Review ‘Em All: Xibalba, Tierra y Libertad

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The song titles are in Spanish, the artwork shows futuristic tanks and soldiers fighting over Mesoamerican pyramids, and the album title translates to ‘Land and Liberty’. Have Xibalba (the name of the Mayan underworld, loosely translating as ‘Place of Fear’), the tough–sounding detuned hardcore–playing Californians of Mexican descent, who named their prior album Hasta La Muerta and have that destroy your living room whilst getting smashed vibe going on, gone political?

Several listens later, and no, I don’t think so. Hispanic culture, including its modern politics, clearly has an important place for Xibalba, but no more so than hardcore, sludge and Slayer. These influences all sour together to make an album in which the driving force is pain. Whether physical (Enimigo), emotional (En Pas Descanse), collective (Si Dios Quiere) or self–inflicted (Invierno), it sounds like the raison d’être of Xibalba’s distinctive if not groundbreaking sound. This consuming fury translates into equally consuming hardcore chugging, writhing tremolo picking, flights of double kick and grooves deeper than a half pipe. The vocals have that low, barking, imperative hardcore quality to them, with lots of gang vocals, all adding up to create a murderous mix. In the groovier moments I was reminded of Slayer at their slowest, as I was by the squawking guitar solos.

Tierra y Liberatad is noticeably faster than Hasta La Muerta, and with a few exceptions, non–stop mosh material.  It is not a massively varied listen, but the versatile pacing, always pushing and pulling, grips like a vice. In doing so this makes Xibalba the curdled cream of the hardcore crop. Politics may raise its head a couple of times, but Xibalba’s driving force is that of pain that won’t fade.

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