Exploring South America’s Indigenous Metal Scene

Heavy metal music is a genre that has evolved significantly since its inception in the 1970s. While many sub-genres fall under the heavy metal umbrella, the common elements that unite them include guitar-based rock music, distorted guitars, strong rhythm sections, and combative lyrics. One of the most notable features of heavy metal music is its critical stance towards social injustice, which has made it a popular outlet for people in South America to voice their frustrations with the shortcomings of their governments and societies. 

In recent years, a unique sub-genre called Indigenous Metal has emerged in South America, which incorporates indigenous rhythms, vocalizations, and instruments into a heavy metal setting, providing a platform for indigenous performers to express their cultural identity and address societal issues. In this article, we will take a look at heavy metal music in South America, its evolution, and its unique flavor, including some of the region’s most influential bands and their contributions to the genre

South America Has Its Own Flavour of Metal Music

In the 1990s, metal music splintered in many directions, giving rise to bands with gothic and industrial leanings, such as Marilyn Manson and Slipknot. Nightwish, a Finnish symphonic metal band, also found popularity. Some of the most influential bands in the now-popular “Indigenous Metal” are from South America, notably the Brazilians of Sepultura, the Mexicans of Cemican, and the Peruvians of the independent group Indoraza.

Metal music may have been pioneered in North America and the United Kingdom, but its frequently critical stance towards social injustice has made it an accessible outlet for people of all ages throughout South America to vent their frustrations with the shortcomings of their own government and society.

Indigenous Metal is a style where indigenous rhythms, vocalizations, and instruments are incorporated into a heavy metal setting. This musical subgenre has become an important outlet for indigenous performers to share their music and deepen their ties to South America’s rich cultural history and diversity. Also, Indigenous Metal dispels common beliefs about heavy metal by demonstrating its transformative potential as a vehicle for cultural expression and social evolution.

Indigenous Metal Sings To Cultural Identity and Societal Injustice

Many people who consume Western media might assume that South America’s music is only characterized by cheerful tropical beats. However, this perception is not entirely accurate as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and other prominent metal bands regularly sell out colossal venues during their tours of the continent. Additionally, enormous rock festivals such as Rock in Rio attract thousands of music lovers from all over the world, including Latin America. For Max Calavera, the founding member of Brazil’s renowned metal band, Sepultura, metal music was perfect for an angry kid from the third world. In the 1990s, Sepultura burst onto the global scene and made a significant impact.

Authoritarian regimes inflicted censorship, cruelty against civilians, and many other human rights crimes on Latin American countries throughout the early days of Metal’s existence. Many bands don’t have recordings despite massive local success for years due to harder living conditions and fewer resources, whereas Western musicians saw their music explode with worldwide consumption.

For these and other reasons, Latin metal bands’ lyrical themes tend to be more severe regarding real-world experience than their American counterparts. Without minimizing the hardships endured by others, it is essential to note that the calls for social change in Latin America came during a period of great upheaval for the people of those nations. But they persisted in using what resources they had to unite the outcasts of these areas, and their legacy lives on.

Latin American Metal Bands To Look Out For

Latin America is home to a vibrant and diverse metal scene, with numerous talented bands producing a wide range of heavy music. Bronco, hailing from Chile, is a band that has been making waves with its raw and aggressive sound. Sarcófago, from Brazil, is considered one of the pioneers of extreme metal, with their influential albums still inspiring musicians today. Cemican, a Mexican band, combines traditional indigenous music with heavy metal to create a unique and powerful sound. Kranium, from Argentina, is known for its intense and intricate guitar work, while Sepultura, also from Brazil, has been a driving force in the metal scene for decades, with their fusion of Brazilian rhythms and thrash metal. By exploring the music of these bands, listeners can gain a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural and musical heritage of Latin America, as well as discover new and exciting metal bands that are pushing the boundaries of the genre.

Final Thoughts 

In recent years, the Indigenous Metal movement has garnered global attention for its distinctive fusion of heavy metal and indigenous sounds. Though perhaps not as widely recognized as their Western Heavy Metal Stars counterparts, bands like Sepultura have achieved iconic status in the international metal scene by incorporating Brazilian indigenous themes and rhythms into their music. Alongside Sepultura, there are numerous noteworthy Indigenous Metal bands hailing from South America, including Tulkas from Bolivia, Nahual from Chile, and Yana Raymi from Peru, among many others.

The emergence of Indigenous Metal has dispelled common beliefs about heavy metal and demonstrated its transformative potential as a vehicle for cultural expression and social evolution. With numerous talented bands producing a wide range of heavy music, exploring the music of South America’s indigenous metal scene can provide a deeper appreciation for the rich cultural and musical heritage of Latin America while discovering new and exciting metal bands pushing the boundaries of the genre.

This article has been published in Spanish by Drapuestas, click here to read. 


  • Carl Fisher

    Owner/Administrator/Editor/Writer/Interviewer/YouTuber - you name it, I do it. I love gaming, horror movies, and all forms of heavy metal and rock. I'm also a Discworld super-fan and love talking all things Terry Pratchett. Do you wanna party? It's party time!