It has always fascinated me how different cultures pride themselves on the music produced from their specific corner of the world, and most of them rightly so. It seems many countries like to define themselves with unique and interesting music that is found almost exclusively in its country of origin. Unfortunately, commercialised American dance music or Euro-pop seem to be the styles that manage to cross borders with the greatest success. This is why the heavy metal scene, which I rightly or wrongly associate with frosty Scandinavian mountain ranges or industrial estates in Birmingham – is particularly interesting when found in places that wouldn’t be expected.
After around 30 hours without sleep due to my flight from London, I had finally arrived in Costa Rica, severely jet lagged. San Jose, the country’s capital, is nestled in tropical forest with rivers and trees weaving in and out of the roads on the way into the city. It is humid, dense and noisy in it’s centre, and I was finding myself a place to collapse in bed. Even in this state, I couldn’t help but notice the numerous bikers wearing Master of Puppets t-shirts and gangs of patch-jacket wearing metal heads.
Having found myself a hostel to sleep in, I later got talking to a guy named Eduardo. He is a tour guide living in San Jose. After asking him about music, as I so often do to people, it turns out he’s very active in the Costa Rican metal scene. I was invited to gig and to meet a few people who could be interesting to interview and given the details of the event.
A week later I arrived with Eduardo in a taxi to the street where the venue was located, a dimly lit street with noisy crowds and bars playing music. It was crowded with stereotypical rockers wearing denim jackets and enough black clothing to obscure them into the surrounding darkness. We approached a group of his friends who provided me with a diverse range of welcoming gestures – warm handshakes, offers of drugs and raised middle fingers. My Spanish is sufficient to handle some basic conversation but I rapidly became more interested in actually seeing some of the bands rather than hanging around outside. I couldn’t help but be somewhat grateful for a friendly local guide showing me around.
El Teatre Del Mundo was the venue. We walked into a fairly conventional club bar playing loud Reggaetón and American Pop music. Sparkly pink cocktails were being poured and an unusually high percentage of the people inside were actually female. I was led past the pounding speakers to the back of the room where a weighty, long haired man in a bandana was sat on a stool collecting money for wristbands and selling CD’s. This looked like the place. After paying for my entrance ticket I was offered a copy of Engorged with Human Waste by tonight’s stars of the show – FECAL ADDICTION. After a hysterical outburst of laughter towards the uncomfortably straight faced man, I politely declined and wandered up the narrow staircase to the floor above.
The venue became a pleasant surprise on the floor above. Speakers thundered with shredding riffs and blasting drums at the back of what seemed to be a converted attic. This was the smallest place I had even seen music played in, a dimly lit, improvised music venue with extreme metal celebrated everywhere I looked. It truly felt like the raw underground I never expected to find, hidden from immediate sight and enjoyed immensely by a dedicated few. A fury of black t-shirts charged into each other inches from the “stage” and people were sporting band names like BELPHEGOR, AT THE GATES and MAYHEM on their clothing, as if this was all taking place in Europe. I found it incredibly satisfying that these bands who appeal to only a smaller proportion of rock and metal lovers, even had a fan base several thousand miles from where there music was recorded. It seems great brutal music has the ability to cross continents too.
ARSENAL were the first band I managed to see the entirety of. The band put on a great show and clearly have some talent. Each member was tuned in to their bandmates and some impressive musicianship complimented their aggressive punk-style vocals. The crowd however seemed rather dispersed and reserved at this early stage in the evening. I was noticing more and more FECAL ADDICTION t shirts gathering at the bar towards the back of the room. Whilst I did laugh at first, it seems they had quite the local following in their home country of Costa Rica. Upon later researching and reading that this was the only band from Costa Rica that played, it seemed hardly surprising.
They were greeted to the stage with a mighty cheer. As soon as FECAL ADDICTION were welcomed to stage, the crowds packed in at the front. Whilst the atmosphere was as far removed from most other venues I attend in London, there was certainly a feeling of supportive pride in this extreme band’s 10 years of existence amongst this tightly-knit community of heavy metal fans. The music, in all honesty, is not my thing. I do find the guttural croaking into a microphone a little underwhelming, but I suppose I was missing the point here. With song titles such as Big Beautiful Women Diarrhoea its evident that they are making no attempt to create works of musical genius. Just be noisy and offensive for their own entertainment… and it went down phenomenally well. The huge contrast between painfully slow doom riffs and a whirlwind of hammering notes in the fast sections was nothing short of extreme. Accompanied by amusing pig squeals, I found myself headbanging, laughing, moshing and continuing to laugh at the surreal nature of this concert. It was certainly entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable to witness.
After FECAL ADDICTION had finished, I spoke with a number of musicians and other people involved in the local scene. I was handed a copy of a CD that depicted brains being shoved into a toilet, a treasure that I still cherish to this day. The concert manager was there too and offered to provide me with an interview, if my Spanish was up to the job. This seemed like a stroke of luck.
