Tag Archives: doom metal

Xibalba – Hasta La Muerte [Review]

There’s a saying that goes “slow and heavy wins the race” (or something like that). Southern Californian band Xibalba have definitely practiced this mantra for quite some time now, as evidenced in nearly every song they’ve released in their somewhat short history as a band. More evidence of this is provided in their forthcoming sophomore album Hasta La Muerte, being released via Southern Lord on August 14, 2012 (just one year after Southern Lord released their first album, Madre Mia Por Los Dias).

When considering a band’s relative heaviness, anyone who has listened to a considerable amount of heavy music can tell you that it’s not simply tuning down your guitars, adding lower strings, and playing lower notes. Tone, texture, and songwriting are what take low notes and turn up the density meter. Xibalba get this. Guitars churn, drums thunder, vocals roar and together they create a terrifying cacophony meant to convey pure, unadulterated intensity. And it works. Swapping between sludge/doom noise passages and pure hardcore beatdown sections with the ideal balance between loose and tight playing, Xibalba have achieved a truly oppressive level of heaviness on Hasta La Muerte, and are unrelenting when wielding such heaviness.

Unfortunately, such unrelenting heaviness has led to an album that feels a bit one-dimensional in nature. Not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’re looking for anything that isn’t a blend of hardcore and sludge/doom metal to the heaviest degree you’re basically out of luck. Saved from being a disaster by songwriting and sequencing, the most interesting tracks and moments on the album are spaced out enough so that you don’t get bombarded with an overwhelming amount of sameness song after song. Hasta La Muerte is also definitely not for people who have disdain for slow-developing albums as there are a lot of slow, noisy, drone-esque sections throughout the album, especially between the meat of tracks.

Lyrically, Hasta La Muerte is incredibly real and personal, touching on a litany of grief and strife in day-to-day life. Most of the lyrical content pulls no punches, lines such as “I found peace in darkness, and comfort in solitude. There’s no love or feeling in this broken home.” clearly being designed for impact and realness. Opening the song “Stone Hearts” we get a glimpse of the best Xibalba’s lyrics have to offer: “Stone hearts are hard to break. Pound away, try to break me down. Stone hearts will never change.
Cast away, in rubble I’ll remain.”

As an album, Hasta La Muerte is monstrous. From the first drum hits and sustained guitars are a constant barrage of musical haymakers not for the weak-willed. Loud, thick, raucous and relentless: the word “punishing” is perhaps used too often by the metal community at large, but it is certainly applicable here. Almost seemingly imperfect by design, Hasta La Muerte just feels right the way it is. To quote a song from the album, “I never seem to do things right, but it sure feels right.”

Track picks: “Laid To Rest” and “Stoneheart”
Score: 8.5/10
For fans of: Black Sheep Wall, Disembodied, Crowbar

I’ve included a Spotify player here for folks who want to check these dudes out. Which should be all of you.

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Heaven and Hell – The Devil You Know [Review]

The Devil You Know is the “debut” album from Heaven and Hell. In all seriousness, though, it’s basically a Black Sabbath album (thankfully under a new moniker). The Album was released on April 28, 2009 on Rhino/Roadrunner Records.


Heaven and Hell The Devil You Know album art

Firstly, I want to comment on the awesomeness that is this artwork. It is everything album art should be: both visually appealing and informational. The art itself is fantastic (and goes well with the name of the album) and it tastefully and legibly gives you all the info you need. Two thumbs up for this one.

As far as the music goes, it is just what one should expect from Dio and the rest of the guys from Black Sabbath. This album is pure old school Heavy/Doom metal. I am still surprised at how good Dio sounds even this far into his sixties. It is pretty obvious that he struggles a bit for the really powerful wailing notes, but he still sounds amazing, and has a ton of attitude and character to his voice. In fact, he almost sounds better for the lower vocals than he ever did. The problem with Dio still being the same old Dio are his ridiculous lyrics. The most hilariously bad example on this album is in the song “Eating the Cannibals”. Let’s just say that the line ‘We’re eating the cannibals” is repeated numerous times throughout the song.

The best part about this album is that I have not heard this many Tony Iommi solos on an album in a long time (perhaps ever). Iommi is at the best I have ever heard him (to clarify: not better than the old stuff, but just as good). This album has more great riffs and solos than any Black Sabbath fan could ask for. Even Geezer Butler gets in on the fun and has some great bass parts throughout the album.

Quite easily the biggest flaw of the album is that it’s predictable. For anyone familiar with Black Sabbath and the Doom Metal genre, you can almost bank on the fact that you know the next part of each song already. It is nice, though, that some bands are staying true to the old heavy metal formula (granted, Sabbath were really the inventors of this).

All in all, I am quite pleased with the album. It’s not as memorable or legendary as most of the Black Sabbath stuff, but it’s still better than a majority of the heavy metal out there today.

Track picks: “Double the Pain” and “The Turn of the Screw”

Overall Score: 8/10

Candlemass – Death Magic Doom [Review]

Death Magic Doom is the tenth studio album from the Swedish doom metal outfit Candlemass. This is the second album by Candlemass featuring Robert Lowe on vocals (no, not the actor), as opposed to Messiah Marcolin. Death Magic Doom‘s release date is April 3 globally, and is under the Nuclear Blast record label.

Candlemass Death Magic Doom

In the doom metal word today, Candlemass might be king. It is true, doom metal is a bit of a dying breed, but if one band has the ability to change that, Candlemass would be the one. This album is not as much tradition doom/epic doom as their past releases – they have incorporated a lot more elements of standard heavy metal (not a surprise after their last album or their self-titled). This is most definitely not a bad thing. Through the simple addition of more heavy metal styles their music gained so much more power.

Since Robert Lowe stepped in at vocals, it seems, the band has taken a bit heavier sound. It’s unclear whether this is because of Lowe, or because Leif Edling has decided to simply write heavier music (for those who don’t know, Edling does a cast majority of the writing for Candlemass). The only problem is that with the heavier writing, they have forgone some of the more “doom” sounds, and the music has a less dramatically depressed sound (what makes doom metal as awesome as it is). It is clear that this album is the beginning of a new era for Candlemass.

From a production standpoint, this album is spot-on. There are a lot of section with non-standard instruments used, such as a Wurlitzer organ, chimes, bells, etc. Those are the things from epic doom that Candlemass are doing as well as ever. It’s really a tough decision to say whether the vocals from Lowe, however, are better than the vocals from Marcolin. Perhaps technically they are better now, but I’m not sure that anyone could beat the timbre of Marcolin’s voice for doom metal.

For those who are fans of Candlemass, this is a must-have, because they are as good as ever. For those who like heavy metal or doom metal, this is also very much a winner. From top to bottom, there is nothing wrong with this album. The songwriting, production, performance, etc. are all spot-on. Aside from the opening track of the album, though, there are no show-stopping songs on the album.

Track picks: “If I Ever Die” and “The Bleeding Baroness”

Overall score: 7/10 devil horns