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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.