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."