One little-known, but easily knowable, fact about Angry Metal Guy is that he (I, I guess we’re going in third person today) is a big history buff. In other reviews I (OK, back to first person now) have frequently referred to the history of whatever it is that said band is writing about and I truly enjoy it when bands look backwards to their own cultural history for influence. Why form a band and copy the Norwegians and Swedes who did the same? Look at your own world, look at your own culture and build up from there! The band Yaotl Mictlan has probably not read this blog to get this idea, but they have the same idea that I do. Drawing on hundreds of years of history and hundreds more of oppression, Yaotl Mictlan is writing black metal with folk undertones that is strongly influenced by the history of the Mayans, the pre-Hispanic-conquest people of Mexico, who have never really disappeared, even if their ancient empire collapsed.
And what a perfect topic for black metal. If you believe anything about what the monks who went to the new world wrote about the Mayans, they were pretty brutal, bad-ass and inventive. And unlike the Aztecs, there was no central authority to take down, so it took nearly 180 years to win the Yucatan peninsula. According to these records, there were a lot of human sacrifices, a lot of drum circles and they apparently had something against virgins (or their gods loved ’em, one of the two). They were certainly pagan, terrible, horrible and unsightly in the eyes of God (unless you wanted to have sex with one and force her to have your kids, that was fine). In any case, the descendants of those bad-ass motherfuckers deserve the claim to black metal just as much as the descendants of vikings. But of course, there is so much more than just the conquest period and if I spoke Spanish, I’d probably be able to tell you that these guys are singing about it. But honestly, I don’t know.
What I do know is that this is actually some pretty impressive black metal. The tracks are produced in a more traditional way, without the over-the-top drum replacement and stuff, and the production feels organic and powerful for it. The music is well written, riffy and slower pieces interchanging with excellent trem-picked passages. There are occasional folk instrument interludes, but instead of being the Otyg or Moonsorrow kind of sounds, these are usually more drum based or they use maracas, like in the track “Garra de Jaguar – Och Venado,” which has a super powerful drum segue. There are even some clean vocals, but they tend to be mixed way back into the background and work to offer a bit of dynamics to the vocal approach, but they are never the centerpiece.
The black metal here reminds me a bit of Deathspell Omega at times, actually, but it’s not nearly so “aural mindfucky,” there are still some pretty inventive, progressive or borderline noisy parts. There are obviously more traditional strains where the band ends up in Norwegian black metal kind of territory, especially since this material is more traditional black metal, i.e., fast and blasty or riffy, none of this post-black metal shoegazing over here. These guys are pretty fucking pissed off and aggressive. But what appeals to me so much about this record is that there is just a hunger here that you don’t hear in most black metal bands these days. Yaotl Mictlan is hungry and young and they make black metal that feels like black metal should. It’s raw, but the strains of Emperor and Tsjuder are showing, while still taking the freedom to include their own cultural influences with the rhythmic instruments and it works. It works really well.
Dentro del Manto Gris de Chaac is a record worth owning if you’re a black metal fan, and I hope that more bands from Mexico hop on this bandwagon and start looking back at their own cultural history for inspiration and influence. Despite there being much love for metal in Mexico, it feels like the number of bands from there are far too few (and I should point out that these guys actually live in Utah now, but they formed in Mexico, we can truly call them American metal). But with this kind of raw desire and hunger for the music, and with this unique take on something that we all know pretty well, Yaotl Mictlan is hopefully paving the way. I strongly encourage all fans of black metal to check this record out, as it’s been a while since I had something really nice to say about a black metal record.
Now if only someone from South America would write True Peruvian Inca Metal and name their first record “Speak Quechua or Die!” I could die a happy Angry Metal Guy.