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Latest, fresh stabs at obscurity (or rather, a potential/reached-for attempt at the same while still communicating) from a group that I was convinced, for a long time, only received wider notice through the diligent research of black metal’s archaeologists after the decay of the Norwegian scene. Deeper and deeper, peeling back “influences”, sifting through dates, rehearsals, fingers thrust out for some gleaming melodic gem that evoked that special…something. A search for origins as metal has always been obsessed with stylistic DNA. A sequence of notes, a lick, a glancing, subtle taste of some reserved “darkness”: there it is, we have a dusty terminus, we can again trace evolution or at least mimic the same. We have meaning! So one has effrontery and what, by now, seems like a national characteristic of Norwegian arrogance, one counters by going further and farther – not Venom, not Bathory, let’s say Sarcofago, say all Greek, say anything else. Let’s take it to anything other than The North. Let others have their pride. If not, a turning away, a dream of never-existing jungle, moist and down-ridden, slum-defying, raised in dirt under the microscope of Imperialism and an almost absolute cultural misunderstanding or ignorance. Desperation of the remove, universes or black and white textbook worlds away from the sensationalist press-created hegemony of frozen cultural narratives, people who don’t even speak Spanish or Portuguese.
Having been around forever, Xibalba understand this conflict so natively, so instinctively, that they feel no need whatsoever to carry it like a banner standard in their music. Why state in obvious terms, blatant references, what is so apparent and obvious that it would be a embarrassing failure to even glance obliquely at it? Something to scorn, to laugh at? It might as well not exist. Better: it doesn’t exist. Let’s not even dream of it, no matter how deeply one sleeps. Not nationalism (itself a cloying reminder of past possible interpretations of black metal, now obsolete) as a mirror reflection of any form of Imperialism, cultural or not, nationalism as a dream world without references or boundaries – eventually, no nationalism at all. Freedom?
Xibalba generate “obscurity”, of course, but also, aligned with that, originality of dark purpose in two manners: what seems at times like an utter disregard for traditional song structures (although they are internally cohesive, so: effective) and a personal, unique, expertly expressive sense of melodicism. The latter comes through mainly in the use of rapid iterations of solo guitar (overdubbed in two sections at least, two voices) over the blazing, ripping structure of the rhythm strings. The guitars are the real focus of this music for me. I could disregard the vocal work (there is a lot going on even with that, and it's nice), the drumming (I can barely hear it) and the bass. If the last is even there often at times it must be posited instead of commented upon. When it swells into attention or focus in times of relatively straightforward riff-building its distortion and deep presence seems to be wriggling like a serpent to aid the leading guitars in their generous, multiform imaginings. However, whatever traditional references to the genre Xibalba throw out into the guitar maelstrom appear and disappear as spokes of a outreaching climb that must be recognized only in order to define the opposite. Mirror planet, again, black and white, the dusk punched through into a new world of rainbow color. In terms of the basic rhythm guitars and the song structures they summon into ladder-being, there are a thousand other bands just like Xibalba. As the leads fly above and establish a true identity as reversal and comment, inverse and novelty, idiom and a private, personal world, there are no other bands on Earth like Xibalba.
Is it good that Xibalba came back after around 14 years of absence? Such a long break might have been disastrous for them. Apparently it hasn't. Seems that you never forget how to grab a guitar and fix up a few evil tunes.
First of all, this material sounds like it is from their pre "Ah Dzam Poop Ek" era. It is faster, rawer and more energetic than their debut. Songstructures are almost equally simple obviously lacking longer trance-like pieces due to the fact that it is a demo. Even though quite repetitive, these songs never get boring. They are short and straightforward, capture attention and make you stomp. Each track has something to offer besides sounding like a classy garage recording.
This demo only makes us hope that there is going to be another full length soon. With a bow to the classics, furious riffs, and rampaging drums every minor flaw is excused. With this demo these guys hopefully want us to prepare for the upcoming storm.
When I read that Xibalba was 'coming back' with a new release, I was pretty fucking excited since Ah Dzam... was and is a great album that I still frequently return to even after over a decade of owning it. Their style always reminded me somewhat of Burzum's Det Som Engang Var meets Celtic Frost's Morbid Tales if they had both grown up in Mexico. The samples, rain sticks (who the hell would've thought that that'd work!?) and incredibly atmospheric riffs really gave them something unique to my ears. Fast forward to this release and basically all that made the band interesting and captivating seems to have been tossed straight out of the window.
What we're presented with now is some sort of sub-par, generic and stale 'Black Thrash' (I hate that term, but if the shoe fits...) with really stilted attempts at being experimental thrown over it seemingly at random. Basically, it comes off sounding like a complete mess of lame ideas badly executed.
Right off the bat I'm greeted with shitty electronic drums which is a huge no-no in my book on any Metal release, I don't care who, where or why. I don't know if this an electronic kit being played by someone untalented or a badly programmed machine, but on top of it sounding fake as hell, the timing is incredibly awkward and borderline off half the time especially when things slow down in the second track. The second major detractor would be the vocals. What the fuck happened here!? This guy used to have a great, unique voice, somewhere between Tom Warrior and the guy from Vlad Tepes, now he sounds like any other generic kid doing vocals in his Myspace band.
Sound wise, this tape annoyed the crap out of me as well. The whole affair sounds very digital and cheap, including an annoying line-in pedal guitar sound and virtually no bass guitar even though there's someone playing the thing according to the line-up. I understand this is a Demo, but it's not a matter of 'bad' sound, it's a matter of the wrong sound, something that detracts from any sort of atmosphere this could've had.
The interesting effects/samples and rain sticks they used to use are gone on this release and we are instead tortured by, mostly at least, out of place and obnoxious whammy bar solos, and I use the term loosely. I did really like the 80s vocoder effect on his voice at one point, although the song sucked so hard that it didn't really help matters, somewhat of a waste of the one cool idea present.
The songs itself were lacking structure for my tastes and didn't really seem to go anywhere. It was basically the same two sections repeated twice or three times and done. Naturally not in any sort of interesting or hypnotic fashion like for example VON would've used repetition, just the insanely boring 'we've got nothing to say' type. The pacing generally ranges between pretty up-tempo to mid-tempo, not that it really matters at this point.
Now, the only reason why I'm even giving this 20% is the intro, which I thought was great and got my hopes up. Too bad that everything that followed was completely lame. I found an incredibly low score necessary not just based on how pointless the actual release is, but just because this is insulting to their previous output's quality and unique atmosphere. In total, this just feels like an experiment that fell flat on its face in every aspect, steer clear and don't waste your money on this if you liked Xibalba.