Xibalba
Hasta La Muerte
Xibalba, the 5-piece from southern California, not to be confused with the other half dozen or so bands who share the same name, had already shown potential on their debut, Madre Mia Gracias Por Los Dias, which we reviewed last year, but their sophomore album, Hasta La Muerta, makes good on their stylistic growth in both predictable and also surprising ways with mostly successful results.

Firstly, they’ve found a way to tune down even lower… somehow. At times you can hear the strings wobbling , and I’m not being hyperbolic; it’s almost atonal at times. This can make riffs and breakdowns on par with tectonic plates moving in terms of sheer heft and heaviness, however it can also make notes almost meaningless. This kind of approach strips some memorability factor out of their riffs, reducing the guitar to almost more of a percussive instrument; this is apparent in their instrumental, and slightly tribal-influenced, song ‘The Flood’.

However, having raised the heavy quotient to new highs… er, lows, they’ve transcended some of the limitations of being labeled a metallic hardcore band. Granted most people who’ve at least read the band’s name has associated them with a more dark, malevolent (ie. Disembodied) sound, on Hasta La Muerta, they’ve gone deeper into the slow and low territory of sludge. This is reinforced as Southern Lord head-honcho, and Sunn O))) member, Greg Anderson provides additional riffage to a couple of songs. Standout track ‘Sentenced’ is truly an album highlight and bridges their debut record’s sound with their slower pounding rhythms. Speaking of pounding rhythms, the production was handled by Taylor Young of the band Nails, and he makes those drums sound huge and simultaneously natural and organic. The drumming isn’t necessarily tight, but it feels raw and live, and you almost forget the same drum fills popping up routinely due to the magnitude of the energy behind each beat and beatING of the drum kit.

The band does misstep only slightly on the album, most notably by introducing female vocals on the song ‘Mala Mujer’ – I thought there was another stereo playing music elsewhere in my house, they’re that confusing/misplaced. Another minor gripe is re-recording of the song ‘Cold’ from their debut. They record it basically by the numbers, so it’s not getting a dramatic enough re-working to these ears to warrant a redux.

Aside from the aforementioned, it’s pleasing above all pleasing to see the band stand on their own two feet and not ape their peers or just aim to please those expecting a Madre Mia Gracias Por Los Dias part two. This is a band who wants to be heavy on their own terms. Title track ‘Hasta La Muerta’ is case in point: it’s unbelievably heavy, sung in Spanish and has a breakdown at the 2 minute 37 second mark that is so groovy and heavy it’s like Roots-era Sepultura on steroids. This is a band definitely progressing and it’s exciting to see their growth. Here’s looking forward to the next album!
[Visit the band's website]
Written by Stacy Buchanan
September 5th, 2012

Comments

  1. Commented by: Cynicgods

    Just how many bands decide to name themselves Xibalba these days? It’s beginning to rival Solstice as the name every young pup wants.

    I’ll give it a fair shake this afternoon. By the way, it’s Hasta La Muerte (with an “e” at the end). It means “Til Death”. Muerta with an “a” is when a female (human or animal) dies.


  2. Commented by: Iwein

    Wow there… a Disembodied remark. This seldom happens.
    They are the definition of heavy, in my humble opinion. Lyrically, musically,… I’ve had the chance to witness them in Belgium a few years ago. Magnificent gig.

    Since a Disembodied remark has been made, i have to check this out.


  3. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    Sepultura don’t sing in Spanish, they sing in Portuguese.


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