As the saying goes, metal will never die. While trends and sounds surge and wane in popularity — especially in recent years as rock’s popularity seems to be at an all-time low — the genre finds a way to keep going year after year. One crucial factor that keeps the metal flame burning is its diversity. Here, we’ll look at five Latine acts that make the genre as vital and extreme as possible.
Latines have left their undisputed mark in the genre. They are present in international bands such as Metallica and Slayer, while Latin American bands like Sepultura, Sarcófago, and Nervosa have enjoyed worldwide popularity — something practically unheard of in other subgenres. There’s a strong metal tradition in Latin America that reaches back to the early ‘70s and continues to this day. In fact, some of the most inspiring heavy riffers operating nowadays are primarily Latine.
For this list, we gathered five names from the U.S., Spain, and Mexico that are taking the genre to the next level. Some have become recent favorites by fusing different elements to create something previously unheard of, while others focus on perfecting the sound of a particular subgenre. One thing that unites all five bands on this list is their desire to make metal much heavier and sonically extreme as it has previously been. Of course, metal scenes are prevalent all over Latin America, and there are plenty more outfits making their way in metal, but these five bands are perfect entry points for anyone curious to explore more.
This Los Angeles outfit started by playing simple hardcore before beefing up their sound with the addition of other influences to become one of the most formidable forces in extreme music. By taking elements from death metal and doom to infuse to their already heavy sound, Xibalba has turned heads the world over. But it was their incorporation of Prehispanic imagery and Spanish to their lyrics that made them stand out from the pack. They made a high profile fan of Greg Anderson, known as half of drone metal overlords Sunn O))), who signed them to his Southern Lord imprint. Their latest album, 2020’s Años En Infierno, is a masterclass on heaviness and songwriting and dynamics, showing that metal can contain multitudes and remain heavy as fuck.
This Tijuana grindcore band is all about the blastbeat, using the hyperspeed drum beat to deliver some of the ugliest and most exciting music on the planet at the moment. Unidad Trauma belongs to a very specific subgenre of the grind that originated with Carcass. The pioneering British band used medical jargon and gory imagery to great effect, something others like General Surgery and Haemorrhage picked up and made their own. In that spirit, the members of Unidad Trauma are all prefixed by the title “Dr.” — we can’t confirm nor deny their medical credentials — and their music relays tails of medicine gone wrong. Add the sound of virtuosic death metal riffage and deep grunted vocals to the mix, and you get something very special. Their debut EP, Arte Médica Siniestra, was released last year through Concreto Records.
Religious imagery has proven to be fertile ground for metal since the very early days of the genre, with Black Sabbath’s early output. Seville, Spain’s Orthodox have taken note of this, infusing the iconography of Catholicism and its dark side to their lyrics to their occasional stage image, yet this is hardly the most exciting part of this trio. Incorporating elements of ambient, jazz, and flamenco into their music, their early albums like Gran Poder and Amanecer En La Puerta Oscura concentrated on long and slow tracks, but they have since shortened their track lengths without sacrificing their experimental edge or their heaviness. Their forthcoming album, Proceed, marks the reunion of the original lineup with a new outlook.
By taking their name from the rack where the Aztecs used to display the human skulls of their enemies and sacrifices, you know Tzompantli is about heavy shit beyond distorted guitars. The solo project of Huey Itztekwanotl O))) — who also plays guitar in Xibalba — this outfit takes matters to the extreme in every sense of the word. The band pays tribute to some of the most brutal death metal in history and also incorporates the percussion and wind instruments of the ancient Prehispanic empire, making for eerie music that invites you to bang your head. The project will be dropping its debut album, Tlazcaltiliztli, later this year, promising to be one of the most unique albums in the genre.
Sometimes, to display the extremity in an outfit’s sound, you have to show the other side of the coin. In other words, you have to play quietly and beautifully before delivering brutality. This Madrid quartet is probably the only band in this list with a linking to emo, but uses it to great contrasting effect. There’s no real fixed genre to Crossed, playing everything from riff-heavy punk to black metal and deathcore to Deftones-worthy trip-hop infused dark electronics. Indeed, the songs on the recently released album, Morir, can be defined by its rollercoaster dynamics, with screams and distortion giving way to melody and tranquility only to deliver a different kind of violence in tracks that are over in less than three minutes.