Usually when you think of The Caribbean you think of white sandy beaches, palm trees rustling in the wind, coconuts laying on the floor, brilliant blue seas and the unmistakable sound of carnivals, steel drums and tropical storms.
But among all of the cliches associated with this area of countless islands is a widespread plethora of metal scenes... metal music naturally. The Dominican Republic is one such country (on the island of Hispaniola; shares border with Haiti) who along with the likes of Puerto Rico, Trinidad & Tobago and Cuba are the leaders of the Caribbean Metal movement.
One of the most notable Dominican Republican bands Archaios gained some fame for being the first Dominican Republic Metal band to be signed to an American label... but our attention is not with them, it's with the instrumentalists Metalurgia of whom released two albums this year: "Dimensiones: Espacio" and "Dimensiones: Tiempo". We interrogated their bassist Guillermo Armenteros about his native scene, the album releases and what their band history is among other things.
For those who do not know of Metalurgia, could you please give us a brief history of the band?
"The band started in mid 2012 as bassist Guillermo Armenteros's solo project. He is the driving force and main composer. He played in a number of punk and hardcore bands and decided to create an outlet for more complex music. At the initial stages of the band vocals were considered, but the idea was abandoned in favour of writing material that would not have the worries and constraints of fitting in vocal melodies and arrangements. The band released "Aleaciones" in 2013, recorded, mixed and mastered by Joel Duarte at JDS Studios. Alejandro Chahin (Macabra, Medulah) and Francis Cronox participated in this release handling drum and guitar duties. There are plans to record and revisit this album again in the future as it is currently not available.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Guillermo has more ideas and a better grasp of music and arranging in general. Elementos writing and creation process begins in April 2016. This time around Carlos Yael Santos Pantaleon (Macabra, Odioso) is at the helm behind the desk recording, mixing and handling guitar duties. Daniel Acosta (Nameless Absolution, Progenitus) has guest solos on a couple of tracks and would later join the band on a permanent basis. Mario Luis Ventura (Antihippie, Cosmic Hell) joins the band as its permanent drummer. The mastering process is outsourced to Brett Caldas Lima at Towerstudios. The band releases "Elementos" in early 2017 and take the stage the previous December at Destruccion Masiva, one of the biggest metal festivals in the Caribbean and the largest in the Dominican Republic.
The band then heads into the studio in April 2017 and begins writing and recording "Dimensiones: Tiempo y Espacio". Recording and mixing duties, as well as additional production and guitars are done by Ariel Sanchez (Nux, Epsilon). Miguel Sosa (Macabra, Medulah) joins the band after being a live guitarist during some time. The album is mastered by Brett Caldas Lima. "Dimensiones" is released the following year, to much critical acclaim.
You released your double album "Dimensiones: Tiempo y Espacio" this year, what was reception like? Will you do a Caribbean tour in support of the album?
"The reception has been positive, with many people praising its flawless execution and atmospherics. It is a huge undertaking in this day and age to release a double album, and the cohesiveness of the material is something that a lot of listeners have given us credit for. Another element that was unexpected and appreciated was the additional instrumentation (theremin, acoustic guitars, banjo, minor percussion, synths and pianos) not common in mainstream metal.
We have no concrete plans to tour at the moment, but some local shows and an album release show are planned in the near future. The cost of travelling and booking shows from the Dominican Republic to the United States, Europe or other major markets are very high. We highly value the opportunity to share our music online on all major platforms because getting out on the road is something out of our reach or cost effective at the moment."
You included some non-traditional metal instruments like the theremin and banjo, what was the inspiration behind the decision?
"The inspiration behind this was the need for experimentation and trying to set ourselves apart from the pack in metal and electric guitar driven music. Each additional instrument was over analysed and given much consideration as to where it would fit. We feel that the additional layers add to the listeners experience."
As a metal band from the Dominican Republic, what challenges are there? You share a border with Haiti, do you know of any rock / metal bands out there? What is your scene like?
"The main challenge we face is that there are no dedicated studios for the type of music we make. Some previous members who have been a part of the band no longer operate in the country and have moved abroad trying to make a name for themselves. That’s why we record and mix the material ourselves with whatever means we can come up with. There are bigger more expensive studios available that handle pop and Latin music, but we feel they don’t offer us what we are looking for in terms of expertise in our genre and we feel more comfortable handling the production ourselves, as we live and breathe this music.
I know there are some bands in Haiti, but other than that we don’t know much else about them. If its tough to make music in the Dominican Republic, I imagine our neighbouring country of Haiti, which is more impoverished, must be next to impossible.
