Here Are Some Indigenous/Native Metal Bands to Help You Celebrate Columbus Day
You suck, Columbus! You suuuuuuuck!
Many of us in the US are taught from a young age that Christopher Columbus discovered American and that everything he did was all sunshine and rainbows. Thanks to serious scholarly research and a wider public acknowledgment, we now that that Columbus was a real murderous shitbag that tried to conquer natives through rape, torture and murder, spread disease, and helped initiate the slave trade. We also know that he wasn’t the first to discover America either, but “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue” has a better ring to it than “Five centuries before that, Lief Erickson or some other vikings found that shit first.”
You may have noticed in the past few years, particularly through social media, that there is an effort to change Columbus Day to Indigenous People’s Day. There are some, particularly of Italian descent, that support Columbus still being honored with a national holiday. While that may make for a good episode of The Sopranos, it does feel like there is a cultural shift to change the day. That day is not today, though. So what’s the best way to celebrate Columbus Day without honoring him? Listen to some great music from indigenous/native metal bands.
Resistant Culture describe themselves as “tribal grindcrust”, and I think that’s a perfect description. Their music has the aggression of grind, the nastiness of crust, and the implementation of traditional tribal flute and chanting. It’s this tribal influence that helps separate Resistant Culture from other similar grind/crust bands and helps give their songs more meaning. The band also has a strong connection to the band Terrorizer as two members performed on that band’s album Hordes of Zombies. To return the favor, Terrorizer guitarist Jesse Pintado played on the band’s Welcome To Reality album, and Terrorizer drummer Pete Sandoval will be playing two tracks on Resistant Culture’s upcoming album “Shamanic Healing”.
Their music and merch is available for purchase on their website. A couple of their albums are available in full on Youtube, but I wanted to bring particular attention to their song “Beneath The Concrete”. If you’re looking for an introduction to the band, this is it. It’s viciousness with a conscience. It makes me want to save the planet while slamming an oil tycoon’s face into the sidewalk.
Think Canada was free of awful treatment and institutional racism towards First Nations people? Think again. Gybiaaw is a death/black metal four-piece hailing from Prince George, British Columbia, Canada. To be even more specific, Gybiaaw describes themselves as “Tsimshian/Gitksan War Metal”. The Tsimshian are a people indigenous to the Pacific Northwest, stretching from British Columbia to Alaska. The Gitksan (also spelled Gitxsan) are another group of indigenous people in British Columbia that fall under the Tsimshian language group. Gybiaaw’s songs are sung in S’malygax. I always appreciate when bands sing in their own or traditional language. It makes their songs extra special.
Though they are no longer active, Gybiaaw put out a split in 2010 with Mitochondrion. That should probably interest a few of you.
Testify (not to be confused with a bunch of other metal bands of the same name) are a Navajo metal band that feature a 46 year-old lawmaker Edmund Yazzie on drums and his son Darius on guitar and vocals. The band received a solid write-up from The New York Times a year ago, and it is worth your time to read it. Testify is part of a small group of “Rez metal” bands that play on and around the reservation. Other Rez Metal bands include Born Of Winter, Ruction, and War Motor.
Crippling poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, and domestic violence are unfortunately all too common on reservations, and these bands serve as an outlet for the struggling reservation youth. If they’re playing around your area, check ’em out. If you’re a booker, drop them a line.
Cemican are a Mexican metal band that focuses on Mayan and Aztec mythology. Their mixture of traditional tribal instruments and chants are a nice counterpoint to their more traditional heavy metal sound. The band is still very active, though I do not think they have ever played in the United States. It’s a shame because they do incorporate their themes into their live show. That would be really really cool to watch live. Your move, Max Cavalera.
Morbithory are a black metal band based out of Many Farms, Arizona. They call their genre “Diné Black Metal”. It should come as little surprise that a band drawing from their native roots would be drawn to black metal. Black metal’s rejection of the norm, the standard, the mainstream fits right in with Morbithory’s Navajo ancestry. With a history of war and betrayal by both the Mexican and United States governments, the band’s “Anti-Human – Anti-Life” stance fits right in with European black metal. If you’ve got 46 (!) minutes to spare, here’s a performance and interview by the band for Native Entertainment Magazine.
Black Twilight Circle
It would be remiss not to mention Black Twilight Circle in list of native/indigenous bands. Kallathon, Kuxuan Suum, Volahn , Axeman, Ashdautas, and Arizmenda make up the collective. The group has put out a number of black metal cassettes with Mayan and native themes. They have received quite a good amount of coverage. and since I’m not an expert on what they’ve done, I’d say you should just follow some of the links. Play some of BTC’s spooky bands if the Columbus Day parade passes by your house.
Testament may not be the first band to come to mind when thinking about native musicians, but vocalist Chuck Billy is Native American on his father’s side and Mexican on his mother’s. He was even included in the National Museum of the American Indian’s exhibit of native musicians in popular culture. In an interview with Noisecreep, Billy discussed living on a reservation,
“There was just so much freedom on the reservation. I hate to say it, but they were just a bunch of wild Indians [laughs]. It was crazy back then. Our tribe and reservation is really small, and before we ever had a casino on the land, there wasn’t a lot of hope. There wasn’t any money around, and it just felt desperate. It was dire, especially with education and basic resources like that. The kids didn’t even have the basic stuff other kids have in the rest of the country. So a lot of kids didn’t even bother going to school… There’s always the stereotypical stuff about Indians being drunk and high on the reservation, and all of that stuff. And yes, there was a lot of that back then. But you can say that about a lot of other places in the world. If you have a situation as rough as it was for our tribe back then, you’re going to have people escaping into alcohol and drug abuse.”
Now their video for Native Blood probably makes more sense for a few people out there.
Anthrax vocalist Joey Belladonna has stated that his mother is “part Indian American”, though I will leave it up to you to decide if he should be included on this list. It’s not like Scott Ian can claim that. He’s about as native as Mel Brooks in Blazing Saddles. Anthrax’s song “Indians” has been met with some disapproval over the interpretation of native people. The head dress? The war dancing? I’ll leave it up to you whether or not the song & video is an appropriate form of exposure to the problems of native/indigenous people or an example of cultural appropriation. Does your decision change or intensify when you know that the band has put out two bourbons, one of which is called “Indians”?
So there is just a small sample of indigenous/native/First Nation bands and musicians. Crank the music up today as a subtle “F-you” to Chris Columbus. Know of any other bands that would fit in with this list? Post them in the comments section.