Review Summary: With the first half demonstrating exactly what Xibalba are capable of, they lose momentum halfway through, resulting in "just another hardcore album."
Add experimentation, texture and phenomenal song writing skills to the generic hardcore formula consisting of down-tuned, chugging guitars and breakdowns that sound like a punch to the chest in sonic form and you have Xibalba. Hasta La Muerte sees the band elaborate more on the doom and sludge aspects found on their debut whilst still sticking tight to the hardcore formula. The band push hardcore right to its extremities, offering eleven tracks in under an hour, all filled with thunderous drums, demonic vocals and churning guitars, all with the nihilism found in the extreme metal genres.
For the most part, anyway.
The influences of doom and drone are clear from album opener No Serenity. Opening with a sustained note and a squeal of feedback, the track launches riffs at breakneck speed. The band also utilise the beatdown hardcore style found among their contemporaries, such as No Zodiac and Balboa. And that's where the record finds its success - Xibalba seamlessly string together the faster sections with the absolutely skullcrushing beatdowns that make you want to do anything but sit still. The Flood sees Greg Anderson from fellow Southern Lord band Sunn O))) contributing guitar work. The song highlights Anderson's guitarwork and the build up in the drumming, and not much else. Lyrically, Xibalba tell tales of harsh realities and truthful words, all to the backdrop of bitterness and nihilism found within each song. Eight and a half minute monster "Lujuria" is where the lyrical skill of the band shine though. Lyrics such as "I wasn't meant to be a saint, as faith has failed me/With my heart on this altar, for the world to ***ing see" explore self-pity and self-hatred, two common themes of the album, and an example of an upfront, cynical attitude towards life. "Stoneheart" is another lyrical highlight of the album. Though the band's use of metaphors, Xibalba have the capability to connect with their audience in a way their contemporaries would not.
After "The Flood", however, Hasta La Muerte spirals downhill. Everything we hear on the second half of the album sounds like a recycled, unoriginal, almost boring version of the first half. Also, with a running time of fifty five minutes, this makes the album very difficult to listen to in one sitting. About half the songs have a running time of over five minutes, with the new version of cold running three minutes longer and the already mentioned Lujuria totalling eight and a half minutes. These longer songs could have the same effect with only four minutes. In many cases of the band's experimentation, it doesn't work, which is clear on "Mala Mujar," which sees the introduction of female vocals acting as a counterpart to the explosive hardcore found here.
Whilst Hasta La Muerte is an improvement over the band's debut, it does not fully realize the potential they have to offer. Although Xibalba are still monstrous as ever, overly long songs completely overshadow all hopes of making Hasta La Muerte an excellent hardcore album, making it a completely exhausting listen instead.