Xibalba – Años En Infierno Review

Californian heavyweights Xibalba have spent the past thirteen years constructing a gigantic edifice (much like the one depicted by on their latest album cover) out of sledgehammering hardcore and equally concussive death metal. The band’s low-end racket has soundtracked the unruly adventures of skaters, stoners and troublemakers, and Xibalba’s fanbase will likely be chuffed with the band’s latest full-length Años En Infierno, which features more of Xibalba’s signature neck-spanning endeavors and more stunning cover art courtesy of Dan Seagrave.

Release date: May 29, 2020. Label: Southern Lord.
Obviously, the world isn’t short of hulking hardcore bands inspired by death metal (and vice versa, to a lesser degree); a little extra guttural filth or ax-wielding oomph in the hardcore engine never hurt anyone. Although, it’s also fair to say there are swathes of interchangeable hardcore bands whose artistic explorations simply involved checking the same Dismember (✓), Entombed (✓) and Bolt Thrower (✓) boxes, and then carrying on their unimaginative and similar-sounding ways. Xibalba have always sounded smarter than that, and the band’s broader musical influences and cultural inspirations have meant they’ve stood out as more unique. Their 2010 self-titled full-length debut saw the band still finding their feet and fine-tuning their influences, but by the time the band’s first release for label Southern Lord rolled around—see 2012’s hefty Hasta La Muerte—Xibalba’s artistic goals felt rock-solid and more battle-ready.

On Años En Infierno, Xibalba put their powerful metallic machinery to use, carving out gargantuan grooves with bulldozing instrumentation that pulverizes alongside Nate Rebolledo’s bellowing vocals. And with producer Arthur Rizk on board (Pissgrave, Scorched, Power Trip, etc), they sound more visceral than ever. However, there are also changes afoot: Songs like “Corredor De La Muerte,” “El Abismo I,” and Años En Infierno‘s hope-smashing title track all feature more king-sized funereal components than ever before.

To be clear, giant doom-driven dirges aren’t entirely new territory for Xibalba. Hasta La Muerte and the band’s 2015 LP Tierra Y Libertad both scattered more desolate offerings amongst all the heaving hardcore and monstrous death metal, and Xibalba’s overall aesthetic has always felt fairly ominous, too. So, yes, Años En Infierno‘s doomier resonance isn’t a shocking twist in Xibalba’s story, but the band’s latest album is certainly their most portentous release in both tone and texture.

As usual, many of Años En Infierno‘s best moments occur when the band ratchet up the chest-constricting tension before unleashing a gut-punching breakdown. Monolithic tracks like “La Injusticia” and “Santa Muerte” see Bigg Brian Ortiz wrestling colossal chugging riffs out of his guitar, while drummer Jason Brunes smashes his kit to smithereens. What’s most apparent—like all of Xibalba’s strongest work—is that the band sound as if they sort out issues in-person with a baseball bat, not via some fucking lame Twitter spat.

Injecting more doom and gloom into Xibalba’s already impressive arsenal was an inspired move. A lot of hardcore / death metal hybridizations simply circle the same ol’ creative cul-de-sac, but Años En Infierno confirms that Xibalba have a more astute skillset when it comes to simultaneously increasing the sonic and emotional weight of their music. And with the band’s latest tracks featuring as much crawling bleakness as they do up-front brutality, Años En Infierno is Xibalba’s heaviest release yet. Fingers crossed that these guys keep exploring grimmer musical domains while digging into the darkest pits of the soul.

The crushing darkness woven into Años En Infierno is welcomingly cathartic—here’s to Xibalba’s continuing descent into the depths of Hell.

Posted by Craig Hayes

New Zealand's most successfully unsuccessful music writer. Dadcrust for d-beat dorks, noise punk nerds, and metal dweebs.

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