My attention was caught by an unholy roar that ripped through the speakers shouting “There is no God!” and a short man with shaven head was standing amongst a crowd of people clutching his bloodstain design guitar. He stood amongst the crowd, in front of the stage and roared with total fury. His brutally precise tremolo picking thundered along with pre-recorded backing instruments coming from the speakers at the stage. Despite this being a single man, below the heads of the crowd with no other accompanying musicians. He absolutely dominated his performance. Spitting intelligible lyrics with demon-like aggression and a flurry of intricate riffs that locked in with his backing tracks perfectly. His hatred of religious influence was defiantly expressed through his lyrics and the crowd held him with such high respect. This was truly like nothing I had witnessed before. Almost like a blasphemous preacher to a receptive crowd, there was so much passionate defiance in this dimly lit room, hidden from the disgusted eyes of the outside streets.
Through Europe, Satanism is something of a gimmick. Its seen by many as a symbol of bands trying to be too extreme, an infantile attack on Christianity, which is now openly criticised and lacks it’s historic dominance over western culture. Religion is everywhere in Central America. Car windows, public busses, shops, schools are adorned with images of the Virgin Mary and “Dios es Amor” (God is Love). Catholicism was forced upon this part of the world by the Spanish centuries ago and its influence seemed as strong as ever. In response, extreme rebellious music has a much firmer hold amongst fans of rock music here. MAYHEM and BATHORY shirts stalk the corners of Classic Rock bars and city walls can be seen sprayed with pentagrams and “Black Metal”.
The concert in San Jose finished. I shook the hand of one-man death metal outfit BLOODSOAKED and took a few pictures. I would love to be able to say that I engaged in a witty, insightful interview with the concert manager that night. Unfortunately I found myself in another rock bar with the manager himself, in a prime journalism opportunity, at the mercy of my insufficient Spanish and more than sufficient £1 beers. There was to be no interview with this man.
Having woken up the next day, I asked Eduardo once again to help me out. He told me that a friend of his owns both a merchandise store and record label in Costa Rica, known as Nightfall Distro. After putting me in contact with him, I exchanged a few messages with Christian Gonzales, the owner of the label. He kindly offered to answer some questions to be published in Distorted Sound and provided me with some pictures of the store he runs.
Interview with Christian Loaiza Gonzales, owner of Nightfall Distro.
Nightfall Distro was started up in 1998, 18 years ago is a long time! Can you tell us about it and what made you interested in founding a record label?
Christian: Yes Tim, 18 years is a long time. When we started, me and my wife (we were not married at that time) wanted to sell music that was impossible to find at the time such as black, death and doom metal. From the start the store was very successful, which lead to an expansion over time, as we imported more and more music.The label was an idea that came few years later, first we started along with Murder Records (Portugal) and Visceral Vomit (Costa Rica), then we kept going on our own. But once in a while we still work together with other labels to expand our name.
It seems Costa Rica has a lot of heavy metal fans, with many people in band t shirts wandering around San Jose. Has there been a recent rise in the popularity of heavy metal or was it always like this when you started your label?
Christian: It hasn’t always been like this. Through time there’s been an increase in the people that like this music. In the 90s it was a very small group and we knew each other, now it keeps growing. It’s unstoppable!
Many of the bands you promote express anti-religious imagery and lyrics in a country that has around 75% of it’s population identifying as Catholics. Has this caused you any issues?
Christian: Until now it hasn’t been a big problem, sometimes the occasional religious extremist who wants to shut us down, but it’s not possible. And yes, our line is extreme metal generally, a little bit of punk, mostly with anti-religious ideas, we specifically don’t label Christian or Nazi bands because of our personal beliefs.
Which bands do you personally enjoy listening to and do you play an instrument yourself?
Christian: I like music of different genres, from Black to Punk. Some of my favourites are TAAKE,
RAGNAROK, BENEDICTION, RIP, NARCOSIS, SUBTERRANEAN KIDS, SEDICION. In mid 90s I used to play in a band called DISCORDIA.
If you could recommend some new releases from Nightfall Distro to the readers of this article, which ones would they be?
Christian: Our new project is going to be a band called DEMENCIA from our country (Costa Rica). It’s really good street crossover, previously we also released their first demo.
—End of Interview—–
To conclude my wall of writing, I would recommend anyone make the effort to search out rock and metal music from wherever in the world they may happen to be. The appreciation on heavy music has got it’s roots firmly planted in all corners of the globe and to see it enjoyed by people of all cultures is inspiring. Now I could finish by saying something upliftingly positive to give anyone who reads this and spring in their step for the rest of the day, but instead I’ll recommend that they listen to: Bloodsoaked – The Death of All hope.
Thanks for reading,
Praise the infernal darkness,