East of the LIRR’s Sunnyside yard, underneath the No. 7 elevated line, on a forlorn stretch of Queens Boulevard, smack between the Getty gas station and the Love Shack porn shop, there’s this new basement venue called the Metal Kingdom. Co-proprietor Edwin also plays bass in Gnosis—the openers for the Kingdom’s inaugural evening. The outfit—one of four featured bands whose members hail from Latin America—plays neo-Incan/ Mayan/Aztec “tribal” metal: pan flutes, conch shells, and sludge guitars, with Pan-American, indigenous themes.
Globalized metal’s not new. For decades, extreme metal disciples have honed their craft worldwide, a loose network with all the attendant subgenres (black metal, death metal, grindcore, and on and on). But the Metal Kingdom’s majority-Latino metal crowd on American soil is an indication of just how much the demographics have shifted stateside. And metal is still one of the musics of working-class youth. Many Mexican and South and Central American kids particularly relate to its explicitly anti-Christian, anti-authoritarian themes. It’s quite a sight, seeing outer-borough white ethnics throwing up the devil horn salute, headbanging alongside their compañeros from all points south.
Gnosis were the most melodic, the most musical of the bands—in this scene that can be taken as a compliment or an insult. Less concerned with melody was Mexico’s Discordia, with skinned-cow-head stage props and an impish, gurgling, hissing fiend of a singer.
The language barrier between the various acts and the crowd didn’t matter—this is meta(l)-language; it’s all spoken in tongues anyway. Take Bloodthrone, purveyors of—waiter, there’s a fly in my Genesis P-Orridge!—”American Black War Destruction Blasphemy Metal.” These Jersey grind-toughs got props from the Latin kids, and vice versa. One big, blurred, meth-ill, metal-kill, spiked-armband, bullet-belted, moanin’ wail. It was a heartening confluence, considering how elements of the “black metal” scene flirt with some real odious ideologies, like “Odinism.”
There we were, a writhing, polyglot mass, sweating to the strobe lights in that hellfire-hot basement. But this ain’t no disco inferno. Them’s sacrificial fires burning. And if you peer closely enough through the smoke, you just might be able to make out the smoldering embers of the past.