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Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Puerto Rican Scene

Today on Metal Underground, we will head over to almost the southeasternmost zip code in the US - the island of Puerto Rico. Not exactly a nation, although many of its citizens would like it to be, Puerto Rico is an unincorporated territory of the United States with its own constitution and a rhythm and vibe that rival that of any Central American country.

We have featured several Puerto Rican bands and groups that have ties to that island in our news such as Zafakon, who rose to prominence with their "Fall" EP back in 2010. The all female gothic/black metal trio Matriarch, now disbanded, combined the impossibly high soprano operatic pitch of guitarist Vanessa Urrutia and the evil lower end vocals of Shamara and Isabel. Too bad "Revered Unto the Ages" was their swan song. Countless bands are actively playing, releasing albums and making the news on a regular basis, though.

Also at the forefront has been Death Arrangement, the Bayamon hardcore death/groove powerhouse. The band was working on a 2012 follow-up album when lead vocalist Damaris Negron (Signora Legion) passed away at the untimely age of 32 in November. They had recorded an official video track, "Bravo," which we have to remind us of the ear-splitting grit of this Boricua equivalent of Karyn Crisis.

Salsa music and metal occasionally get combined in Puerto Rican metal, although doing it well takes talent. One of my favorite bands, Puya, carved out a successful career by combining hardcore metal with breakdowns and refrains of horn sections with walls of Latin percussion. Puya had won a couple of Latin grammys with its albums "Union" and "Fundamental" back at the dawn of the millenium. Puya guitarist Ramon Ortiz started his other LA-based band Ankla back in 2001, releasing a seven track EP a year later. The salsa-metal opus "Steep Trails" came out in 2006 - an album that could almost be described as Puya v2.0 - except that Oscar Santiago was the drummer.

The 2009 EP "Persistence" had quite a few line-up changes and a harder/faster approach, but still retained the distinct Latin percussion. In 2011, Ankla released a 10th anniversary CD following a gig in Santurce. Ramon even plays Puya reunion gigs and will probably compose new Ankla tunes in the near future. Last year he was busy with his self-titled "Ortiz" CD, two tracks of which are streaming on his reverbnation page. It is more of a guitar/fusion release, featuring Pablo Olivares on vocals. Ramon also does plenty of guitar clinics in LA for his axe of choice, Fernandes.

The Puerto Rican scene has many metal bands, ranging from the power thrashers Athaxia to the nu-metal sound of Tavu or the blackened dissonance of Godless. Some groups choose to use Latin music stylings while others emulate more the more traditional approach to metal. We will look at three different artists from that scene today.

Pit Fight Demolition

It's been ten years since the quartet Pit Fight Demolition made its debut with the track "Power" on the Domination Vol. 1 compilation. That track featured Dying Fetus on it, nonetheless. Three years later, PFD finally released its debut - "Quit or Die Trying" - leading to opening slots with Malevolent Creation, Testament, Overkill and many other acts.

After a 2008 Floridian tour, Pit Fight Demolition released its "Into the Bottomless Pit" EP a year later. A US east coast tour followed along with a couple of years of intense live playing. Next up for this hardcore death metal band is its second full length album "The Sharp Edge of Iron" in September, 2013 along with an opening slot at an Impending Doom/Chimaira show on November 16th. International gigs for November and December will follow in Trinidad and Tobago and the Dominican Republic, respectively.


Pit Fight Demolition - "The Sharp Edge of Iron"



Pit Fight Demolition - "Out for Blood"


Dantesco

The Cayey quintet Dantesco truly has a sound that is immediately recognizable as its own. Upon their emergence in 2004 with a demo and the subsequent debut full-length "De la Mano de la Muerte" a year later, they have consistently stepped up their game from traditional doom metal music. Each one of the band's albums has been on a different record label, which is possibly a contributing factor as to why the group isn't as well known as it should be.

The "Pagano" sophomore release came out on Cruz Del Sur music in 2008, and by the time of the issuance of the 2011 album "Seven Years of Battle," Dantesco had finally found its niche. Their sound settled comfortably into operatic doom with a touch of flamenco, presided over by the robed Erico La Bestia and guitarists Ramon de Jesus and Joel Carrasquillo. They are influenced by Uli Jon Roth and Candlemass and did a fitting cover rendition of the Savatage song "The Dungeons are Calling" on their album. Also check out the title track "We Don't Fear Your God" from Dantesco's recent eleven-song fourth album below.


Dantesco - "We Don't Fear Your God"

Dantesco - "The Burning Times"


Alas Negras

This Caguas band started out in 2006 and is already on its fourth full-length album. The nine song "Facing the If" was released at the tail end of July by Alas Negras, and follows up the 2010 album "The Slasher Show." That third album also included the track "Never Sleep Again," which was made into a single. Although Alas Negras' main influence of power metal is redolent on each of its albums, the band is also influenced by everyone from Venom to Lamb Of God.

Alas Negras has come a long way since the release of its debut "Solo dos Monedas..." Upon the issuance of its recent album, the band came stateside and played at the Warriors Of Metal Fest VI Open Air in Pataskala, Ohio back at the end of June. They shared the stage with dozens of well known true metal bands and brought their own Puerto Rican flag for all the photo ops.

Alas Negras - "Facing the If"


Alas Negras - "Never Sleep Again"


There are so many different genres of metal to choose from when you listen to the sounds coming out of Puerto Rico throughout the past couple of decades, and many more to discover if you make an effort to check out some of the bands. Join us again next week when we unearth yet another genre or scene here at Metal Underground.

sonictherapy's avatar

Vicky Willis has been a freelance journalist and former college radio disc jockey for almost twenty years. She has been contributing to Metalunderground.com since 2010.

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1 Comment on "Unearthing The Metal Underground In Puerto Rico"

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Anonymous Reader
1. sichodoc writes:

It's a shame that latin american metal sees little following in the states, at least from Ohio x)
I enjoyed the themes that Dantesco uses in their lyrics, conquistador's using christian religion to uproot Aztecs and Incas. American metal heads love Norwegian folk themes, why wouldn't they get behind the central and south american civilizations? I suppose it's a heritage thing, but I see the rituals and live styles of natives from south/central americans far more brutal than that of vikings...

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