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Merengue and heavy metal have absolutely no similarities—or so you'd think. But despite one being music that inspires people to commit hellacious, immoral deeds and the other being metal, these two genres actually have some things in common—as much as Register columnist Gordon Dillow does with white-sheet-wearing Mississippians, even. Hot Anaheim Latin-music club JC Fandango thinks so, too, booking shows devoted to both styles this week.
First up is the merengue of Oro Sólido. If salsa is the Playboy magazine of Latin dance music, then merengue is Hustler. It's more graphic, sweaty and titillating. The native music of Venezuela, Merengue is like a 33 rpm record spun at 45 phonograph. It's so fast that only the most beautiful, capable people dare dance to it; any attempts by ugly, ordinary people to wiggle the music's demanding, intricate moves ends up looking frighteningly like President Duh-bya's hideous inauguration boogie with Ricky Martin.
Because of its emphasis on rhythm, merengue bands remain largely faceless in the United States, but Oro Sólido (Solid Gold) is an exception. Based in New York and fronted by Dominican-born, New Jersey-bred Raúl Acosta, Oro Sólido have made their rep with blitzkrieg beats and clever satires about topical subjects, as opposed to the usual merengue tunes that dwell too much on las nenas (the ladies). Consider "¿Tu Votas por Mi?" ("Will You Vote For Me?"), Acosta's take on last year's presidential elections. In the song, Acosta promises positive reform in the United States if he's elected el Presidente—like guaranteeing a woman for every man (straight man, we assume). Acosta also thanks Bill Clinton for the song's inspiration. Not exactly Bob Dylan stuff, but hey, what is?
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The other gig is with Mexican death-metal bands Luzbel and Leprosy. Metal is almost always ignored when people speak of the exploding rock en español scene, yet in Mexico City, metal is huge—and good, too. The folks who run the KNAC.com website know this, having recently posted a story devoted to Mexican metal in which both Luzbel and Leprosy are cited as pioneers.
Luzbel, who take their name from a mythical angel that was cast out of heaven, is the pre-Napster Metallica of Mexican metal; they are so influential they were even subjects of a recent tribute CD. The band stay true to their theological namesake, concentrating on themes and wordplay that deal with the historical horrors waged against indiginous Mexicans in the name of Christianity over the centuries. On their two-part concept album, Antología I y II, front man Arturo Huizar imagines himself to be a priest or a devil in the church —although his cryptic lyrics suggest that each role is interchangeable.
Leprosy focus their aural attacks on the terrestrial rather than the celestial. Their vicious percussion blows are like mortars fired against the Mexican establishment, concentrating specifically on the human-rights abuses of the Mexican government. Their most famous album, Llora Chiapas (Chiapas Cries), was recorded in 1998 to honor the Zapatista movement. Leprosy is a rare metal band in any language, one who preach political peace while instigating violence at their own concerts in the form of lead-pipe-bashing beats.
So, for the aural equivalent of an orgy, go see Oro Sólido. For attacks on Christianity and the bourgeoisie, head to the Luzbel/Leprosy gig. Want the best of both? Buy a book on Marx, then get an S&M girl to take it and smash it down hard on your privates while she sings you songs of love, metal-style. That may not be as much fun as being there, but it'd be cheaper.
Oro Sólido and Manicomio perform at JC Fandango, 1086 State College Blvd., Anaheim, (714) 758-1057. Fri., 8 p.m. $20. 16+; Luzbel and Leprosy perform at JC Fandango, Thurs., May 10, 8 p.m. $20. 16+.