Southern California's Xibalba is back with a new LP titled Años En Infierno. The title of their third studio album translates to "years in hell," and it is a loathsome pillar, raised in tribute to the pain of living in a world populated by misery and ruin. Somehow the band's sulfurous combination of doom and death metal and hardcore from across the Americas, has only become more oppressive since they first began sacrificing human eardrums to the metal gods 13 years ago. Xibalba's molten regurgitate of fire and brimstone erupts from the bowels of hell to bore a tunnel from either ear straight through the mantel of your gray matter to make a charbroiled soup in the bowl of your skull. As you await this epic fate, I have but one question for you, "Where is your god now?"
Unless you worship one of the aforementioned gods of metal, the answer is most likely dead. It’s for the best. Whatever day you previously devoted to a deity, you can now devote to yourself. It will give you more time to practice your spin kicks and windmills while crashing around your apartment to crowd killers like the disemboweling, war-charge of “Santa Muerte,” or the fire-belching, magma deluge of the title track. And trust me, you will need the practice these offensive dance moves in order to survive the pit when Xibalba can actually play these monsters live again.
Años En Infierno is a banger from start to finish, but where the impact of this album is the most potent is not on the rippers, but on the slow boiled sludge metal downers that the band has seen fit to heat up. While I’ve always found it interesting that Xibalba could take what amounts to doomy interpretations of Earth Crisis riffs and give them the pugnacious energy of a beat-down band like Bulldoze, this is not the band's only strong suit. To me, it's not Xibalba's sheer brutality that makes them memorable, but the care with which they pursue their pummel which makes them worthy of posterity. A perfect example of their ferocious finesse can be found on the opener “La Injusticia,” wherein the band synthesizes the militant groove work of Bolt Thrower and the weird, wrathful wine of Morbid Angel into an effortless rendition of a particularly ruthless Crowbar cut. If the song has any flaws, it’s that it doesn’t show its work enough.
There are other parts of Años En Infierno that are equally ambitious with more noticeable effect. The obvious standouts in this regard are the closing tracks “El Abismo I” & “II,” a combined twelve-minute dissent into Neurosis chasing, introspective sludge and atmospheric doom, that actually gives the band enough breathing room to exhale and experiment with cleanly sung verses, interspersed with guttural, death-doom steeped choruses. The latter of which sounds depraved enough to have been believably scraped from a Hooded Menace album. This dynamic is impressive enough on its own, but when they start stacking melodic death metal passages over uniquely, ire-raising metallic hardcore riffs in the first phase of “II,” I'm sold twice over. And don’t even get me started on the doom-dog howl and brick-fisted tackle of “Corredor De La Muerte,” or the warning of encroaching darkness on “En La Oscuridad” with its slice-and-snap, soul-snatching, serrated churn, both of which see the band at the peak of their performance.
Años En Infierno is another totalizing treatment of aural terror from Xibalba that heavy music fans do themselves no favors by skipping out on. It’s been five years since Xibalba's last release (2015’s Tierra Y Libertad), and if frontman Nathan Rebolledo is serious about taking time to “slow down” and to appreciate his life more as reported by Revolver, than we're probably not looking at another release from them until 2025. Sure, you’ve got time to check it out, but living in the United States in 2020 is already like living in hell. Why make your life sentence in this pit any worse by denying yourself the simple pleasure of catharsis while rocking out to a savage hardcore record? If you've got a smart answer, I'd love to hear it. Just so you know, I’ll be spinning Años En Infierno back to back while I wait for your reply.
Mick is always writing about something he's heard. Possibly even something you'd like. You can read his stuff over at I Thought I Heard a Sound Blog.
7.8 / 10
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