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Xibalba: Hasta La Muerte

Hasta La Muerte ("to the death") is easily the most hardcore recording I've heard this year. It isn't necessarily a punk album (although the genre is listed as a cross between hardcore and metal) but it isn't exactly a metal album either. The best words that describe this music are "bold" and "brash" and "aggressive" and "deep" and "relentless." As I listened, I felt that this band had effectively developed a new level of heaviness. It isn't heaviness for its own sake, mind you, but a creative heaviness, an experiment to see what happens when low notes and distortion are allowed room to breathe. Honestly, I wish I had the right words to describe the sound here--the guitars and bass are low and snarling; the vocals are deep and mean and aggressive; the drums are hard, complex, and moody. The music digs down as deeply as it can while still keeping a metal edge and is truly something that must be heard to be appreciated.

Even though most of the album follows the same tempo and musical progression, listeners will find plenty of variety within the music itself. I would especially highlight the track "Mala Mujer," particularly for the beautiful female vocal tracks that lurk just behind the guitars and bass. To me, this track demonstrated that a more drone-oriented style has a firm place in heavy metal, if only listeners were willing to take the time to enjoy the slow progressions. This isn't a drone album, of course, but it does experiment with that form a little and, to my ears, to great effect. The other highlight, to me, was "The Flood," a track that takes a break from the vocals and allows the guitars, bass, and drums to set a mood that struck me as surprisingly contemplative. Who knew that hardcore metal could--almost--create space for reflection?

I notice that I've highlighted tracks that mostly downplay the vocals. I don't mean to do so, particularly when the vocals are as engaging as they are here. Yes, they are deep and guttural and growly, but they fit this band better than some others I could mention. If I had one suggestion for this band, it would be to play up the droning aspects of their sound even more and to utilize the female backing singer again in future tracks. The result won't be another "beauty and the beast" style of performance, but something more subtle, a use of various musical and vocal textures to create beauty within the heaviness. As heavy as they are, Xibalba is oddly inspiring, a band that has the uncanny ability to create soundscapes, contemplative ones at that, precisely because of the slow, deliberate way it's performed.

Track Listing:
1. No Serenity
2. Soldedad
3. Laid to Rest
4. Burn
5. Sentenced
6. The Flood
7. Hasta La Muerte
8. Mala Mujer
9. Stoneheart
10. Lujuria
11. Cold

Added: August 15th 2012
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Band Facebook Page
Hits: 2954
Language: english

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