Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Costa Rican Metal Scene
Band Photo: Sight of Emptiness (?)
Many years ago, I grew up and graduated from High School in this small Central American country. Nestled between the political hotbeds of Nicaragua and Panama, Costa Rica has maintained it's status as a democratic bastion while it's neighbors are plagued by coup'd'etats and upheaval. Only a couple hours either way from the capital city of San Jose to both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, Costa Rica has the ideal party atmosphere. The breathtaking beauty of the country coupled with the cultural tolerance they exhibit has awakened a phenomena in the metal scene.
Back in the old times, Costa Ricans ("Ticos" - as they are referred as) would clamor to several AOR stations to listen to Budgie or Judas Priest, or be found in a downtown bar shooting darts to Saxon. Yes, the Ticos love their metal every bit as much as any salsa or folklorico music. Nowadays they have definitely evolved with the times and share plenty of love for foreign metal and all things imported. Restrictions are not so hard on entrance visas to foreign musicians hereby opening the floodgates to plenty of stellar international talent. Big name acts are a monthly thing now, especially since Costa Ricans have a good standard of living and can afford to buy tickets and fill the clubs. Bookings into such venues as Pepper's Disco Club and a whole host of local bars is routine.
Back in the 80's, I had only seen Santana and Sting ever come down and perform. Since Iron Maiden played in 2008, visits from such luminaries as Anthrax, Moonspell, Therion and countless others ( Slayer this June) are now the norm. In fact, Marduk raised the hairs on the Catholic Church's neck with their visit last July. But even the priests are of a gentle nature in Costa Rica. "Don't use religious artifacts in an obscene manner on stage," implored a local monsignor.
Perhaps the godfathers of the local scene, a lot of credit must be given to Mantra. Formed nearly twenty years ago, these guys made so much possible for the younger crop of Tico musicians. Their 2003 release "Creature" marked the zenith of their creative career, spawning a couple of classic local death thrash songs. Unlike their younger counterparts, Mantra preferred to sing in Spanish and continue to do so. Nowadays, as with many bands that have been around for a long time, they have changed members and their style of metal a bit frequently. To listen to the classic track "El Ojo de Dios" from Mantra, click here.
Similar respect must be given to Sight of Emptiness who brought Costa Rican metal to the forefront with their win at the UK Open Air Bloodstock festival in 2007. They are usually the opener for most of the international acts that come, and we have posted plenty of news articles and videos about them in the past five years. If you are not familiar with their melodic techno thrash sound, listen to the video for "Desolation Whispers" here. Last week they were one of 27 bands to inaugurate the new National Soccer Stadium.
In January, the Documentary "Heavy Metal 506" was produced, showcasing the talents of Costa Rica's heavy hitters in the metal scene. (The title, incidentally, gets it's name from Costa Rica's country calling code). You can listen to the trailer right here. Also, the four part compilation "Costa Rican Metal" includes twenty bands from genres ranging from commerical metal, symphonic black metal, demonic thrash, brutal death and atmospheric. The first part has links to the other three parts and can be listened to here. Today we will take a look at a few of the bands that are also stirring up the Costa Rican scene.
Advent of Bedlam
You may have heard of Advent of Bedlam, who hail from the town of Heredia, or as they have called it before, "Hell-redia," by their previous name. Together over a decade, they used to be known as December's Cold Winter. Under that name, they put out some nice symphonic black metal and an album of enjoyable tunes. Deciding to go for a more blackened thrash sound, they changed their name to Advent of Bedlam a couple of years ago and have contined to receive great mentions, attaining an ACAM Award Songwriter of the Year nomination and a win for their "Ablaze all Shrines" LP. Their song "Manipulating Human Emotions" also appeared in Zero Tolerance Magazine's covermount CD. They produced their whole new album themselves, since the average Latino producer possibly wouldn't understand where they were coming from. Check out the new one from their "Behold the Chaos" album below, along with a few others.
Advent of Bedlam - "The Stench of Your Faith"
Advent of Bedlam - "The Darkest Alliance"
December's Cold Winter - "The Alabaster Corpse"
Formed in 2001 when members of Nazgul, Morpheus, Ulver and Throgaemn came together to create a horror-themed black metal band, Mortigor count such bands as Hecate Enthroned and Immortal as their influences. Choosing the moniker Mortigor (a cross between Muerte and Gore) they have become Costa Rica's paradigm of black metal. After stints playing the local scene and in Panama, they put out their first demo, "Black Heart Journey" followed by their full length "Barbarian Darkness" in 2008. They were the first black metal band to be nominated for an ACAM award, and have opened for such bands as Marduk at Baphomet Fest 4, playing in the other ones as well. Here are a few songs from them.
Mortigor - "Magdata's Kingdom"
Mortigor - "Dragorth's Heart"
Mortigor - "Rise of the Dark Side"
Cartago used to be the old capital city of Costa Rica. It was leveled by an earthquake in 1911, exactly a hundred years ago. This is where Azterion call their home, up in the mountains a bit by the small suburb of Tres Rios. Let's hope their nice and loud practice sessions don't cause any more seismic activity. This combo opens for plenty of bands in the club scene, and have put out their own album on a small Costa Rican label. Their sound is an interesting one, combining plenty of instrumental segments and death thrash. They have been active in the scene nearly eleven years, and they constantly push the envelope with new sounds included in their music.
Azterion - "Camino de la Cruz"
Azterion - "Parabola"
Azterion - "La Ley del Duende"
The reason you don't hear too much about Costa Rica metal is possibly because the Ticos are a self-contained society. Not many emigrate, preferring to stay in their element. Costa Ricans make decent money compared to some of their neighboring countries and now almost everything comes to them. That is slowly changing, though, as their competitive nature emerges. This is a country with a growing taste for the world theatre, so their foray into the international scene is only a logical progression.
Thanks to Eduardo Uribe Guerrero for his insight.
Check back every Monday as we delve into a different scene to unearth some more underground metal bands.
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