By Freddy Alva via No Echo
The history of heavy metal in Peru is a long, winding road paved with adversity and conflict coupled with unbridled enthusiasm overcoming all odds in the quest for the ultimate killer riff. This search assisted its practitioners to usher in an alternate reality that helped transcend the, at times, gruesome reality of daily life in the capital of Lima and its surrounding provinces during that era. Earlier groundwork was laid in the 1970s by such greats as Tarkus and Pax, both heavy rock bands that helped foster a tradition of electric guitar-based music in the nation's consciousness.
By the time the 1980s rolled around, a vicious trifecta effect of terrorism, corrupt government, and drug trafficking, coupled with outrageous inflation and social inequality, all pointed to Peru heading down a one-way apocalyptic path to Hell in a hand basket.
This was not exactly fertile ground for headbanging enthusiasts to get a heavy metal band off the ground. Kudos to the musicians that persevered during those dark days. Apart from the everyday terror of political violence perpetuated by the Maoist-inspired Shining Path, plus their counterparts in the Army and Police Force. On a musical level, they also had to deal with rudimentary equipment, indifferent studio engineers, frequent electricity outages, and makeshift concerts. Not to a mention a conservative catholic society that did not know what to make of leather-clad, long-haired kids playing loud music with “occult” lyrical themes and Satanic-inspired imagery.
I've chosen to highlight 10 of what I consider the most important bands of that tumultuous decade. They are evenly split between the early NWOBHM/hard rock-inspired ones to black/death metal groups and the thrash/crossover contingent. Scene veterans will argue about a particular band's omission, but, for the sake of brevity, these are my choices. At the end you'll find links for every imaginable band that ever gave the devil's horns salute in the land of the Incas.
Orgus is a classic NWOBHM-inspired band that formed in '84. Like most groups from that period, Orgus left no vinyl documentation, just a demo from '87. Orgus periodically plays out and as of this writing, their singer, Ari “Coco” Gonzales, joins fellow '80s titans Armagedon on stage, bringing his charismatic vocal style to old and new fans alike. The song above is from a compilation that earned them first place in a national rock competition in '88, and is a call-to-arms for the metal militia in Lima.
Oxido existed from '82 to '85 and always considered themselves a hard rock band with heavy metal flourishes. Their brief lifespan influenced countless bands, laying down the foundation for a thriving scene. No good quality recordings exist from that era. This is a new recording of a song from 1984, showing the power and range still intact. Proper documentation of all their old material, re-recorded, is due out for release sometime in 2014. Click on the link below for an interview I did with Oxido guitarist Javier Mosquera.
One of the few bands that actually managed to release an album in 1988, Masacre persevered throughout the years, updating their earlier Judas Priest/Iron Maiden sound to fit contemporary metal eras. The band relocated out of the Peru for a spell, then moved back to Lima and underwent various lineup changes. The only consistent members in Masacre have been the founding Tuesta brothers. The brothers have flown the heavy metal flag in Peru. Case in point is the tune I've embedded above taken from a rare 1984 cassette of the band.
As the situation in Peru deteriorated by the mid-'80s, bands responded in equal measure by making their music as brutal as possible. These dark lords formed in '86 and laid down some of the most extreme sounds of that era. Euronymous from Mayhem wanted to put their material out, unfortunately that never came about, but they did release several albums throughout the years and are still active. Their legendary Guerreros de la Muerte demo from 1986 recently came out on Nuclear War Now! Records.