The Embargo Ends: Thirteen Underground Cuban Metal Bands
Be honest: you don’t know a thing about Cuba, let alone Cuban metal. And neither do we: the Cuban government’s control over the Internet hasn’t allowed very much of its culture to reach the rest of the world over the past half century, and Cuban bands certainly aren’t able to tour the U.S. despite living just 90 miles away.
But today’s ground-breaking news that America and Cuba will resume diplomatic relations after more than 50 years seems the perfect time to explore YouTube to see what Cuba’s metal scene has to offer. Unsurprisingly, like pretty much every country on earth — and given its government’s oppressive policies — Cuba has an incredibly robust metal scene with bands spanning all sorts of different styles and genres. Let’s take a listen to a few of our favorites.
For further reading on Cuban metal, I highly recommend David Peisner’s expose for Spin Magazine, written in 2012.
Combat Noise, from Havana, do an admirable job of what I affectionately call “big, dumb guy death metal,” i.e. Dying Fetus, Obituary, or Jungle Rot — it’s got DAT GROOVE. These guys have decent chops and could definitely hang with any of those bands assuming they can pull it off live, which I have no reason to doubt they can.
This death metal band is from the interior town of Santa Clara. They don’t come across as tight as Combat Noise, but that could just be an issue of recording quality; hard to tell.
Chlover sound like any mid-late ’00s Swede-worshipping metalcore band but they’re pretty good at it. I dig this music video because it looks like they filmed it in the streets guerilla style, and I love the shots of the very confused-looking passers-by.
Dawn of Madness
The YouTube description for “Transmutacion,” below, says that “Dawn of Madness is a band from Cuba that released only one demo in the mid ’00 called ‘I’m Dirty Milena.’ The members were also involved in a band name Darkening.” Based on the time-frame, Dawn of Madness were either way ahead of the black metal revival or way behind its second wave in the ’90s — let’s give ’em the benefit of the doubt on account of the power of the black metal underground and say they were way ahead. This track is really good.
Narbeleth boast that Diabolus Incarnatus was only released on tape by Serpent’s Eye Records and was limited to 150 copies. Cvlt! The label has a whole lot of other releases with grainy, black and white covers for those are interested in digging a bit deeper.
More black metal, again pretty decent. Noticing a theme here?
Escape, who mix thrash with industrial and a bit of Latin flavor, ventured to the U.S. to play SXSW in 2013 with fellow Cuban metal bands Ancestor and Agonizer (below), after which all but two of the band members decided not to go back home. More on this fascinating story in a long-form piece written for Buzzfeed.
Ancestor play a blend of black metal and death metal very much in the Goatwhore mold; there are plenty of big, dirty riffs to go around.
Sort of a melting pot of metal from all styles. I believe this band also chose to stay behind in the U.S. after playing SXSW in 2013, and they reside in Miami now.
Kind of like a really bizarre, deathcore-tinged version of Sonic Syndicate.
Tendencia bill themselves as “one of Cubas most important metal/punk bands,” and who are we to disagree? This cover of “Guantanamera” incorporates Latin rhythms and metal, and the green screen effects are pretty righteous.
Hipnosis sound kind of like Disturbed and James LaBrie had a baby. Those keyboards!
Digging this live clip of Zeus shot in Havana. These guys let their Latin influences show through a little more and their sound feels a bit older than some of the more extreme acts above. They’re allegedly one of Cuba’s biggest metal acts.
Rice and Beans
Yes, there is actually a Cuban metal band called Rice and Beans, and no, despite Cuba’s isolation the country did not manage to avoid the nu-metal plague. I guess these guys are pretty good at what they do, though?