Our local metal scene is very small compared to major markets like the USA or even some Latin American countries like Mexico or Argentina. We also don’t have dedicated venues for our genre. The members of our scene know each other as we are a tight knit group of people and its been the same group for the last 10 to 15 years, with few people and generations coming along. Local shows have an average of 100-150 attendance. If a band wants to make it, they have to move abroad. Most shows are put on by our friends and we have a collective called Santuario Producciones which organizes Destruccion Masiva, the show to play if you’re a metal band in the country. Destruccion Masiva has been held every year for about 15 years and has grown to about 1500 in attendance."
La Puerta Del Conde, Santo Domingo / Source: Diario Libre
The Caribbean has produced many metal bands from Trinidad & Tobago to Cuba, from Aruba to The Bahamas. Could you see every inhabited island in time having a metal scene and a possible Caribbean Metal festival?
"The thing about metal is that it is so divisive that either you hate or love it. There is no in between. The people that like the genre generally are in it for life and feel very strongly towards it. With internet access and global connectivity ever so more present in our daily lives the reaches of metal surely are present in every country with internet access. This is why we feel that eventually, if not already so, every country will have a flourishing metal scene, with bands putting on live shows and having original material and releases. As we mentioned before, Destruccion Masiva by Santuario Producciones, books international bands as headliners, besides the local favourites."
For metalheads visiting Santo Domingo, what are some of the places, sights and attractions they should go and see?
"Sadly, there aren’t any metal hang outs I’d recommend as must see. We’d just go to wherever a show is taking place at the time. It may be anywhere from a dive bar at la colonial zone to some mini-market or bodega. If its December, then Destruccion Masiva is the place to be. Each year its held at a different venue, but its an outdoor festival."
What plans do you have for the rest of the year?
"For the remainder of the year, we will be writing and recording an experimental EP titled, "Paradigmas" (Spanish for Paradigms). The name is a reference to a shift in what it means to be a progressive metal outfit. Our goal with this release, which is slated to be out by the end of the year, is to incorporate symphonic elements to our music. We are writing string and horn sections and one day would like to perform with an orchestra live. We feel that the music we are focusing on now could greatly benefit with these additional layers."
"He’s (Kylo Ren) shown so far that his only way to cope with that (his inner conflict) is to let his rage run rampant"
What are your thoughts on 'The Last Jedi' and will you be watching the new anthology film 'Solo'?
"We were all big fans of The Last Jedi and will absolutely be going to see Solo. I doubt you’ll find any of us not going to see any piece of the Star Wars saga."
Your first opus set the galaxy alight and got the thumbs up from Darth Sidious, what will you be bringing to the new album due out on May 4th?
"Our new album was our opportunity to explore the pieces that we wanted to explore. The first album needed to have all the big ones, but we are now able to delve into some of the deeper cuts from the past films and explore some of the newer material. It’s definitely much heavier and more technical."
It's rare for themed-bands to make an impact internationally, so who came up with the idea of having a Star Wars instrumental metal band?
"Our drummer, Grant McFarland (aka Bobs Sett) was the one who hatched the idea initially. He had made a drum video for The Imperial March a few years prior and eventually had the idea to add other instruments to the arrangement, which is when he got the rest of us involved. His perfect pitch and excellent ears are due the most credit, as he was the one to pick apart every piece of the orchestra and map it all out for us to play. I don’t think we’d have made the same impact without his efforts. "
Do you feel Kylo Ren will redeem himself in Episode 9? Or could Kylo and Rey form the Grey Jedi?
"I don’t think there is any coming back for Kylo. He fulfilled the same prophecy as every other Sith or Dark Side oriented individual before him, which was to eventually outsmart and kill his master. I think his inner conflict will still play a factor, but he’s shown so far that his only way to cope with that is to let his rage run rampant. I suppose, however, we could always be thrown a total curve ball. I guess we’ll have to wait and see."
Surely it must get hot under your outfits, are the suits breathable? Does it take long to put them on?
"The live costumes are not nearly as bad as they look. They are designed to be as movable and breathable as possible. The original costumes used in our music videos are the real burden. Incredibly hot, heavy and always falling apart. Unfortunately for us, those are what we also spend the longest continuous periods of time in, since videos take up to eight hours to shoot. The live show is just an hour, then we’re back out of them. "
Ultimately would Dark Vader love to play a lightsabre-shaped guitar?
"I currently play a guitar with a red fretboard, courtesy of Kiesel Guitars, that we have aptly named “The Lightsaber”. I’m not sure I’d ever want the full shape just because of how skinny that would be. I’m a bigger guy, so tiny guitars look a bit silly on me."
Initially was it difficult converting the orchestral pieces into metal music? How did you go about it?
"As I said, that was all Grant. The cool thing is these songs already lend themselves very well to the metal adaptations. I think classical compositions in general are very easily adaptable in that way."
What plans do you have for the rest of the year and into the light years ahead?
"Our next tour is set for June. We will be heading back to Europe to play a number of great festivals, with some equally great names. There are some other things in the works for the remainder of 2018, but none I can talk about just yet! "