From Havana to San Juan, This Doc Explores the Caribbean’s Unique Heavy Metal Scenes

Heavy metal, the much maligned sub-genre of rock that intermittently gains and loses mainstream acceptance, is a global phenomenon. There’s not a place in the world where you can’t find metal fans headbanging to the sounds of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Priest, (old) Metallica, Slayer, and more. But even though metal is beloved worldwide, assuming it exists identically across the globe is pretty reductive.

Metal in Latin America is pretty much its own phenomenon and differs from country to country. Its history is not the same in Argentina as it is in Brazil, Mexico, or Peru. Though documentarians and journalists have explored heavy metal scenes in South America, few film projects have tackled the music’s influence in the Caribbean. The Metal Islands explores heavy metal in Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, focusing on the sociopolitical realities that inform the bands in this region, its deep history, and how it has survived throughout the years.

The Metal Islands is a sort of sequel to The Distorted Island, a documentary that focused exclusively on the heavy metal scene in Puerto Rico. These two projects have come to life thanks to the research of the University of Puerto Rico’s Dr. Nelson Varas-Díaz. It is a tale that has seldom been explored with such dedication.

Cuba’s metal scene has been ripe for investigation in the past few years, yet we’re only starting to scratch the surface of its cultural import. The Metal Islands paints a picture of the music’s relationship to political regimes as well as its emergence as a safe haven for youth, a place where many have found a sense of belonging over the years.

The Metal Islands premieres on October 25 at C3TEC (Centro Criollo De Ciencia y Tecnología del Caribe) in Caguas, Puerto Rico. Admission will be free and open to the public. The film will also be available in a DVD/CD combo featuring a compilation, curated by Rafael Bracero of Metal Alliance Puerto Rico. Copies will be released free of charge via The Metal Islands Facebook page. Additional copies will be available at the 10th Metal Flea Market in San Juan on November 27.