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Not the Welsh village - 83%

gasmask_colostomy, June 7th, 2022

For once, it makes sense that this was my introduction to Tzompantli, since I’m so often talking about a release in the middle of some band’s discography with the disclaimer that I don’t know the other stuff, and besides, this was the US (but spiritually Mexican) project’s first effort. However, just to even things up I reviewed the very recent full-length a month ago. Hehe. As you’ll definitely guess from the name of the band and of Tlamanalli (unless your Welsh village name sensor kicks in), Bigg o))) aka Brian Ortiz made this venture of his all about pre-Hispanic culture in Mexico, and if you know anything about that dude you’ll know that the only way was death metal, as it was with Xibalba and Mortuary Punishment.

Unlike the following full-length, Tlamanalli both uses more specific “Aztec” (I do not know the names of other tribes, sorry) instruments and less primitive death metal, meaning the 4 tracks here don’t really sound like Disembowelment, as with the album, and even at times reference doom death more squarely, such as the nods of ‘Ohtlatoc Copa Ilcahualuztli’ to Peaceville 3 territory. As the song that branched between this 2019 start and this year’s full-length, ‘Tlamanalli’ impresses me by the incorporation of wind instruments, ritual drums, and those extremely tribal but actually really quite deathly inhaled grunts, all alongside some worthwhile death metal riffing shapes that preside over the submerged vocals. It stays at high pace for some time - at least half its 6 minute length - which is exciting in the context of tribal attacks, though the slower breakdowns have terrific impact after such an extended period of energy. The other tracks tend to reverse the trend, ‘Tlehco Tonatiuh 1’ removing guitars for some time to build ambience, then swinging them back with a tone like heavy stone dragged over rugged stone.

As may be apparent already, Tzompantli is a shamelessly non-technical venture unless you count the occasional blasting forays on the drums; anyway, no layers to speak of exist on Tlamanalli, one movement pausing for another to begin and the prime criteria for a riff’s selection seeming to be, “Does it hurt?” Yes, just like each one were to be fitted in a slingshot and fired. I’m not a fan of much primal death metal, but in this regard I find that the minimal amount of traditional instruments, the carefully unenunciated vocals, and the equal propensity of the riffs to generate headbanging or atmosphere do me just fine. Something got seriously watered down for the album, and more’s the pity because Tzompantli had a great start here.