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Xibalba Hasta La Muerte

This is a marvel of modern engineering - how low can a hardcore band tune these days? Seemingly very low indeed. And Hasta La Muerte is the embodiment of the kind of 'can do' attitude that has, doubtless, ruined quite a few sets of strings thus far. This record sees California's purveyors of the downbeat step into the realms of sludge to a whole new level. This is, simply, a hardcore doom record.

Led by some inspiring drums, mixed and mastered to absolute perfection so they sit beautifully above everything else (they are probably tuned higher than the guitars to be fair), this is an exercise in mixing the humble beatdown with the simple honesty that only sludge metal can provide. Take the excellent Laid To Rest - there is no need for a lead guitar, nothing that can't pretty much be played with a speedy single hand. A single note hangs for an age - before the familiar, warm glow of the raging beatdown hits, amongst some (largely inaudible) lyrics. I have been informed the lyrics are merely tough guy musings, but I get the impression this is somewhat subjective. Vocalist Nate Rebolledo is there as much for texture as anything else, but it all adds to the feeling of desperation.

The odd moment sounds like you put a Raised Fist album at the wrong speed on your turntable - other moments sound like you have maybe done the same with a Slayer record. There is even some kind of Portishead/Massive Attack style vocal interlude on Mala Mujer (which doesn't work - maybe the only part of the record that seems to get lost in anachronism). But throughout there is a kind of understated consciousness that reminds you that you are listening to a hardcore record. It has all the hallmarks of an average metal album, yet the hints of the band's roots come across enough to give this a quite refreshing outlook. Same meat, different gravy.