The Cuban Heavy Metal Band That Joined the Communist Regime

Dionisio Arce was the singer in heavy metal band Zeus. He spent six years in Cuban prison for his long hair, playing the guitar, and being a sexy man. The music of the capitalist foe. The band was eventually incorporated into the Agency of Rock of the communist government a decade later.

Zeus joined Castro’s regime. Did the band sell out or did it make a compromise in order to continue playing their music, and give Cuba greater cultural freedom? 

The documentary addresses this question. Los Últimos FrikisAvailable now via video on demand and streaming. The film, which was made in association with the Moving Picture Institute, was shot between 2009 2019This is. This film shows the fall and rise of Zeus following a period when Cuba’s communist government imprisoned and tortured artists, activists and writers as well as other freedom-thinking “freaks”. frikisSpanish

Since the 1970s, rock music was a common outlet for young Cubans’ angst. However, by the 1980s government officials began to take a tougher stance against anti-authoritarian headbangers whose activities they considered dangerous and an “ideological divertissement” from revolution. Arce was Zeus’s lead singer. He had previously been part of the trendsetting metal band Venus, which was then banned entirely.

Many rockers were still in prison up until the beginning of the ’90s. Arce is the main character in this film. Fidel Castro, Cuba’s dictator faced an almost total economic collapse after the Soviet Union’s fall. He was forced to allow some market and cultural liberalization.

In order to draw foreign investments, the government tried to project the image that Cubans have cultural and artistic freedom. The Castro regime reversed course on rock and started giving heavy metal bands like Zeus the freedom to perform openly through the government-sanctioned Agency of Rock—as long as they stayed within the boundaries of acceptable expression. Arce was freed from prison around that time and went on to become the Zeus’s lead singer.

Director Nicholas Brennan explains in his documentary that Cuba’s post Soviet openness to music came with strings. Faustian bargain offered the government: Zeus could become a partner of the Agency of Rock in return for Zeus’s ability to perform in large crowds at Havana’s main rock venue.

Justin Monticello produced, wrote, and edited the video; Ian Keyser did the audio production.

Photos: Courtesy of LOS ÚLTIMOS FRIKIS; Ernesto Mastrascusa/EFE/Newscom; Yander Zamora/EFE/Newscom; Marcelo Montecino, CC BY-SA 2.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons