Varas-Diaz, Nelson – The Metal Islands (DVD)

Reviewed: January 2017
Released: 2016, n/a
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: JP


A documentary on the Metal scenes of the Caribbean islands, focusing on Cuba, The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico

A mere 18 months after the interesting documentary THE DISTORTED ISLAND was released, professor Nelson Varas-Diaz (PhD) has returned with a bit of a sequel, or at very least a companion piece called THE METAL ISLANDS. It might serve you well to go read my review of THE DISTORTED ISLAND to get a bit of context but the short version is that this is a documentary about the Caribbean Heavy Metal scene, specifically focusing on Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. The sub-title says it all, ‘Culture, History and Politics in Caribbean Heavy Metal Music’

THE DVD itself is certainly not Hollywood in style or production. It is a bare bones production with no menus, or extra features. However, it does come with a two-page booklet and perhaps more importantly a 2-CD set featuring 30 bands from those nations. There is a lot of material that I would guess most Metal-heads (outside of those islands) have not really heard.

The documentary is very academic and straight-forward, there is very little flash or style but lots of substance. It is shot mostly in grey-scale or with weird filters (I’m not a movie guy so I don’t even know how to describe it…sepia tones?) which makes it a little dull visually, but it matches the tone, pace and style of the first film nicely. Subtitles take us through a brief introduction and then a history of the scene of each of the three nations and then a final scene tying it all back together, where leaders from the scenes all gather for what seems to be a very attended conference. There are several interviews with bands and scene leaders and academics. What struck me is how one person can be a catalyst to spearhead almost an entire scene, and how one dedicated person can make a difference. There were a couple of people who could personally make or break a scene.

Another point that hit home was how easy Metal fans in North America have had it over the years. Several of the people being interviewed told takes of how they would get arrested just because they had long hair or wore a spiked bracelet. Bands would gather in an abandoned house with no electricity frequented by drug addicts and the homeless and they would personally clean the place of human waste JUST so they could have a place to hang out and practice. This would be the ONLY place in a city for Metalheads to gather.

I found it curious that Cuba the nation with arguably the least freedom, eventually becomes the most supportive of Metal where they have a state-run Rock agency that helps train young bands as professional musicians and actually tries to allow them to be a full-time paid Metal artists. The documentary also spotlights some the regions bigger bands and some of the innovative steps they have taken to integrate their culture into the traditional Metal music.

When I rated the first film, THE DISTORTED ISLAND, in hindsight I thought my rating of four out of five (by our criteria being ‘Every Metalhead should own’, )might be a bit high for an academic film. However, I still found THE METAL ISLANDS extremely interesting from a historical and sociological perspective. If you are a Metal fans who just likes to ‘rock out’ and doesn’t care about the history of Metal or the roots of other national scenes, you may want to know this rating down a notch, but I stand by my score for both films. THE METAL ISLANDS is an important film for the global Metal community and the academic world as well.

NOTE: The first 20 people who respond to this review win a FREE copy of THE METAL ISLANDS courtesy of Dr. Nelson Varas-Diaz!! This is what you must do.

1.) Go the Facebook Page of The Metal Islands.
2.) Send them a private message.
3.) Say in your message where you are from (City & Nation) and that you read the review of the DVD on

Thank you!


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Track Listing:

Technical Details:
Format Reviewed:
Run Time: 1 hour, 37 minutes
Screen: n/a
Sound: n/a
Production Year: 2016