One one level, Brujeria are a brutally powerful rock band whose music walks along the border of grindcore and death metal. On another, Brujeria are a street-level exercise in performance art. To take them at their word, the members of Brujeria are leaders of a Mexican cartel of drug smugglers, ruthless men who use mutilation and murder to protect their interests. The members of Brujeria perform in disguise, and their music is a reflection of their sociopathic embrace of violence, drugs, and satanism. However, it’s an open secret that Brujeria aren’t really members of a drug cartel any more than GWAR are alien warriors who crash-landed in Antarctica. The band began as the side project of several noted metal and punk musicians, and while their contribution to the group is well known, officially Brujeria still insist they’re from Tijuana, Mexico, using their collective persona for dramatic effect as well as dark satire.
Brujeria (Spanish for witchcraft) were formed in 1989 in Los Angeles, California. The original lineup featured vocalist Juan Brujo (aka John Lepe), guitarist Asesino (aka Dino Cazares, best known as guitarist with Fear Factory), bassist Güero Sin Fe (aka Billy Gould of Faith No More), and drummer Fantasma (aka Pat Hoed, who is a pro-wrestling commentator and radio host). Dead Kennedys founder Jello Biafra also participated in Brujeria’s early shows as vocalist Pito Wilson; he soon dropped out of the lineup, but released several Brujeria singles through his Alternative Tentacles Records label. In 1990, Brujeria released their debut single, “¡Demoniaco!” A second single, “Machetazos,” appeared in 1992; by this time, Pinche Peach had joined the group, taking over the second vocalist role left by Biafra’s departure, and Greñudo (aka Raymond Herrera, like Cazares a member of Fear Factory) became the band’s new drummer as Fantasma became an additional vocalist. In 1993, Brujeria released their first full-length, Matando Güeros. The cover featured a gruesome and authentic photo of a severed head, confirming the band intended to create an image as extreme as their music. The album also marked the debut of guitarist Hongo (aka Shane Embury of Napalm Death). With 1995’s Raza Odiada, Brujeria upped the political commentary in their music, with the title song taking aim at California Governor Pete Wilson, who was widely seen as racist in the Mexican-American community for his policies on immigration. (The album featured a vocal cameo from Biafra, impersonating Wilson.) The album also featured the song “La Ley de Plomo,” which remarkably managed to score some late-night play on MTV. Up until this time, Brujeria had been exclusively a studio project, in part because the other commitments of the musicians made scheduling difficult. As the group’s notoriety grew, there was an increased demand for live shows, and in January 1997, Brujeria took the stage for the first time at the Whisky A Go Go in Los Angeles; three songs from the show would later appear on the EP Marijuana, released in 2000.
In 2000, the group dropped their third album, Brujerizmo, which added new characters to the lineup, including female vocalist and guitarist Pititis (aka Gaby Dominguez), guitarist Cristo de Pisto(aka Jesse Pintado of Terrorizer and Napalm Death), and second drummer Hongo Jr. (aka Nicholas Barker, of Cradle of Filth and Dimmu Borgir). The album received positive reviews in the metal press, and became their biggest commercial success to date. In 2001, the group released a collection of B-sides, rare tracks, and fan favorites titled Mextremist! Greatest Hits, but a follow-up to Brujerizmo failed to appear. Instead, the group launched their first proper tour in late 2003, beginning in Chicago, Illinois and ending in Guadalajara, Mexico. (2003 also saw the release of another “greatest-hits” collection, The Mexicutioner! The Best of Brujeria.) A second tour in 2004 took the band to South America for the first time, but the group was struggling with internal strife, and Asesino and Güero Sin Fe both left the group, with Fantasma becoming the band’s new bassist. The group went on hiatus, and while they resumed touring in 2007, work on a new album progressed slowly, with a few tracks appearing on independent singles.
In 2016, Brujeria made a splash in the music press with the release of “Viva Presidente Trump!” a tongue-in-cheek “tribute” to the Republican presidential candidate whose outrageous statements about illegal immigrants made him a pariah in Mexico. In September 2016, Brujeriafinally released their long-awaited fourth album, Pocho Aztlan. The lineup for the album featured Juan Brujo, Fantasma, Hongo, Pinche Peach, Hongo Jr., and Pititis, along with new members El Cynico (bass and guitar; aka Jeffrey Walker of Carcass), and A. Kuerno (guitar; aka Chris Paccou, a onetime sound engineer for Napalm Death and Carcass).