'Metal from the Dirt' - Cool profile of Navajo metalheads, and Diné metal shows on the rez

There's a not-to-be missed profile in High Country News on Diné heavy metal bands on and around the Navajo Nation in Arizona, with incredible photos by Clarke Tolton, who also directed the video above.


On the drive through the Navajo Nation, twirling the radio dial yields country station after country station. The genre warbles about the American Dream, life’s struggles paying off, and frustration, loss and regret. Scan long enough though, and you might stumble upon Laydi Rayne’s weekly metal show on KSHI out of Zuni, New Mexico. It’s one of the only shows in the area that caters to the genre, which is popular on the nation.

Metalheads on the nation have long been making the style their own through “rez metal,” short for reservation metal. Bands record in abandoned houses, and host shows in backyards and empty parking lots. The musicians have embraced ingenuity and teamwork to create a scene reflective of their identities. And now, a generation of Diné youth who grew up listening to metal are shaping the scene themselves.

The heavy metal genre was born in 1980s England, but has translated easily to the Navajo Nation, said Jerold Cecil, band manager of I Don’t Konform. “Metal is disenchantment with everything,” said Cecil, a Navajo citizen. “Establishment, society, the frustrations you have in your life, socio-economic problems, family problems, not being provided the resources or the opportunities that most people are given everyday, just because you’re on the rez.”

Cecil jokes that the only difference between rez metal bands and other metal groups is that even if they’re not getting paid, rez metal bands will drive five hours or more to a show. “They do it for the adrenaline from being on stage, being able to hear your music loud in front of a lot of people that are like you,” Cecil said. That camaraderie extends to the competition inherent in the music industry: When one band is “discovered,” fame comes to the whole scene. “If one of us makes it, then we all make it,” said Cecil.

More on the bands at Revolver Magazine.

From the description for the REVOLVER feature video above, directed by Clarke Tolton:

"There's a lot of bands, heavy-metal bands, on the Navajo reservation. And for some reason this music, this subculture, seems to permeate with the youth," says Jerold Cecil, manager of Arizona act I Dont Konform. "What Rez Metal is — 'rez' is sort of an inside word for 'reservation.' Our brand of metal is different than anybody else … it's blowing up." For one week this summer the Everything Is Stories creative team traveled to the Southwest United States, and Navajo Nation territory, to document the originators of the DIY Rez Metal scene, and the bands that are now carrying the torch, including I Dont Konform, Mutilated Tyrant and Born of Winter. From a generator-powered show in the Arizona desert to a band practicing in a traditional Navajo dwelling called a Hogan, this story — told by Navajo ("Diné") bands and individuals involved in the scene — explores the creation of Rez Metal in the Eighties, the juxtaposition of old and new Navajo traditions and the link between heavy metal and native pride.

Below, one of the live multi-band shows.