Despite the intense hostility of Californian Death / Hardcore bruisers Xibalba, the Hispanic heritage of most of its members, coupled with predominantly Latin lyrics, give a sense of mystique – some may say fatal romanticism – to the music that adds to the magnetism. Fourth album Años en Infierno (Southern Lord Recordings) sees the band delve further into its more brutal side for what is rumoured to be its last album for some time, if not ever.
The phenomenal weight of the rhythms is evident from the initial bass notes of opener ‘La Injusticia’: the breakdowns of the slower, Metalcore-based moments are colossal, the track itself largely bossed by Jason Brunes‘ blastbeats and cavernous pacesetting. Nate Robelledo‘s larynx is more fearsome than ever, while the faster moments bring to mind Slayer in its heavier state. It’s wanton savagery which kicks into the ensuing ‘Corridor De La Muerte’: a brief, brooding slow-burner which really highlights the Doom elements the band incorporate so well and so often. ‘Santa Muerte’, meanwhile, returns to the obliterating hammer blows of the opening track, yet truly grinds the bones during those slower sections and the Hardcore blast of the coda.
The roots of the band’s genealogy are never far away. The glorious tribal rhythms of ‘Saka’ are huge yet infectious: and while the lightning blow of the title track ebbs and flows, all the while maintaining a bludgeoning manner, there remains an undeniably Latin American flavour to the merest slivers of melody and coruscating displays of vocal passion. There’s no time to dwell before ‘En La Oscuridad’ marches through with the bounce and enthusiasm of a North Korean military parade, slowing to titanic slabs of rhythmic force which segue into the penultimate ‘El Abismo I’. Here a delicate jangle of guitar and more subtle, effects-laden vocal show the variation in the band’s arsenal: yet the blistering fire is waiting in the wings, ready to set alight a gloriously morose song.
Closer ‘El Abismo II’ is, as one might aspect, the angrier sibling of its predecessor and explodes from the blocks: the traditional Xibalba mix of speed and crunch coated with poignant lead chimes and mournful chanting, again as if to signal the end of this quite unique, energising outfit. If it is a swansong then it’s a hugely sad day, but this is no doubt the way these Pomona boys would wish to go.
7 / 10