Over the past few years, metal iconography has played an increasingly outsize role in pop culture. Whether it’s Kanye West and Justin Bieber’s merch, Rihanna’s performance costumes, or the cult fashion brand Fear of God, the world’s appetite for studded black leather and spidery band logos has grown ravenous. But what about those who’ve been dressing this way since more fashionable types thought Metallica was a shade of lipstick? For decades, metal communities the world over have used clothing and graphic design to signify toughness, community, and love for the occult. We turned to photographer Peter Beste, who’s been photographing metal bands for decades, for a closer look. In 2008, Beste published the book True Norwegian Black Metal, which contained intimate photos of Scandinavian titans like Gorgoroth. This time, he used Red Bull Music Academy’s recent Todo Es Metal event as an opportunity to snap portraits of several prominent Latinx metal bands: Scrapmetal, Crematory Stench, and Sadistic Intent. All leading lights in their scene, these bands have developed a visual identity stronger than any passing hypebeast fixation. “For us, metal has never been a trend,” explains Rick Cortez of Sadistic Intent. “We have been into it regardless of whether other people like it or not.”
SCRAPMETAL: Fashion plays into my identity as “a band” as much as music itself does, because fashion itself is an expression, just like music, art, and tattoos. It’s the way one portrays oneself onto the world, how one is expected to be acknowledged, and it must come from within. Therefore, I express myself offstage as much as I do onstage. Being onstage is but a fragment of what my life truly is. Scrapmetal is the soundtrack to my life, and my fashion is the world I hail from, my world of chaos. I am not a wolf in sheep’s clothing but a wolf howling with all my might, expressing and exposing my animalistic angst upon a moonlit mountaintop, for all the world to see and hear. That is Scrapmetal, in sonic and carnal triumph. Hoooooooooowl!
RICK CORTEZ OF SADISTIC INTENT: It feels a little corny to talk about fashion, but it’s sort of like when you think of a president or prime minister, it is appropriate for them to be in suit and tie, or for the military to be in uniform. Ever since my first memories of metal going back to the early 80’s, there has been the audio element as well as the visual element. The prevailing style of dress has been a custom and it simply goes hand in hand with metal music. For us, there is the on stage and off stage and both represent who we are as metal musicians as well as fanatics.
ERICK CRUZ OF CREMATORY STENCH: The fashion does play a big role in the band; it shows attitude and overall a tough look. We play Death Metal—it’s got to look tough and heavy. Otherwise how else do you stand out? I’ve seen bands play in work clothes and even in regular clothes. You think anyone’s going to look at them seriously? Classic Slayer is a perfect example; it was evil, it was sick, and you can’t tell me they didn’t look like they played the sickest shit at the time. They stood out. It was heavy.