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I want to back in time to 1996 or 97, one day I got some tapes from my Mexican friend. And exactly Mictlan and their debut album “Donde Habitan Los Muertos” was one of these exotic tapes. I got to know this band from some zine review (“Tales Of The Macabre”) when I read some words about it: ‘good Mexican death metal outfit’. So I took the tape and put it to the tape deck and… I was totally shocked! After first careful listening I was sure as shooting that the review had been wrong. Why? Because “Donde Habitan Los Muertos” isn’t just ‘good’ death metal album and I’m going to explain all the things.
I mentioned about the tape, but now I am holding cd version released finally through the mighty American Line. And the first fundamental sentence about this album: this is completely underground offering. Mictlan plays technical death metal with some folk elements. When somebody sees the front cover, some misleading impressions may come to the mind. Is it metal band? So this is first surprise. The second one is Mictlan music which is in fact EXCELLENT!!! The first song “Panoramas De Mictlan” is opened by pre-hispanic intro and after 1:47 my ears are attacked by Marvin Mendoza guitar riffs. And here I have to write some explanations about production. It is very specific but in my opinion it perfectly fits to the entirety. This is the first release of the band, the musicians are self-confident and that’s good, because their skills are really delightful. I like this kind of underground production when maybe sound is rather ‘dry’, but a small disadvantage is a sound of drums in my opinion due to too soft tunes of the drum-beat. The drums should be powerful and destructive in death metal! Vocals of Manuel Chavez are sung in Spanish (great!) and he proposes screams, shrieks and growls, he combines all the styles. The lyrics are strictly connected with culture and beliefs of Mexicas and Maya. The guitars are superb here. Only one guitarist with great riffs and leads and the bass player who has a solo lasting whole album I think!
For in view of this sounding, it is very hard to compare Mictlan to anybody else. Maybe some fragments are similar to “Symbolic” Death (also released in 1995) mostly because of complex music, amazing skills and great talent. It is very hard to find such a band with pre-hispanic elements playing this kind of metal, so I can say about some originality. Each song from the album is incredibly equal in very high quality, there is impossibility to choose the best track, the one and only leader. As I mentioned above first tunes of “Panoramas De Mictlan” carry me to the land of the greatness of pre-hispanic indigenous nations. From the very beginning the band shows all the aspects I wrote earlier and splendid solo lead ends the track (during Marvin performance, there is no second guitar, so everything is audible very good, especially bass guitar of Hector). The second song “La Leyenda De Coyolxauhqui” is opened by fine rhythm section, even some thrash riffs are present when guitar enters the song. This song has many changes of rhythm (but this is nothing new in Mictlan music), two beautiful guitars solo (and again bass guitar…) and powerful death metal riffs. Nothing new I can write about the next song “Guerrero Por Conviccion” – once again the changes of rhythms paralyze my senses (esp. very short moments when Marvin stops to play), just like melodic riffs and splendid guitar solo. The fourth track “El Quinto Sol” starts with some sounds of rain and thunderclaps, then guitar strikes! Whole song I think is a show of Marvin, his guitar play is really marvelous. This is METAL!!! After four minutes, “Gukumatz” is the next death metal giant. This one is opened by wild Manuel scream and here I can admire very complex offering of guitars, rhythm section and demonical vo-kills. This really excellent song doesn’t let you go into the kingdom of boredom. The pre-hispanic instruments are used here as well and it perfectly works. On the end Marvin plays savage solos. “Ome” attacks with very interesting rhythm section, also fine slowing downs are present. Good thing on live shows indeed. The next-to-last song has the longest title and sounds “Estado Consciente Despues De La Muerte”. Hector and his bass is like a roaring fire, this track is definition of term ‘technical’ death metal -very difficult and broken structures with very interesting guitar solo. What can I write more? Nothing, just listen to it and worship this vivid piece of metal! After almost five wonderful minutes, the last song “Autosacrificio (Tlacoquixtlilixtli)” is the longest one, with pre-hispanic introduction - instruments and declamation in indigenous language (nahuatl). And this killing track is the essence of Mictlan style, of things I wrote earlier. Moreover cd version contains of “Guerrero Por Conviccion” instrumental version as a bonus track (I don’t think it is needful…) and video of “La Leyenda De Coyolxauhqui” plus some extra pictures.
The debut album of Mictlan I consider as one of the best death metal masterpiece coming from the land of Mexico. In addition beside of metal music, their subject matter is history of Mexico before the conquest is also my interest since the birth of the ages. The great thing is though I got this album many years ago, I always discover something new, so “Donde Habitan Los Muertos” is like a well without bottom, it is really fascinating. This factor with excellent music means that the final mark is almost ideal. Thanks to the American Line label this album is available on cd which is in fact released very good (by the way, the sentiment to the old tape is obvious), and I can proudly put it on the shelf with title: “the best metal music”.