2023 South American Metal Albums in Review (Part I)
This year while living abroad in Argentina, I made it a priority to listen to more South American metal. I wanted to not only listen to bands related to my research on indigenous metal, but also ones from all over the continent who play all sorts of different styles. Unsurprisingly, I have discovered some awesome music. South America is often overlooked in US and European metal blogs. But whether you prefer gruesome death, creepy atmoblack, or epic, symphonic power ballads, South America has something for you. Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing some of the most notable, unique, and headbang-inducing albums that I have discovered this year (in no particular order). I hope this series will inspire you to check out more music from this underrated region.
Here’re 7 albums to start off!
Bríi – Último Ancestral Comum (Brazil)
One thing about me is that I’m going to love any music put out by Brazilian multi-instrumentalist Caio Lemos. Lemos has many black metal and black metal adjacent projects, and released new music with three of them (Bríi, Kaatayra, Vestígio) this year. Bríi’s music stands out for its unique mix of black metal and electronic elements. This psychedelic approach to black metal will make you feel like you are wandering trance-like through a rainforest at dusk, surrounded by beauty and adventure but also a slight sense of unease.
Hodos – Del Infierno (Argentina) | Review
Hailing from the small cities of Esquel and Trevelin in Patagonia, Argentina, Hodos play old school heavy metal with a taste of thrash. Their debut album is fast, aggressive, and exactly what you want to headbang to after a rough day at work. From the melodic opening of “Autodestrucción,” to the catchy riffs on “No a la Mina,” to the closing agonized growl on “Paralizado,” this album will pull you in with its tight songwriting and sense of rebellion.
Occultus – Místico (Colombia)
Originally founded in 1996, Occultus has been around a while, but their production feels as fresh as the newest band. Occultus’s metal captures the evil sound of early black, with screams, riffs, and pounding drums appearing to echo straight from the caverns of hell. Highlights include the dynamic vocals in “Luzbel,” the atmospheric second half of “Cruz Esclava,” and the almost bouncy riffs and percussion parts in “Límites del Silencio.” This “dark metal colombiano” proves once and for all that you do not need to come from the northern hemisphere to excel at this genre.
Crypta – Shades of Sorrow (Brazil)
The best known band on today’s list, Crypta was founded in 2019 by former members of Brazilian thrash metal band Nervosa. The musicianship and production on Shades of Sorrow are absolutely top notch. Others have pointed out the impressive bass work of Fernanda Lira, as they should, but to me the drumming skills of Luana Dametto stand out most. Another thing I appreciate about Crypta is that the vocals are surprisingly understandable for the genre. This album marks a lot of growth from their debut, and I can’t wait to see what their next album will look like.
Southern Smoke Volume I (Multiple Countries | Sabbra Cadabra)
This multi-country compilation by Buenos Aires project/record label/podcast Sabbra Cadabra features stoner, doom, and psych metal from both Central and South America. The diversity of approaches to the genre exhibited in this 30 track album is vast. From the punky vibe of “Como si fuese normal” by Argentina’s Banda de la Muerte, the smoky vocals on “Signs of Saturn” by Paraguay’s Lucifer’s Children, the fun little flute intro to “Ex Umbra In Solem” by Colombia’s Autopista 40, or the rocking chorus of “Swamp Thing” by Peru’s Hypernaut, this album is a damn good time.
8.8 – Pachamama (Peru | Guts and Blood Records)
From the opening notes played on a flute, this album makes clear that 8.8’s approach to metal is firmly grounded in the Andean music traditions of the band’s home region. Formed in Cusco in 2014, 8.8’s music will strike a chord with fans of uplifting folk metal like Mago de Oz. There are some great guitar parts here, and the band does a seamless job blending electric guitars with Andean winds. I also like the mix of vocal styles, which blend singing, screaming, and speaking. All of these elements are realized to maximum effect in epic closing track “Pachamama.”
Ecologist – Reinos y ecorregiones (Chile)
This album is for lovers of atmospheric black metal with overarching concepts and a social conscience. Each song on Reinos y ecorregiones represents a particular ecosystem of Chile, spanning from northern deserts to southern archipelagos. Beyond simply describing these regions lyrically and sonically, the album calls for systemic change to protect these lands from further exploitation. Tracks like “Bosque esclerófilo” carry a strong sense of foreboding, and even tranquil moments like the middle of “Desierto florido” leave you with the sense that something is about to go wrong if we don’t act now.