Xibalba, or The Place Of Fear, is the underworld from Maya mythology, home to the Maya death gods who have dominion over human suffering. It’s no coincidence that Xibalba is also the name of Pomona, California’s Hardcore influenced Death Metal bruisers, whose monumentally heavy sound crushes all those who surround it. The group are releasing their fourth full length and the first for five years in Años En Infierno on May 29th via Southern Lord.
Prior to this release, Xibalba unleashed the well-received behemoth Tierra Y Libertad which was adorned by killer artwork from the legendary Dan Seagrave. The record pushed the boundaries of where hardcore could go by making it heavier than a bag of bricks that’s submerged in a black hole… which I am reliably informed are very heavy!
So where could they possibly go after that killer release, could they get heavier than something Google tells me is the heaviest thing in the universe?… Damn right they could as out of the ground erupts the fiery demon that is ‘Años En Infierno, once again featuring killer artwork from Dan Seagrave portraying a temple ablaze, surrounded by rivers of molten lava. The title loosely translates as Years In Hell, which accompanied with the artwork, should tell you for what sort of ride you’re in for.
The record kicks off with these brooding bass notes and 80s style synth that’s straight out of a John Carpenter movie. This short brooding segment quickly changes as Xibalba disembowel you with the earth shatteringly heavy opening to La Injusticia. The riffs are thick and tuned lower than my expectations for any of Ridley Scott Alien sequels/prequels (just leave the franchise alone, god dammit!). I digress, alongside those thick riffs that shake ya innards, are these dense double kicks that hit so hard I can literally feel them through my headphones.
The production is spot on, you can hear everything. It’s really easy to separate each member. Then towards the halfway point, the riffs slow producing this, ugly as shit, sound that’s like being repeatedly clubbed over the head to the point I considered getting checked for concussion. La Injusticia is everything you want from an opener. It sets the mood and sets the tone for the record, notably slower than Tierra Y Libertad but so much more dense and heavy, a killer sound.
Corredor De La Muerte is significantly shorter, clocking in at just under two and a half minutes. Kicking off with rolling toms that sound like thunder, before an 80s style death metal tone cuts through from the guitars. The pace is slower than a George ‘A’ Romero zombie and has a killer tone. The vocals are real deep and guttural making this track almost have a death doom feel to it. I say almost as it’s just two minutes rather than your usual 12 minute death doom pummelling.
The pace is picked up again with the marauding steam roller, and best track on the album, Santa Muerte. It absolutely flattens you with monstrous riffs and even the occasional blast beat, a full on head banger. The Vocals are a combination ogre like grunts and Xibalba’s trade mark hardcore/death metal cross over shout, which sound hella angry and real nasty. There’s an occasional tempo change that slows the track right down, but it’s a short reprieve before the Xibalba war machine starts up again and the villagers flee its oncoming path. I love the pick scrapes, it adds just that little something extra to top it off.
alongside those thick riffs that shake ya innards, are these dense double kicks that hit so hard I can literally feel them through my headphones…
Saka draws you in with tribal and rhythmic drumming, channelling their inner Sepultura and accompanying it with a monolithic riff, which slowly starts to pick up pace, before building into a mid-paced monster. It’s entirely instrumental and, coupled with the variation from the tribal drumming, it’s a nice change up in the sound and shows how the group like to wear their influences on their sleeves. It also feels like a preparation for what’s coming as it keeps building up, slowly becoming this trudging death metal behemoth.
That preparation is for the title track Años En Infierno , where their hardcore and punk influences come out clearer. Exploding into a sea of blasts and mid paced riffs that sound just like the envisagement of the artwork. Again clocking in at just over two minutes, it packs a serious punch. It leads straight into En La Obscuridad which again keeps up the punk influences. The sped up d-beat drums alongside the crunching riff is seriously fun and seriously heavy. It’s hard not to tear my living room up to this one.
The albums closes with a two parter – El Abismo which translates as The Abyss. The first part takes the pace thye’d built up from the previous two tracks and dampens it with a commanding yet lumbering introduction. Xibalba then completely tear up their whole sound and chuck in a melodic yet mournful passage. It’s a real surprise but a welcome one. The clean vocals are placed behind everything so you can just hear them. They sound eerie yet sombre, perfectly matching the music accompanying it. There is a quick remission to normal business with the vocals at their heaviest yet they sound almost painful. The melodic passage returns and draws you out from part one.
Part II turns it around and chucks more of that hardcore influence into the mix. The d-beat drums are back alongside a power driven riff, which is probably my favourite on the record. It’s real simple but super powerful and reminds me of UK crust pioneers Doom. Similar to part one, it turns itself on its head and rounds off with a section that wouldn’t be misplaced on a Pallbearer record. It’s really drawn out and almost peaceful, a wonderful way to end a destructive record.
This record is a notably heavier and slower version of Xibalba but still featuring that punk/hardcore attitude from their previous output. It’s also the heaviest produced record of their career. It’s so incredibly thick; it consumes you compared to the crustier production from Tierra Y Libertad. I personally think it’s their best sounding album to date, so compliments too Arthur Rizik for the killer job.
I thoroughly enjoyed their last record but for me this is another level, so all you guys and gals out there that like your music to take your insides and put them on your outsides, this is for you.
Scribed by: Matt Alexander