Interview: Xibalba

It tackles a lot of dark corners of what goes on in our minds and in the world and then stomps you out with the sound of it.    

Años en Infierno, the new album from Xibalba is a punishing mix of brutal death metal and hardcore that sees the band exploring new depths of heaviness. Gavin Brown caught up with Xibalba guitarist Brian Ortiz to hear all about Años en Infierno and its creation as well as hearing all about the history of the band and their music.

E&D: Your new album Años en Infierno is out soon. How did the creation and recording of the album go?

Brian: It starts with an idea from either me or Jason (drummer) and we jam it out. Sometimes it’ll start from one or two riffs. Sometimes Jason will have a drum pattern or lyrics to work around and we go from there. For the album, we recorded in Mesa, Arizona at the Platinum Underground Studios. We were there for a week with Arthur Rizk getting it all laid out.

E&D: You worked with Arthur Rizk, who has previously worked with Cro Mags and Power Trip on the album. What did he bring to the album and its sound?

Brian: He brought a lot to the sound. He took what I wanted the guitar tone to sound like and he exceeded my request. He did the same for everyone. He made sure it was the record we wanted. He also brought out a lot of great performances in the studio with his calm and laid back demeanour. He also stood with us in our hotel the whole week and partied with us every night after our sessions.

E&D: What has the reaction to your new material been like so far?

Brian: So far it has been amazing!! I didn’t think the reaction would be as great as it’s been so far. We are all very stoked and happy that people and critics seem to like the record.

E&D: What are the songs on Años en Infierno about and what subjects do the lyrics deal with?

Brian: The subject matter varies from how we are feeling to oppression to just being brutal. We write what we feel like in the moment.

E&D: Do you feel that this is Xibalba’s heaviest album yet, both sonically and lyrically?

Brian: Yes, I believe it is. It tackles a lot of dark corners of what goes on in our minds and in the world and then stomps you out with the sound of it.

E&D: Who did the artwork for the new album and what does represent ?

Brian: Dan Seagrave. We sent him the album title and this is what he came up with. It’s the years of hell on earth building up and taking over.

E&D: Your last album Tierra y Libertad was released five years ago, aside from working on the new album what have you been up to in that time?

Brian: Mostly working, dividing our focus on side hustles or projects and focussing a majority of our time with our families. We all have work to provide for our families.

E&D: It’s been a decade since your debut album Madre mía gracias por los días, how have Xibalba changed as a band in that time?

Brian: We definitely honed in on how we want to sound and execute the song we write. I think we have matured a lot on how we write songs and arrange them. We definitely have a lot more patience now as a band.

E&D: Do you have fond memories of that time?

Brian: Oh yeah, we have a lot of great memories! Lots of partying! We all lived in the same apartment at that time as well and there was always something going on. The small west coast tours were always badass too!

E&D: How did Xibalba start as a band in the first place?

Brian: Me and Bryan Valdivia were talking about starting a heavier, more metal sounding band with Nate outside the infamous Showcase Theatre, after a show. Nate told us that he would ask if Jason wants to jam and that’s how it all happened. We all played in faster, more traditional hardcore bands but wanted to do something heavier and darker.

E&D: What are the origins of the band’s name?

Brian: Our homie Scott (who plays guitar in the band now) brought the name to our attention. We wanted something that was culturally significant to us as Chicanos and Latinos. Xibalba is the Mayan underworld. So it seemed fitting for what we were trying to do musically.

E&D: Who are the biggest influences on the sound of Xibalba?

Brian: Morbid Angel, Crowbar, Obituary, Sepultura, Bolt Thrower, Madball and many more!

E&D: Who are your biggest influences as a musician?

Brian: My biggest influence is probably my dad. He turned me on to music at a young age and it opened the floodgates. But on guitar, I’d say I try to rip off Kirk Windstein and Trey Azagthoth the most.

E&D: What are your main memories of the band’s early days?

Brian: Jamming in my parents garage or at Bryan Valdivia’s pad and writing countless songs with my best friends.

E&D: How big an influence are your surroundings and heritage on Xibalba?

Brian: Those are very big influences on us. I would say that those two pillars are our main inspiration for writing music.

E&D: What was the Pomona and Los Angeles hardcore scenes like when you were starting out and what is it like today?

Brian: They were fun back in the day and are still fun to this day. Other than the bands, there hasn’t been much change. Maybe not as many fights as there were back in the day, so that’s good.

E&D: Xibalba have always had a metal influence, whether it be death metal or doom metal or whatever, along with the hardcore, was this always your intention with the bands music?

Brian: Yeah, we have always wanted to take those influences and mould them together. I think we have been able to execute that a lot better these days.

E&D: How have you been keeping busy during this coronavirus pandemic lockdown?

Brian: Just writing for my side project mostly and watching all kinds of movies with my fiancé. I have also been working from home, fortunately so that too.

E&D: What are you looking forward to most once this pandemic is over?

Brian: Seeing my family more and having family BBQs and having Korean BBQ with my homies. Also going to record stores too.

E&D: Have you got any rescheduled tour dates coming up at all?

Brian: We have not rescheduled any shows yet. We are still working that out. Once everything opens up in a safe manner, we look more into getting the shows rescheduled.

E&D: Do you find that playing live can be a cathartic experience?

Brian: Yes, it is our main outlet and release.

E&D: What have been some of the most memorable shows and tours that Xibalba have done?

Brian: Playing with Lamb of God and Behemoth here in Pomona, to a sold out show was pretty insane and badass. Touring Japan with All Out War was badass too, since we have looked up to them for years as fans. There have been so many badass shows though, it is hard to narrow them down.

E&D: What have been some of the best hardcore shows you have ever witnessed?

Brian: Strife at the Troubadour. Turnstile at Aladdin Jr’s in Pomona. Cro-Mags at Red Hill Pizza in Pomona, CA. Crowbar at This is Hardcore, Philly, PA.

E&D: How is life for the band on Southern Lord Records?

Brian: It has been a good ride, I have no complaints. They treat us well.

E&D: What have been some of your proudest accomplishments in your music career so far?

Brian: Being able to travel the world, that is something I never thought I would do. Putting out records that people like. jamming with my brothers.

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