Thursday, November 3, 2011

Brujeria: División del Norte

The slow drag of grindcore does inspire the arousal of cultist tendencies. It's the articulated cries of sulkers, translated into a dense plodding beat, enunciated through grunts.  By its very nature it's an acquired taste, totally abhorred and adored in equal measures.  While, it's fashionably dark and brooding, it's also a costume that musicians can remove when it suits them.  In the Grindcore or Death Metal genre, image is everything even when it's not genuine. It's sad to say but in the music biz Satanic imagery outsells that of Jesus. Although, outside of Norway, few death metal bands or musicians actually worship Satan or murder anyone. Doing so can wreck or stall your career. Ann Boleyn of Hellion knows how hard it is to get signed by major labels when you come out as a follower of Satan.

Brujeria at it's inception was a collective of SoCal metalheads, and punk rock icon Jello Biafra. Don't believe the nonsense that they were formed in Tijuana, this is straight up Cali grindcore. Brujeria was the side-project of Dino Cazares, then lead guitarist for Los Angeles industrial metal band Fear Factory. The original line-up featured Cazares, Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Billy Gould (bassist for Faith No More), Raymond Herrera (Fear Factory) Pat Hoed (who has been the band's drummer, bass player & back-up singer) he also moonlights as a pro-wrestling announcer and Juan Brujo (John Lepe, vocalist, who became frontman and defacto spokesman for the group.) A rift between Brujo & Cazares in 2005. led to Dino's departure.

The concept or idea for the band came to Cazares following revelations of a death cult operating along the Mexican border.  A group of drug smugglers, practitioners of palo mayombe were carrying out human sacrifices (23 by most accounts) as a way of keeping their shipments safe and their business successful. The cult led by Miami born Adolfo Constanzo was centered around Rancho Santa Elena in Matamoros. Constanzo had worked his way into a local smuggling ring and dazzled them with his knowledge of satanic rituals. He convinced his followers (a motley crew of bi-sexuals, petty thieves, college students & smugglers) that through the ritual killing of rivals they would become bullet proof and invisible to law enforcement.

The members of Brujeria covered their faces like bandidos with openings cut around the mouth. Not because of the extreme criticism leveled at the band since its inception, or the lyrical content of their songs. But, because it allowed them to perform and record with their regular bands without any legal hassles. This approach worked for the band in several ways, just slap a bandanna on that new drummer and you're good to go. Their official back story is that they're Mexican drug lords on the run, and thus can't reveal themselves. Since it's assumed that all band members are Latino, the bandannas were also a ruse to hide the fact that over the years many of the musicians have been British. When conducting interviews, they rarely break out of character or remove the masks. The face coverings, though no longer necessary are still used, since they've become the band's signature trademark. 

Following a pair of singles on his own Alternative Tentacles label, Jello Biafra left the group in 1991. The band's first album "Matando Gueros" was released on Roadrunner Records in 1993. The album and the single are based on the aforementioned Constanzo Cult. The heinous gang from Matamoros had been luring small time Mexican smugglers to their ranch, where they were tortured and killed as part of a palo mayombe ritual. Disturbed that one of his victims had refused to scream while being tortured, Adolfo Costanzo determined that in order to appease the Gods, he would have to sacrifice a white American. 

Mark Kilroy, a pre-med student from Texas picked the wrong night to go bar hopping in Matamoros and by daybreak he was dead and parts of him were brewing in Costanzo's nganga, the traditional cauldron of blood used in palo mayombe rituals. The album was also quite controversial due to the cover photo of a severed head. This ghastly image known as "Coco Loco" would become incorporated into the band's logo and is now prominently featured on the band's website. The "Coco Loco" photo was originally found in the possession of Texas teens suspected in the brutal murder and dismemberment of Mario & Alma Rios in Rosenberg, Tx. The head is believed to be that of Mario Rios. 

"Matando Gueros" was a crude tongue in cheek attempt to satirize the shocking exploits of the Costanzo gang. Most casual listeners assume that the song is a call for jihad against whites. Which truly is ironic since most of the band members are white, a fact that few people knew about when the album was released. Juan Brujo, who sounds like the Spanish version of Lord Humongous grunts the lyrics "Satanas te quida" (Satan protects you) and then makes an obscure reference to L.A.'s Night Stalker  "Estilo Ricky Ramirez" Once the band started touring, the song became a concert favorite and they changed the lyrics to "Estilo Mayate O.J. Simpson" 

Amazingly, Brujeria formed in 1989, had never performed at a public venue until they played  The Whisky a Go Go in Hollywood (1997) The band did not start touring on a large scale until 2003 with their infamous "Mexecutioner Tour" Since then they have toured the world and are wildly popular in Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Portugal & Germany. Brujeria has not released an album since 2000, although Shane Embury has assured fans that an album is in the can and awaiting release. Since 2005, the band's line-up consists of  Juan Brujo-vocals, Pat Hoed-vocals, Shane Embury-guitar, Jeffrey Walker-bass, Adrian Erlandsson-drums & Pinche Peach- vocals, samples. 

Brujeria leaves little to the imagination, their songs are as subtle as a sledgehammer to the head. I equate them to luchadores, like any good heel they don their masks and work the crowd. For Brujeria  hate is their Kiss make-up, without it their music goes limp (as shown by their lame cover versions of Macarena & Don Quixote) Their comical attempts to champion the plight of illegal immigrants are pure Cheech & Chong (La Migra, La Ley de Plomo) Throat singers have never been known for the quality of their "singing", but even by these low standards Juan Brujo is terrible! Like most grindcore bands their musicianship is top notch and ultimately that's their only redeeming quality.  

After leaving Brujeria in 2005, Dino Cazares formed Asesino, a band he calls "The New Brujeria." He drives this point home by playing Brujeria's songs in concert along with covers of  Slayer. In 2009 estranged bandmates Dino Cazares and Burton C. Bell settled their differences and  announced that Fear Factory had reformed minus Raymond Herrera &  Christian Olde Wolbers, who immediately took court action. Pending resolution of their legal battles, a new Fear Factory album is expected in 2012.