While Chicago has always been a home to political corruption, it has also inspired remarkable and overwhelming activism. Part of this activism takes place through the art that comes out of the city, and among the anger and passion, there’s nothing quite like Chicago’s hardcore scene.
“[It has] been a remarkable experience,” La Armada bassist Alberto Marte shares. “The DIY punk community welcomed us with open arms and made us feel [at] home. We’ve had the opportunity to absorb influences from different genres [from] power-violence, cumbia, to hip hop, and I think it shows on this record.”
Marte is referring to the band’s new album, Anti-Colonial Vol. 1, out April 20 via Creep Records.
Anti-Colonial Vol. 1 is a ferocious blend of hardcore that meets punk and metal while continuously driving home political messages. However, La Armada’s politics didn’t begin in Chicago. Marte states that the band first became aware of corruption in their home country.
“[Our] story begins in the city of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, a former Spanish colony in the heart of the Caribbean who shares half of his territory with Haiti,” he explains. “During the early 2000s, the country was just recovering from 20-plus years of a ‘democratic’ dictatorship [under] Joaquín Balaguer; the sociopolitical climate was—[and] is—heavily influenced by the theocratic power of the Catholic Church.”
“We got involved in radical politics and punk rock simultaneously; it happened naturally,” he continues. “See, in Latin America, punks sing about poverty and oppression because they are actually poor and oppressed, and we lived through those same circumstances. In addition, when you live in a country as conservative as the [Dominican Republic], any attempt to defy the norm is met with outstanding resistance. But when we started to see people connecting with what we were singing about, we knew it was something we had to continue to develop.”
Marte also shares what inspired the band to move to Chicago and the impact the city has had on their views and music. “The answer came in 2007 when we got invited to open for Chicago legends Los Crudos at the Latino Punk Fest,” he recalls. “We automatically clicked with the scene there, and the overwhelming support we received made it clear this was the right move for the band.”
“As far as the political climate, I can tell you there is a lot of similarities with our native Santo Domingo, but on a larger scale,” Marte adds. “Corrupt politicians and crooked cops plague the streets of underserved communities while rich people live in extreme opulence. This is something that fuels the flames of discontent when [it’s] time to write new music. The new record has a song named ‘Homan Square,’ and the lyrics are about the infamous ‘black site’ interrogation [and] torture facility on the West Side of Chicago.”
Coinciding with the powerful messages of each of the band’s songs comes a barrage of outrageous instrumentals. By combining multiple genres, La Armada are able to carve out their own unique sound. “It was a new experience for us, because our previous work consisted in putting together whatever songs we had at the time of the recording and sort of [sticking] them together the best way we could,” Marte shares. “For Anti-Colonial, we actually sat down and visualized the sounds and the feel of the record in the very early stages of the writing process.”
“The bread and butter of the album are the drum beats,” he elaborates. “We were determined to find different sweet spots on the metronome where we could transition from raw punk to hardcore to Afro-Caribbean beats in a smooth, effortless manner. Songs like ‘Unquenchable’ and ‘De Pendejos y Astutos’ are good examples of our use of triplets, odd subdivisions, and unconventional time signatures. It was a tedious process because we all have regular jobs, so for six months, we had to work eight to 10 hours a day and, then, go to the studio and write for another three or four hours.”
Combining powerful messages and furious musicianship, La Armada have proven themselves an outstanding force of brutality and passion. Anti-Colonial Vol. 1 will have you moshing, banging your head, and ready to fight injustice.
Top photo by Alan Snodgrass