Tzompantli – Tlazcaltiliztli

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Southern California indigenous death/doom metal trio Tzompantli is a rare example that brings the tribal spirit of the Native American culture in its most primitive way. the first full-length album entitled “Tlazcaltiliztli” which means ‘nourishing the fire and sun with blood’ is out via 20 Buck Spin on May 6th, 2022. In Mesoamerican civilization, a tzompantli is a skull rack used for the public display, typically those of war captives or sacrificial victims. The band recorded its first EP 'Tlamanalli' in 2019 containing four tracks compressed in unpolished punchy cavernous death doom style. Similarly, the new album is noticeable through a superb production enhanced by sledgehammer guitar riffs and crushing drums.

Tlazcaltiliztli’ offers a kind of atmosphere that is akin to the likes of Disembowelment, Spectral Voice and Evoken. The strength of the album is in the powerful shifts and massive grooves that give the songs a superb balance. The line-up features Huey Itztekwanotl o))) (vocals, guitars) G-Bone (bass guitar) and Erol Ulug (drums). The crude atmosphere of the morbid death/doom metal riffage has a different method in which the drum transitions to blast beats become superlatively brutal and crushing. The opening intro ‘Yaohuehuetl’ begins with the upbeat rhythm of the tribal percussion blending whistle and the ominous atmosphere conjures up fire and brimstone rituals as the crushing guitars bring out a metallic impact on ‘Tlatzintilli’.

Much of the emphasis is laid on the titanic guitars and the brutal pace of the drums. The guitars deliver a crushing slab of devastating riffs. The vocals are in the style of cavernous death metal. The riffing often chills the air with melodious guitar chords that add a subtle texture to the suffocating atmosphere. The fistful reverb on songs like ‘Tlazcaltiliztli’ gives a powerful effect with the grooves and double bass, concentrating on upping the tempo. The grooves on the album are aplenty. On the full-length album, Tzompantli unleashes a destructive war machine where the songs invoke the primordial roots of the Native cultural themes, making each track a timeless offering to the ancient spirits.

The song titles of the album are based on human sacrifice, epics of war and absolute communication with the spirits of the ancestors. The chemistry between Huey Itztekwanotl o))) (Mortuary Punishment, Xibalba), Erol Ulug (Teeth) and G-Bone has resulted in brutal and organic songwriting. The album also includes an instrumental cut ‘Eltequi’ which somehow reminds me of Sepultura’s ‘Ratamahatta’. The song combines rich instruments such as animal flute, shells or tribal drums and the guitars are used to create a backdrop to this eerie ritualistic music. Its repeating rhythm will chill you to the bone. Tzompantli creates a mystical aura with the tempo gaining a frenzied motion. The performance, however, brings a kind of quality to the beating percussion and the strings.

Ohtlatocopailcahualuztli’ opens with an infectious riff when the crushing force of the blasting drums comes in like a frenzied trance and the tone of the guitars on this track is devastatingly heavy and brutal. The album fundamentally relies on plodding drums and grooves injected into the music. Though the band slowly morphs into the plodding mode of death/doom metal, the drum beats hold the cadence of the song and the guitar riffs are truly crushing and monolithic.

The tremolos on “Tlamanalli” launch into powerful cavernous death metal brutality with the double bass blasting, beats pouring forth into inhuman savage sound. The tempo shows the guttural growls of the vocals and the guitars are full of tremolo pickings. Almost halfway through the song the drum beats gradually build on grooves that generate some old-school death metal fury. There are moments that recall the style of The Ruins of Beverast. These elements like the melodic guitar chords and monolithic riffs build into a titanic tempo.

The dark somber dirges truly give the album a theme of funeral doom metal and they are bolstered by powerful riffs. The chugging guitars mesh with the sorrowful undertones. Closing the album with the 7-minute monolithic cut ‘Yaotiacahuanetzli’, Tzompantli transitions into the morose spectrum of funeral death/doom metal. The plodding drums and the lurching guitars bind the cadence to a very morose mood. The music literally sprawls deep into the brutal side with sledgehammer death metal riffs laced with the drumming which shifts between mid-paced and slower pounding. The composition of doom metal elements is professionally fused throughout the remaining portion of this monolithic track that takes a solemn march towards brooding, morbid death/doom metal.

REVIEW SCORE

  • Music / Songwriting 9/10
  • Vocals / Lyrics 9/10
  • Mix / Production 9/10
  • Artwork & Packaging 8/10
  • Originality 9/10
8.8

Tzompantli’s first full-length album takes a raw approach that slowly invites gloomy surroundings and a morbid sense of soul-crushing atmosphere. This is highly recommended for fans of The Ruins of Beverast, Evoken and Disembowelment.

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