Xibalba plunge into new depths of metal and hardcore on Anos en InfiernoJamie Ludwigon May 22, 2020 at 7:05 pm

Named after a Mayan term that roughly translates to “place of fear,” Southern California trio Xibalba have been blending strains of metal and hardcore for nearly 14 years. They’ve increasingly leaned into their Latino heritage (they sing in both Spanish and English) and their death-metal influences, while expanding into new moods and song structures; on the 2015 album Tierra y Libertad they deviated from their relatively compact crushers for sprawling closer “El Vacio.” On their new fourth album, Anos en Infierno, Xibalba continue down their ferocious, groove-infested path to explore suffering, despair, and man’s search for meaning on personal, spiritual, and societal levels. “Santa Muerte” grinds along like one of Bolt Thrower’s best tracks as front man Nate Rebolledo questions those who judge or dismiss others’ pain until it grows too dire to ignore. The instrumental that follows, “Saka,” adds to the intensity, with powerful percussion girded by stony guitar chords and pummeling breakdowns. As they did for Tierra y Libertad, Xibalba save some of their most evocative songwriting for last. Delivered in two parts, album closer “El Abismo” (“The Abyss”) ruminates on the journey of the soul during an encounter with death: it establishes a contemplative, doomy soundscape, spins into rougher terrain, and then slowly culminates with a triumphant serenity. Interpret it how you want, but with Xibalba, you can be sure no one’s going “gently” into any kind of night. In an April interview with Hard Noise, Rebolledo addressed rumors that Xibalba are planning a hiatus following the promotional cycle supporting the album’s release: “As for the future, if it matters, we may play, but I wouldn’t count on it,” he said. The pandemic has sledgehammered us all, and whether Xibalba choose to hang up their hats now or celebrate Anos en Infierno with fans in person down the road, they’ve at least gifted us a tool to help us weather the storm. v

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