Xibalba – Años en Infierno

Band: Xibalba
Title: Años en Infierno
Label: Southern Lord Records
Release Date: 29 May 2020
Country: USA
Format Reviewed: Digital Stream

Another week and another album cover that does a damn fine job in representing the music contained within. What might be a Mayan temple appears to either have a volcano erupting through it, or perhaps these are demonic flames from hell. Perhaps the gods are angry at all the destruction of humankind and have chosen this time to level the landscape. Everywhere else in this landscape is death, dead trees, black skies and I think I even see some ghastly, human figures carved into the side of the temple. Yup, they really captured the tone.

With two albums already under their belts, “Años en Infierno” sees California’s XIBALBA taking the listener on a 36 minute journey of the sound of civilisation collapsing, with death squads, carnage and chaos. At times it really does sound like volcanic eruptions are raining down with some absolutely brutal pummeling drums and hardcore-infused riffs. The opening track “La Injusticia” ,for example, is as heavy as 2,000lb hippo, on fire and charging towards you.

The band alternates between remorseless, overwhelmingly heavy pounding, faster, more hardcore-infused passages and dragging, doomy passages. All of it with this huge enveloping production. It feels like the sky is black with smoke and the streets are on fire. The dark, weighty, malevolent, atmosphere reminds me of SEPULTURA at their most apocalyptic, or likewise SLAYER, but this is not thrash metal by any means. You could just as soon compare this to NEUROSIS (circa. “Through Silver In Blood”) with some of the primal and at times tribal brutality the band is attacking with, but the sound is still totally distinct from any of these bands. At times I’m also reminded of MORBID ANGEL, such as on the track “Santa Muerta” where the track slows down to this stomping rhythm and this guitar scraping effect that sounds like metal wires being ripped apart.

In terms of the sheer weight of the music, I’d maybe put this close to CROWBAR, with a singer that sounds like he ate Tommy Victor in one gulp and washed him down with petrol. “Saka” exemplifies the SEPULTURA (circa. “Roots”) and NEUROSIS associations with tribal drumming and evil sounding guitar lines. Only in the final two tracks El Abismo Pt.1”and “El Abismo Pt.2” does the band show a more reflective side, starting out slow, sparse and reflective, with mournful soft singing. At first it sounds something like “Nothing Else Matters” mixed with “Suicide Note Pt.1”, but then SURPRISE! The burning hippo returns. In the second part there’s a strong feel of “Conquering” by CROWBAR mixed with MORBID ANGEL apocalyptic battering, before going back into the echoing, reflective guitar lines and then sailing out on a huge, slow, reverberating doom metal outro.

All these bands are all extremely high caliber associations for this album to generate, but although this music sounds great, the songwriting isn’t quite up to these iconic reference points. There’s no denying the power of the music. It’s a really huge sound the band has created here and the mixture of doom metal, hardcore and other elements like sludge, death and even a bit of thrash is all fused together into this style that is wholly the band’s own. As powerful, heavy and atmospheric the songs are though it could do  with more memorable hooks and ultimately that’s what holds this back from really standing out and really grabbing me by the throat as it often feels like it should. 7/10 Tom Boatman

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