Xibalba - Hasta La Muerte
Hey everyone, guess what!? Heavy music is cool now! No, seriously; Thurston Moore joined a black metal band, Trash Talk signed to Odd Future Records, and you've read that magazine with all the women in it with the tattoos and the breasts, right? The one that puts Henry Rollins on such a ridiculous pedestal that it's almost an unwitting self-parody? Coooooool!
On top of all this, last month Xibalba premiered a song off their second album Hasta La Muerte on Pitchfork - much to the confusion of seemingly every hardcore fan over the age of 25.
The track in question was 'Sentenced' - a five minute audible beating that sits in the middle of an hour long record of audible beatings. It's sludgy, it's heavy and it's really fucking angry.
Here's the thing - while the world of young music fans are surfin' the heavy wave, the word 'riff' is getting thrown around a lot, and in some strange post-ironic twist, a whole heap of bands are getting that word thrown at 'em in reviews when it just doesn't fit. Xibalba don't have 'riffs' (ugh.) per-se, they just rhythmically assault sound until a song forms around it - and when you release an album on Southern Lord (home to bands like Nails, Sunn O))) and Black Breath) you kind of expect it to be ticking those kinda boxes.
Hasta La Muerte does feel like a record from a band who have taken the time to consider what they do well and really refine it. The guitar work (whilst punishingly abrasive) is carefully considered - ranging from droning doom to ignorant beatdowns and at times almost venturing into legitimate melody. The amazing thing is how seamlessly it all flows. The album's title track features an incredible guttural vocal performance that forces itself into a dark violent corner, before effortlessly melting into one of the album's standout tracks 'Mala Mujer' in which the pure aggression of the album opens up the tiniest amount to allow room for a melodic female voice to lull you into a false calm, before the relentlessness of 'Stone Heart' is unleashed.
Now as I mentioned, this album ticks all the boxes for a hardcore album - but that might well be its downfall. Xibalba have created something that has all the right sounding parts in all the right places, and all the right influences and sound-alike comparisons are being drawn by people with blogs and a larger collection of death metal records than myself.
Honestly, this record ain't changing anybody's world and in the furore of hearing something so immediately pleasing on the surface, it's getting a lot of 'hardcore album of the year' praise that may be looked back on as a little hasty come end of year list time.