Xibalba are a death metal/hardcore band from Pomona, California and Tierra Y Libertad is their third album. Signed to Southern Lord, and employed legendary cover artist Dan Seagrave to do their album art shows that they’re serious about being a contender in this world. But, that worryingly ‘familiar’ genre style, ‘deathcore’, might be a struggle to overcome in this saturated market.
Fortunately, Xibalba employ ‘deathcore’ virtues more in the vein of the Acacia Strain than any shitty, fluorescent scene deathcore band. This is a properly mixed blend of mid 90s death metal riffs and crushing breakdowns laden with intensity. Opening track Enemigo is a good example. There is a massive low end to this, and it has that Southern Lord hardcore feel. The label tends to pick up bands of this ilk that have something almost dissonant in their breakdown/riffs, and it appears here. This is a battering into submission track, grabbing your attention firmly by the balls, and then slamming you into the ground.
Guerilla brings a massive, Morbid Angel style groove after the opening samples, alternating between titan riffs and barrelling, hardcore bludgeon. Invierno is more of the same, but this time with some vast Bolt Thrower riffs. Xibalba know their riffs and they know their influences. They have a potent cocktail of dense death metal and hardcore aggression. The vocals are more or less as you’d expect from a hardcore/death metal band, but the groove is fucking righteous, which is not what you’d expect.
That’s what makes me really enjoy this record. Bands that mix and match between death and hardcore generally leave out a sense of head nodding groove. The liberating Pausa allows the record to breathe, if only for a minute, before En Paz Decanse bulldozes everything in its path. The mammoth earth rupturing riffs in the mid part of the song show every floppy fringed scenecore dick how to do a breakdown properly. There’s some great guitar lines here too, bringing to mind some classic Crowbar in points. It’s truly awesome. This Crowbar influence is also all over the slow burning intro to Si Dios Quierre, and epic closer El Vacio.
Tierra Y Libertad would be great simply because it’s created a reason for the term ‘deathcore’ to stay relevant. But it’s also great because it is heavier than a whale fucking the Moon, it has grooves the size of the Realm Of Chaos (check out that World Eater worship that runs through the title track), and still comes up with little surprises with every listen. If only all mixes of genres could be this devastating…
Scribed by: Sandy Williamson