Lords of Death
Where They’re From: Pomona, California
Most Similar: The Secret, Disembodied, Sepultura
When They Started: 1992
Sounds Like: Churning grooves belched from the mouth of a pre-Columbian hell
Meaning “Place of Fear,” Xibalba is the underworld of Mayan legend, a menacing court ruled over by gods with extremely metal names like “Seven Death.” In this world, Xibalba is a fearsome SoCal hardcore/metal outfit that wears their Chicano pride on their guitar straps and finds brutally inventive ways to express it.
This band’s power lies not in its sheer force, but in stylistic complexity. The spirit is in line with death metal, but the sonics owe more to the sludgier, groovier, down-tuned end of the spectrum. The quintet’s just released sophomore album Hasta La Muerte (“To Death”) is a coat of many colors, but most of them are black. From murkiest doom, to lightless grind and hints of Black Flag’s dark night of the soul, it’s a swirl of brilliant nocturnal shades that never becomes predictable. Rest assured, there are some formidable brains behind those meat-headed riffs.
The final track “Cold” is an ear-savaging outburst with plenty of kinship with death metal, but there are plenty of other moments that are dangerously droney. But is it hardcore or metal? Reports vary, probably because Xibalba has not just their own sound but the cojones required to dominate either scene.
Though their reputation in the underground is unquestioned, the band is still just beginning to emerge. This is only their second full-length after all. But how on earth did a force like this stay under for so long? Who knows? Maybe they like it down there.