Xibalba – Años En Infierno

Posted: 10 May 2020 in Albums
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Southern Lord – 29th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The title, Años En Infierno, translates as ‘Years in Hell’, and 2020 has felt like years condensed into what in reality amounts to just a few weeks. Time flies when you’re having fun, but drags for an eternity when you’re trapped in one place and life is slowly passing you by. On reflection, though, much of the time post-millennium has been pretty hellish and in myriad ways, and we have indeed endured years in hell – but right now, this moment in time feels abjectly apocalyptic, and the arrival of this album as a soundtrack seems timely.

Five years on from the savage assault that was Tierra Y Libertad, the Californian creators of the heaviest of metal haven’t gone light or soft on us, with a set of songs that switch the pace from breakneck double-pedal drum propelled thrash fury to slow, sinewy doom within the space of a single four-minute piece. Everything about Años En Infierno is dense, condensed, giving it a degree of intensity that truly hurts. It’s physical, pounding at the ribcage and raining blows to the head; but it’s also psychological. The guttural vocals and simply the style of playing exudes anguish, torment. The lyrics – bark, snarled, growled. Amd indecipherable by ear – offer a relentless succession of images of degradation, death, despair, although nothing different from watching or reading the news for a few minutes. This is the world now, and Xibalba soundtrack it perfectly, in that Años En Infierno is relentless, unforgiving, and so hard and heavy that to experience it from beginning to end is to take a thorough pummelling.

‘Saka’ brings a whole other shade of heavy, with thunderous tribal drumming hammering out a pulverizing percussive tattoo. The guitars churn, and they’re a pure filth that gnaws at the intestines: it’s a deeply physical experience, like being punched, repeatedly. When they’re going hard and fast, it’s blinding; when they slow it down, it’s to the pace of slow decay: the air hangs in thick suspension as time stalls to a crawl.

‘Al Abismo I’ marks a change of pace and also mood, with a slow picked, chorused guitar weaving a reflective atmosphere and drifting ponderously into expansive realm between latter day Earth and Fields of the Nephilim. It casts a different kind of darkness, and when the guitars do erupt, albeit briefly, it’s a landslide of sludge, an annihilating tornado of ferocious noise. The track bleeds into its furious counterpart, ‘Al Abismo II’, a guttural, grinding explosion from the bowels of hell. The mid-section breaks it down to a delicate, brooding post-metal chime, but then it goes full-on power-chord crushing dirge as it powers it way to its dark conclusion. It drives a punishing album to a monolithically heavy finale, while also hinting at a certain light on the horizon. We can only hope it will emerge in time.


LORD279_12inch Gatefold LP Jacket 1 Pocket

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