up to Crocodile Candy relishing the artist’s propensity for Rock blurred with sarcasm, irony, and mockery of self-imposed conditioning and societal influences.
So DIGITAL COMA has to say something we think should be engraved in stone and placed randomly across the world: “I wrote this track because I felt that we are wasting valuable time criticizing skin color and different shapes and sizes when we fail to see the simple beauty in things, therefore I felt like we as humans can sometimes be useless.”
Interestingly enough, the one track directly rooted in the uselessness of humanity is also the most cohesive sounding work of the three. A commercial Rock behemoth emerging from the confusion.
“I for one wouldn’t feel the same/ If we were stuck together in a room/ I want you to want to/ Kill off the silence and fail to run/ We’re useless by nature/ We sit here and wait/ Just to die by the hand of the sun,” beautifully sings DIGITAL COMA. With his melodic progression, Michael Botes proves to be very accommodating of the music he’s dealing with. As a matter of fact, USELESS has the acoustic qualities of a song penned by a team of songwriters.
“Why’d you waste your life away/ Chasing all the emptiness/ And tracing all the steps you’ve missed/ Soon it won’t really matter/ So leave it, defeated/ Just try to forget that you won’t come to see it,” sings rather prophetically our DIGITAL COMA. I wish we’d all heard this before the pandemic hit. So many of us would have done things differently if we’d had known that soon your house will become your prison. For years.
Now are you ready for the lyrical crown jewel of SKIN CONE? ‘Cause it has arrived. Ladies and gents, Michael f*cking Botes: “How do we come to terms/ With what’s happening all around in the world/ When it’s all make-believe/ We are all flies on the wall/ No matter what you do/ It’s all gonna end everyone, all the same,/ When it’s still make-believe/ A coffin for you/ A coffin for me.” You don’t need an ice bucket challenge to wake you up when you have DIGITAL COMA slapping you in the face. The raw, unfiltered, unprocessed messages land sharp, cold, and shockingly relevant when judging by the current state of the world.
DIGITAL COMA is a rarely encountered multi-talented individual. And his project, SKIN CONE, is a lyrical manipulation of several heavy emotions like greed, doubt, fear while sonically it delivers a mosaic-like artwork for it starts fuzzy then it beautifully culminates by the 3rd song, USELESS. A Black Mirror episode transposed to music.
Song Credits: Michael Botes (DIGITAL COMA) – Singer, Songwriter, Composer, Sound Engineer.
Written by Mariana Berdianu
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