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Is the Caribbean the new global hotspot for metal?

New documentary Metal Islands reveals how heavy music has taken hold in the Caribbean, spreading through towns and fighting for recognition. Naturally, we had to find out more...

The steady expansion of heavy music into virtually every corner of the globe is a resounding success for our world, but there is still something startling about the revelation that there is a flourishing metal scene emerging in the Caribbean.

Thanks to the efforts of metalhead academic Professor Nelson Varas-Díaz and his cohorts, the world is about to learn about this most unique of breeding grounds for massive riffs. The team’s new documentary, Metal Islands, tells the story of how metal reached this part of the world, specifically in the three distinct Caribbean territories of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. As with comparable scenes in Asia, the story of metal’s triumph in Nelson’s neck of the woods runs in parallel with changes and conflicts in the development of Caribbean society: heavy music, born through struggle but imbued with a strong sense of community and self-belief.

Understandably, given its bonds with the US and the cultural influence that relationship has long exerted, Puerto Rico has the biggest, most internationally recognised of the three scenes spotlighted in Metal Islands, with numerous bands now releasing albums and performing in the US and elsewhere. But despite slightly more relaxed mainstream views of their music and culture, Puerto Rican metalheads have still had to build their scene from the ground up, defying expectations and the prejudices of more conservative elements in society.

“We don’t have a cultural tradition of rock like in Argentina or Spain,” explains Eric Morales, frontman with doom metallers Dantesco. “We grew up with more traditional music. There was rock, but on a small scale. With MTV, it became a trend to be a metalhead and there were a lot of bands and we made a scene. Still, it’s always been criticised and seen as a bad thing here. We all know the stories of Satanism and suicide in the media. But there is not a real struggle if you want to make music and enjoy it. If you do want to do it, you do it! The only issue is being on an island, so you need to fly everywhere. It is the only stone in the path to getting more recognition, but the secret is to work hard and not wait for anyone to do things for you.”

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