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Heavy as Hell - 83%

Lustmord56, March 24th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Southern Lord Recordings (Digipak)

Review originally published at www.teethofthedivine.com by E.Thomas

There are more than likely going to be two camps when it comes to Southern California’s hardcore bruisers Xibalba. One faction will feel their style of super down-tuned chuggtastic hardcore is the heaviest, most punishing sound on the planet and the counterpoint is that they are knuckle dragging simpletons who can't tune guitars or write songs.

And while this very site has covered both of the band’s prior releases, (2001s Madre Mia Gracis Por Las Dias and 2012 Haste la Muerte), I personally had no idea about this band and which side of the fence I stood on the issue. That’s until the last song from Tiera y Libertad, “El Vacio” popped up on my Ipod, peaking my interest, as it was a 12 minute doom song you’d expect from Finland. And now, my opinion to the band leans towards the first camp as I have listened to this most recent album and the prior two in depth.

Sure, these guys are basically Hatebreed or Full Blown Chaos with ridiculously downtuned sludgy guitars as their metallic hardcore backbone, but a deeper death metal element that culls from Bolt Thrower and even Sepultura lurks and writhes with dark malevolence amid the beatdown. And beatdowns there are; Xibalba is indeed a force to be reckoned with when it comes to pure, down-tuned metallic chugs and lopes. The likes of opener “Enemigio” “Invierno” or the title track are just fucking devastating, rumbling with darkly forceful groove and muddy malevolence. This isn’t uplifting, gang chant laden, brotherhood type hardcore but an apocalyptic, threatening, sonic thunder storm. And you’d better take fucking cover.

Then you get what appears to be an increased sludge doom element that might upset the bandana clad fans of the bands tough sound. Parts of “En Pase Decanse” the penultimate track “Si Dios Quiere” and the aforementioned closer “El Vacio”, not only slow things down to a monolithic plod, they actually have some brooding melancholic strains and melodies undulating under the heft that remind of Crowbar (especially “En Pase Decanse”).

But it the almost 13 minute “El Vacio” that really impressed me. I would never have pegged it as a Xibalba song had I not known. Its sloooooow and plays like My Dying Bride or Evoken complete with sullen acoustics, whispered somber clean vocals and deeper death metal/doom metal growls. No lie. But it works really well and shows Xibalba as a developing band that isn’t afraid to break from the simpler style and spread their wings. I’m curious to hear more if they continue down this path.

How To 'Core' Properly - 92%

Larry6990, February 5th, 2015
Written based on this version: 2015, CD, Southern Lord Recordings (Digipak)

"URRRRGGGHHH!!"

There you have it - the way this Californian quintet chose to introduce their 3rd full-length album. I can't complain. I must admit, it grabbed my attention! But considering I'm delving into this album blind, relying totally on the advice of a friend, perhaps I should hear more than that hideously brilliant opening growl to judge this album effectively.

Taking their name from Mayan mythology, Xibalba's sound doesn't entirely reflect the mystic, ancient atmosphere that their moniker represents. Instead, they have a more hands-on approach to their brand of death-influenced hardcore which reminds one of the more extreme side of Biohazard (only with far more substance). The result is pleasing to say the least: a brutal, in your face attitude, with enough sense of restraint to allow certain moments of stillness to breathe (the interlude, "Pausa" is beautifully positioned).

Firstly, the production quality is exactly what one should be looking for on a hardcore release. The drums rumble mercilessly like a lava flow, the guitars have a considerable weight to their tone, the bass is prominent and hefty, and the vocals penetrate the stone wall like a razor-edged drill. Vocalist Nate Rebolledo grunts and yells with doubtless conviction whilst his bandmates accompany with superbly-executed gang-shouts (the title-track being most noteworthy on this point). Considering the majority of the lyrics are in Spanish, the gravitas with which the vocals are conveyed make up for the language barrier.

Musically, this is incredibly well thought out and structured. Unlike their inferior contemporaries Twitching Tongues or Harm's Way, Xibalba ensure each song is equally intense and spacious. Memorable sections are graciously repeated for our benefit, whilst breakdowns and moments of ambience, which can rapidly become stale, are thankfully kept brief. "Tierra Y Libertad" is also a pleasantly varied release. There are no individual 'fast' or 'slow' tracks - rather contrasting sections within each piece which keep the audience's interest peaked. The blast-beats and punk-esque sequences in tracks like "Enemigo" differ nicely from the pummelling slog of "Invierno", or the frankly epic breakdown in "Si Dios Quiere".

At times, these up-and-comers verge on sounding like the beefier side of Earth Crisis - and I mean that in good faith. There is some serious potential here which I feel is unfairly unrecognized - and these Californian's deserve to be on par with their vegan forefathers. "Tierra Y Libertad" is an incredibly satisfying chunk of hardcore which will leave you salivating for more of the same. Now if only Hatebreed could get off their high horse to check out what the underground is capable of, Xibalba would be my first showcase.