The title of this latest offering from Californian hellraisers Xibalba couldn’t be more apt regarding the situation society currently finds itself; with the music contained within feeling relevant for such depressing times (volveremos al título del álbum más tarde, para aquellos que no hablan español). Xibalba translates as ‘place of fear’ and is the name given to the underworld ruled by the gods of death in Mayan mythology. This fourth full length is long overdue and will have fans champing at the bit; bearing in mind their previous offering Tierra y Libertad was released in 2015. The bilingual Pomona natives have always had a zest for mixing Spanish and English lyrics over the top of brutal hard-core tinged metal, but Años en Infierno may be a surprise to some.
Años en Infierno teases the listener to begin with; rather than racing out of the traps, ‘La Injusticia’ grinds its way out, with a smattering of discordant squealing guitars, reminiscent of Morbid Angel. When the pace changes half-way through, it’s rapid; the tempo counted out on the cymbals before a barrage of serrated riffs are discharged from the guitars at speed, sounding like classic Slayer, owing a large debt to ‘War Ensemble’. Xibalba’s sound contains considerable thrash, but not exclusively so, partially due to Nate Rebolledo’s vocals which are undeniably death metal, remaining unintelligible throughout the track. The vocals plumb the depths of hell itself during ‘Santa Muerte’, Nate’s booming guttural growl enough to awaken the dead from their slumber. The track pays homage to the great thrash bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s with the guitars sounding a touch like early Sepultura, culminating in a wall of noise, Kerry King style solos and ferocious breakdowns that will ignite the pit.
The music is dark and the lyrics equally so, with death, misery and depression hanging heavy throughout; ‘rotting corpses piled high, left to rot in the sun’ and ‘headless bodies hung from posts, the reaper counts the score’ being two examples from ’La Injusticia’. Años en Infierno doesn’t solely speed by in a blur of despair, double bass pedals and squealing guitars though, occasionally taking its foot off the pedal. Two by and large instrumentals are sandwiched in-between the heavier tracks; ‘Corredor de la Muerte’ possesses sinister death metal guitars and vocal grunts, while ‘Saka’ has a tribal feel. The album concludes with the epic two part ‘El Abismo’; part one building to a climax and lulling the listener in, when it’s on the verge of exploding…it doesn’t. Instead, the clean guitars and vocals make for a serene sound, giving scorched eardrums a chance to cool; quite the transformation. Part two differs still; fast and punky bringing to mind hard-core luminaries Strife, but still retaining the thrash/death metal blueprint.
Xibalba wear their influences for all to see, but they wear them well, and rather than sticking to one genre and playing it to death they have created something surprisingly diverse, considering the constraints you would expect with such intense music. It does offer a minor departure from previous efforts; doom and hard-core elements are slightly less prominent, with thrash, death and whisper it… melody, more obvious. That such an extensive list of influences can be drawn up may point to nothing new on offer per se, but they do prove various extreme influences and genres can be blended together seamlessly to create something that is immensely enjoyable. Años en Infierno is an entertaining ride; even the depressing subject matter doesn’t stop it feeling like thirty five minutes of escapism, where the listener can let off steam. With the world and our way of life currently in turmoil we could potentially spend ‘Years in Hell’; if this proved to be the soundtrack it wouldn’t be half bad.
(7.5/10 James Jackson)