Reviewed: January, 2023
Published: 2021, Schattenmann Publishing
In the mid-90’s when grunge hit North America and Metal went back underground, where some would argue it rightfully belongs, it became increasingly hard to find good Metal. It was there, you had to know here to look and it was often expensive, but it was there. But where?
Historically, Heavy Metal, in terms of media and academic attention, publicists, tours, TV shows, magazines and international attention was focused on America, Canada, the UK and Western Europe and maybe a tiny bit on Australia and Japan. However, there were strong domestic scenes and growing scenes all through Central and South America and a bit in Asia as well. Mexico can lumped into this category as well.
When I was on my quest to seek out the finest Metal from around the globe (pre-internet) I would look to places like Mexico, (TransMetal), Spain (Mago De Oz), Argentina (Rata Blanca) and Brazil (Viper) but information was scarce.
I know reviewers are not supposed to make themselves the focal point but I have a story to share. Back in 1995 or so I went to Cancun on holiday. I wandered around town looking for Heavy Metal stores and was very pleasantly surprised at the quantity of bands. Trying to maximize my budget and explore as many bands as possible, I bought four cassettes, a compilation series called LO MAS POTENTE DEL METAL (loosely translated as ‘The Most Powerful Of Metal’) Volumes I-IV.
This series featured underground bands like Blaster, Six Beer, Ramses, Fongus and many more. I didn’t know any information about them because of my inability to speak the language and lack of information about these bands outside of Mexico. However, I was always impressed with the quality and quantity of bands. I still have those tapes!
Now years later, it all sort of circles back to a great book called MEXICAN UNDERGROUND METAL: 1984-1996. I vaguely knew this independent publication existed but now it has been upgraded and it is now in English. Now, I can finally read more about that great scene and some of those bands, although this book focuses more on the extreme bands, and less on the more mainstreams sounds of those bands on the compilation tapes. Still there is a connection in my mind, however loose!
The book is a black and white hard cover, about 150 pages long and published and printed in Germany by Schattenmann Publications. It is good quality and it comes with a flyer and a one-sheet with very handy information; it is a map and a brief overview/history of Mexican Metal. If you are not too familiar with Mexican Metal, read this first! The cover art is done by underground legend Mark Riddick who also contributes a brief guest essay about his personal history with Mexican Metal.
This book is the combined years of work of a few people, most notably Tony ‘Subterraneo’ Juarez. You don’t need Google Translate to figure out his nickname! He must be quite humble because he doesn’t even put his name on the front or back cover or even the spine. Juarez was the founder and editor of ‘Reborn From Ashes’ fanzine. I’m not going to pretend to be cool and act like I know of this fanzine, because I didn’t ever own or read a copy. Apparently, it was one of the biggest and best fanzines for the era for…well…as the book title says, Mexican Underground Metal.
This hard cover collection has re-printed, upgraded and translated the fanzine into a comprehensive history. There is also a companion audio of rare bands and demos pressed on both cassette and CD. It would be a good idea to own both and listen while you read along.
Early on Juarez shares his personal Metal history; like many people he grew up in the early 80’s in a small town with no rock scene, let alone Metal and befriended the one guy who like Heavy Music. After that Juarez went on his own musical journey of exploration, meeting new people, moving schools, moving towns and discovering many new bands. The years 1988-1992 were huge for him and he got into concerts, tape-trading and fanzines. His story is not uncommon but his above average enthusiasm means he accumulated so much knowledge that it eventually became REBORN FROM ASHES. It ran about eight or nine issues and even though Juarez moved to America his fire for Mexican Metal burns to this day. This book is evidence of that.
MEXICAN UNDERGROUND METAL is quite glorious to look at in an old school, black & white fanzine kind of way! The book is a crazy mix of news, views, interviews, reviews and more. It is packed with tons of pictures of flyers, demo tapes, ads and more. It is toughly divided into two main sections. The first attempt went up to about 1994 but the Juarez tackled a second part expanding revising and improving. Year by year there is a synopsis and lists of major international acts that passed through Mexico on tour and the local acts that supported them. The text is pretty small but you will learn so much about the scene. I certainly did!
MEXICAN UNDERGROUND METAL is an incredibly comprehensive looks at the early glory-days of the national scene. This book serves as a valuable guide and an important historical document of those times. More than that it is a testament to the fans, the bands and the scene as whole that worked so hard to keep the music alive.
Note: I believe this book is already sold out. Hopefully there will be enough demand for another printing!