originally written by Chris McDonald
When one thinks of metal bands that write songs about Aztec mythology, fantastic Mexican death metal outfit The Chasm tends to comes to mind immediately. While this particular band happens to hail from Los Angeles, the tongue-twisting Mictlantecuhtli (say it with me: “Meekt-lahn-te-koot-ly”) not only shares lyrical themes with the aforementioned Chasm, but a certain amount of musical traits as well. But while similarities can be found, this American outfit wields their own brand of driving, dexterous black/thrash/death metal, heavy on riffs and mercifully short on pretense. And damn it, they wield it well.
Mictlantecuhtli take the epic, mid-paced death metal of The Chasm and infuse it with elements of dramatic Dissection-esque melody, cold Immortal-style tremolo riffs, and ripping guitar solos to forge a sound that pays homage to the bands of yore but is more than capable of standing on its own terms. The black metal influence on Warriors Of The Black Sun, while present, is actually fairly subtle; there’s a blackened tint to some of the faster, depressive riffs and Cuauhtemoc’s throaty screeches pay more than a little tribute to Ihsahn’s vocals in Emperor. But this is primarily tight, catchy melodic death metal that effectively marries highly detailed and infectious riffing with a majestic, warlike atmosphere.
You might expect a “themed” band (in this case, a band of Aztec warriors) to incorporate all sorts of aesthetic keyboard and instrumental touches a la Nile, but right from the blistering opening track “Night of Sorrow” Mictlantecuhtli hit it full force and don’t let up until the album’s conclusion. Warriors Of The Black Sun features nine full-fledged metal songs with nary an intro, outro, or interlude– a testament to the band’s ability to compose highly compelling material. “Son Of the Morning Star” delivers a series of thundering Somberlain-esque technical grooves before breaking into an electrifying sweep-picked lead passage, while songs like “Roads to Victory” and “The Warriors Desire” focus more on addicting At The Gates/Dark Tranquillity style melodic thrashing and borderline-neoclassical guitar shredding. The band occasionally ramps up the tempo to blasting speed (“Dreams of Triumph,” “Kingdom’s Fire”), adding to the intensity of the elaborate guitar compositions, but Mictlantecuhtli sound most powerful when the band is marching forward at a heavy mid-paced stomp, or thrashing away with those memorable Swedish-style guitar licks.
The mix of Warriors Of The Black Sun is outstanding, rendering the guitars and bass with perfect clarity and separation, allowing the bass guitar to actively contribute to the song at all times, and the precision drumming is delivered with a cavernous, earthy tone that perfectly suites the nature of the music. Mictlantecuhtli’s complex attack is also executed with highly efficient playing on all instruments (with the slight exception being the vocals, which sound strained and kind of weak). The guitar solos are exceptional (the extended shredding of “Night of Sorrow” is particularly strong), and fortunately they are found in abundance. Considering how terrific the songs already are by themselves, the high technical quality of this disc only serves to make the compositions more effective.
While these guys are going to have difficulty gaining recognition based on word of mouth (which generally requires being able to pronounce their name), Mictlantecuhtli have delivered an extremely impressive slab of melodic extreme metal that improves greatly on their debut Pillars of Silence. If you call yourself a fan of the likes of Dissection, The Chasm, and Immortal, than Warriors Of The Black Sun more than deserves a spot in your next haul.