When I heard this summer that the American Death Metal/Heavy Hardcore Band Xibalba released a new album, I was pleased, but not so hyped up that I wanted to listen to it directly. This was mainly because I wasn’t as convinced of the last two longplayers as I was of the debut album Madre Mia Gracias Por Las Dias, which is now a well-known classic of the Hardcore scene. But after I read that the Californians have moved away from their classic sound with Años En Infierno, I became very attentive. It’s the first album in 5 years and I have to say that Xibalba didn’t waste this time and now present the most musically versatile record of their band history so far.
At the beginning of the record, Xibalba show some mercy and give us a last moment to breathe, before the listener is thrown into an inimitable, musical limbo, from which, once inside, he can no longer escape. It doesn’t take a minute until it becomes clear that the sound has really changed and that this was not just an empty phrase. Años En Infierno moves much deeper into Metal than you are used to. There still are some elements from Hardcore, though, like breaks or downtempo passages to which you want to tear the nearest one to pieces, but these components don’t seem as dull as usual. The basic structure of the songs is formed by Death/Doom weighting tons and also uses influences from other Metal genres. For example, some of the guitar melodies can be assigned to Funeral Doom and are absolutely finger-licking, while the instrumental piece “Saka” even has a certain Sepultura vibe.
Apart from that, there are of course the usual deep riffs to marvel at, which are so much loved at Xibalba and which to a certain extent have also become their personal trademark. However, the guitar playing is much more variable and does not retreat from the use of atmospheric melodies, which are extremely well suited to the sound. Support is given by the fantastic drums, which ignite a real inferno that is always led by cleverly played time changes and sets the general tempo. Worth mentioning is the distinctive snare drum and the cymbal, which present the rhythm for hitting in the face, so to speak. Powerful is almost an understatement for this performance, because you rarely hear similarly aggressive drum playing on this level. No matter if during the Death Metal parts or the downtempo passages, here you are simply motivated to stomp around all the time.
The last two tracks “El Abismo I” and “El Abismo II” stand out a bit from the rest of the sound and show that the band can also play quieter sounds. With a lot of atmosphere, especially due to wistful sounding melodies and even clean vocals, Xibalba create the perfect finish, which completes the album and at the same time manifests the record a bit more firmly in the Metal area. One could even classify this as Black Metal and Funeral Doom without encountering much resistance. Hardcore elements can only be found here occasionally and only in “El Abismo II”.
Thanks to excellent production, even the fearsome growls come across perfectly and make one or two neck vertebrae wobble, because you automatically take cover from this monstrous roar. The vocals probably show the slightest deviation from the previous releases, but that’s not necessary, because I personally always liked the fact that you can understand and sing along with Xibalba’s lyrics, even though they are brought across in these deep vocals. The way to more Metal on Años En Infierno was the right decision to manifest the status of the band as one of the hardest Metal bands in Hardcore in my eyes and shows impressively how creative and versatile a band already known for its dull sounds can be.
On May 29, Años En Infierno was released on vinyl and CD through Southern Lord Recordings. The album cover definitely lives up to its promise and if you found the last two albums of the band a little bit disappointing, you should convince yourself of the opposite with this record and let the flaming love for Xibalba be reignited.
I wouldn’t go that far to say that Xibalba have completely reinvented themselves with Años En Infierno, but after expecting another release in the musical direction of the previous ones, I would never have thought that the band would transform itself so brilliantly and that I am able to completely amaze my Hardcore loving friends as much as my Metal friends with this record. For me personally, this is a very hot candidate for the album of the year, if not in the end even my actual album of the year!
“Años En Infierno”