Bleeding tradition, heritage, pride and authenticity, Mesoamerican / pre-Hispanic funeral death doom envoys Tzompantli have delivered a unique and engaging volume of thoroughly-addictive intoxication on their debut full-length, ‘Tlazcaltiliztli’. Considering the veritable deluge of new Death Metal albums being released these days, it’s truly staggering how few of them bring something new, original or refreshing to the altar of madness. Well, without betraying the subgenres roots, Tzompantli certainly offers a crushing brand of distinctive death doom that stands out from the rather mundane, mediocre pack.
Deriving their name from a rack used to display human skulls – often those of ritualistically-sacrificed enemies or war captives – Tzompantli’s presentations embody and channel the savagery and ritualism of the Mexica people, incorporating native folk instruments whilst covering themes of indigenous history, ritualism and brutality. ‘Tlazcaltiliztli’ [a ritual ceremony translating as ‘nourishing the fire and sun with blood’] transcends time to shine a mirror on this barbarity. Melancholy, sorrow and despair are also evident across these seven sacrificial offerings, perhaps lamenting the loss of these people as well as the bounty of wisdom that was wiped out with them.
Rumbling, foreboding death doom is accompanied by an orchestra of indigenous instruments, including Aztec huēhuētl and teponaztli drum, death whistles, animal flute, shells and shakers, these native sounds most prominent of all on the exceptional centrepiece of the album, the sadistically-ritualistic, prime-Sepultura-esque, tribal instrumental ‘Eltequi’, taking its name from a sacrificial ritual of cutting out the heart and serving it up as an offering. The music may be uncannily infectious but there is a nasty undercurrent here, a bloodletting viciousness and a darkness that renders ‘Tlazcaltiliztli’ extra special.
Pathos, pride, respect and honour pervade every forlorn, anguished note of ‘Yaotiacahuanetzli’ – a fitting denouement to an intriguing and intense body of work harnessed through long-lost history and centuries of hurt by multi-instrumentalist Huey Itztekwanotl o))) of Xibalba in conjunction with his partners in grime, G-Bone and Erol Ulog. In the times that are in it, with the mass migration of peoples destined to eradicate all cultures and supplant them with a homogenous horde of unmoored, indistinguishable zombies lacking soul or substance, this immense eulogy to a fallen civilisation could hardly be more pertinent.