Thursday, 14 March 2013

Sound Of The Underground: Xibalba - Hasta La Muerte

So after 9 days of seclusion, essays and general insanity I come to you with a new segment I call "Sound Of The Underground". In this segment that I'll be trying to do every couple of months, I review something that will have definitely slipped under the radar for most of you out there, but at the same time something that most people would hopefully enjoy immensely.

Anyway, without further ado, my first new article...

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

Occasionally you hear about a band that tries to "break the mould" by mixing together two styles of music usually kept seperate, in this case the sub-genres in question being doom metal and hardcore. When I first heard about Pomona, California based band Xibalba and their 2nd album "Hasta La Muerte" I must admit I was sceptical and pleasantly amused at the same time. I was certain that this couldn't work properly due to the contrasting natures and natural speeds of the two styles.

Well let me tell you, I was fucking wrong.

In a single phrase, this album sounds like Madball, Entombed, and Autopsy coming together to form a supergroup. And it sounds cool as fuck as well as having spectacular artwork reminiscent of the Mayans and the end of the world. Never before have I heard a hardcore song stretched to 8 minutes and retain its message successfully throughout without getting boring or repetitive. This album for me could be the start of a new genre, doomcore, and I'm not gonna lie, if that was a genre, I'd be a big supporter.

This album just sounds nasty throughout, whether it's slow and downtuned, fast and thrashy or descending into madness with one of the many manic breakdowns present on pretty much every song. The choruses definitely lean more towards hardcore lyrics than anything else though. The first track is a great example, with vocalist Nate Rebolledo barking "No soul, no identity, no peace, no SERENITY!".

Despite the change of pace, this segues perfectly into "Soledad", which after an absolutely crushing doomy intro breaks into an fast-paced hardcore tune perfect for 2-stepping to. The band seems to have no trouble transitioning from crushing doom to blistering hardcore in a second flat, "Laid To Rest" keeps this up fantastically with some great double bass and hardcore drum fills. 

After punishing my ears with "Burn" and "Sentenced", the next track is a welcome change, "The Flood" slows things down for a nice doomy instrumental before bursting into life again with the album's title track, with vocals completely in Spanish. And it sounds brutal as fuck. This track is a highlight of the album for me, making me want to scream the chorus out until my lungs bleed. And that for me is the sign of a great album.

Moving on, we come to "Mala Mujer" , another track that is very heavy indeed, while also containing some melodic doom sections punctuated with female vocals. An interesting change for sure. "Stoneheart" once again steps it up a notch and pummels you with some intense hardcore, complete with an absolutely lethal breakdown near the end.

Next we have the album's longest track, the 8 minute monster "Lujuria". And this is where the band's doom side really forces itself to the surface. Some of the riffs on this track coupled with the overall crushing heaviness start to make me think after a while that the apocalypse is coming, so bleak is the sound on this song. The album's title (meaning "to the bitter end") really starts to seem appropriate at this point. This track sums up everything Xibalba are about and it's fucking brilliant.

Finally we come to the end of the album with closing track "Cold". After a minute or so of static, all hell literally breaks loose. Dissonant hardcore riffs, chaotic sounding drums and some of the nastiest hardcore vocals I've ever heard in my life. This track pushes everything over the edge, and ends in the best way possible in my opinion, full of chaos and fury.

All in all I'm finding it hard to fault this album. It's got doom, hardcore and flat out death metal moments in equal measures, the production is very good but still sounds sludgy and full of character. The only way I can imagine a metalhead not liking this is if you don't like the vocalist's voice, but there are a lot worse out there. Check this out if you're looking for something new, I'm confident you'll find something about it to like.

Now that's over with I'll be back in the next couple days to review the latest Suffocation album. Until then, stay metal \m/


Check this out if: you want to hear a new spin on hardcore

Hasta La Muerte is out now on Southern Lord Records

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