Hispanic Heavy Metal: Three Bands To Watch
Swedish Death Metal. Norwegian Black Metal. American Thrash. NWOBHM. These are all metal niches that have been deeply rooted and perfected in each country. Europe and North America lay claim to many of these popular genre localizations, but Hispanic countries, despite fielding a huge amount of influential bands, are oddly missing.
Whether political, personal, or civil, any kind of unrest has been a breeding ground for some of the best angry music, and there’s plenty of that to go around in most Hispanic countries (e.g., Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, etc.) Cartels, corrupt presidents, crumbling economies, conservative agendas, and ever-present religion contribute to both the suppression and exaltation of Hispanic metal simultaneously.
But as continuous suppression turns into aggression, the result is music as an outlet, a tool, a protest. So, as many of these countries begin to stand on the brink of progressive revolution and metalheads find a way to come out of the woodwork, the presence and rise of metal becomes all the more inevitable.
The aforementioned brings us to this point—Hispanic Heritage Month might be over, but heck, it’s always a good time to check out some kick-ass bands that are making metal happen despite societal norms in their respective countries and helping to define an uprising scene. Check out these bands and who knows—maybe in a couple of years, you’ll be that guy that gets to say, “I knew about them before they were big,” and for that, you’re most welcome.
Bless the face of my friend who sent Chilean Demoniac my way after discovering their latest 2021 release, So It Goes. A quick Spotify search later and you’re instantly knee deep in a storm of unadulterated thrash, but it doesn’t stop there. Sure, we all collectively went banana sandwich after Rivers of Nihil gave us what we’ve all been missing—saxophone in our metal. But what about the clarinet?!
After 3 previous releases via various international labels, the band has finally hit their mark by incorporating experimental elements in their songwriting, among them a spooky scary piano intro and an unforgiving soul-seduction via clarinet in the third track "Extraviado". The track, nestled in the middle of the album, lends an oasis of instrumental jazz serenity that’s immediately followed up by more unrelenting thrash. That’s not all, though: the final 20 minute minute title track "So It Goes" weaves the clarinet amidst the riffs, somehow finding its place amongst the chaos. This band is just getting started and with their recent jump onto Edged Circle Records, they’re bound to keep making some album of the year lists.
If there was a band I had to immediately choose to include in this article, it’s Question. After a six year hiatus, the band has returned with the 2020 release of Reflections of the Void which is an adventure offering technical death metal for the soul.
This Mexican quintet offers a sound akin to a mashup of Gorguts, Death, and Suffocation, and geez, I think I just named the perfect child. There’s something to appreciate about an album that thoughtfully sends you on a journey—and that’s exactly what this album feels like. There are waves of melodic respite in their riffs but without ever sacrificing heaviness: that’s still brought to the forefront with thrash inspired drums and a classic take on death metal vocals. As the album progresses, Question offers palette cleansers of short, instrumental interludes in “Sunyata” and “Mysteries (About Life & Death)” that rope in the chaos that precedes and follows.
In a nutshell, if you’re down with riffs, you’re down with Question, and if you’re not going to take it from me, take it from Mr. "Gojira Blume" on Bandcamp who so expertly writes: “Rich, dense and full of turns. Like a bowl of spaghetti. Metal spaghetti.” Their album has yet to be released on any major streaming platforms yet, so be sure to show your support via Bandcamp or YouTube.
Majestic Downfall (Mexico)
With thrash and death metal already accounted for in this list, featuring a solid doom metal band seems only natural. The answer to this is Majestic Downfall, another Mexican duo feeding off of bands like Forgotten Tomb and Shining for inspiration.
After several releases as a one man project, the band has found their sound on their latest 2021 release, Aorta. The 19-minute introductory song "Roberta" goes on a journey complete with slow, suffocating riffs that are intertwined with pockets of epic and uplifting melodies. This is death doom taken off course and into the beyond, and the opening track quickly provides an insight into their sound. Slow and sluggish riffs, melodic tremolo picking to send your heart soaring, and the gloomy ambiance to match.