Published Jan 23, 2015The place of fear Xibalba call home is the teetering tip of the pyramids adorning their two most recent LPs: 2012's Hasta La Muerte and this year's Tierra Y Libertad. With the latter, however, these Californians are daring to be devils and are sticking their necks even farther out to peer at the death metal abyss they've always been perched above. The other chasm that menacingly stared up at the band — hardcore with a penchant for the slow and slamming — is now clearly at their back with the wind blowing away from it.
However, Xibalba haven't abandoned hardcore completely, unlike one-time fellow deadly beatdowners No Zodiac, who have fully embraced death metal. Hardcore is still at the (bloody) roots here, though it finds itself being trampled by Sepultura influences, if the Brazilians combined their tribal groove on that divisive album with their thrashier earlier efforts.
Just when Tierra Y Libertad starts to feel underwhelming for an LP — in length, that is, given that one of its eight songs is an interlude — the emptiness is filled by "El Vacío," with its Neurosian atmospherics allowing the band to wind up their sonic crowbar before striking with brute force. The extra power enabled by the reprieves actually push this bipolar beast to the top of a towering album. (Southern Lord)