Published May 29, 2020For 13 years, Xibalba have weathered through trends of the hardcore and metal world without compromising any facet of their sound: pummelling low-end grooves, tough hardcore breakdowns (before they were cool), growling vocals that show no mercy, absolutely rotten death metal riffs. On Años en Infierno ("Years in Hell"), the Southern California outfit continue to commit to these principles while maintaining the nuances of their signature style.
Their catalogue has frequently featured songs that focus on miserably doomy atmosphere, while other more straightforward Xibalba cuts have been almost solely fixated on starting havoc at a hardcore show. Throughout their latest effort are fully realized old school death metal/hardcore hybrids that cater to fans of both styles. Named after the Mayan term translating to "place of fear," the group's wrath is felt immediately on opener "La Injusticia," a lengthy and loyal nod to the sludgy aspects of Xibalba's craft.
Production for Años en Infierno was overseen by Arthur Rizk (Power Trip, Code Orange, King Nine), whose signature touch brings the band's unconventional death metal to new extremes. Their songs are sometimes quite long, which could be jarring for a young person just stepping into Xibalba's world, but longtime fans know that's sometimes the name of their game. "Santa Muerte" marks some of their loudest and most sinister material and "Saka" is one of the LP's heaviest and most striking tracks — featuring no vocals, but utilizes thundering tribal percussion akin to Roots-era Sepultura.
On the record's B-side, Xibalba play both sides of their coin. The title track sits comfortably at around two minutes and is highlighted through snail's pace high-hat breakdowns that make for some of their most devastating and accessible work since their debut. That said, Xibalba have never been one to compromise their distinct style, even when they came into notoriety with their varied breed of death metal while touring with straightforward hardcore acts like Take Offense and Backtrack. They continue this gesture on the two-part, 13-minute epic "El Abismo" ("The Abyss"), which has droning growled vocals, clean yet doomy guitar passages, heavy-as-brick sludge riffs, noisy feedback — pretty much everything a seasoned metalhead could want while still fitting firmly in Xibalba's own lane. (Southern Lord)