Metal is like a sponge: capable of sucking up any foreign juices. Classical music? We’ve seen that thousands of times since before In The Nightside Eclipse. Country? Not too common, but there’s a number of stoner and folk metal bands that incorporate its imagery. But flamenco? Sure, Allegaeon has the odd interlude, but it’s hardly integral to their sound, feeling more like a wacky gimmick than a serious crossover. Impureza take offense to the absence of flamenco metal, due to their proud Spanish herita- wait, they’re French?! Yes, despite the Montezuma imagery, Spanish lyrics and flamenco incorporation, oddball death metal fanatics Impureza are from the land of baguettes and brie instead of tapas and paella. La Caída de Tonatiuh1, meaning ‘The Fall of Tonatiuh’ (the Aztec sun god,) is only their second album in their 12 years of existence, so suffice to say those who worship at the altar of Quetzalcoatl have grown hungry.
It’s flamenco for breakfast as the opener releases an unrelenting barrage of non-brutal, skillfully plucked Spanish guitars and traditional percussion. The blastbeats don’t start until the second song, where the Morbid Angel stylings reveal themselves. When Impureza release the reins, they play fast, riff-centered death metal, executed with fearsome energy. The drums pummel in classic fashion, the bass adds smooth technicality, and the vocals are coarse and brutal, incorporating feral group vocals along the chunky roar. Sitting still will be impossible with these riffs playing; technical but catchy, bludgeoning but still easy enough to read, and incorporating oriental elements in the leads. On its own, the death metal meat of the dish is absolutely solid and enjoyable, if not quite revolutionary.
While I don’t personally speak Spanish, the titles and cover art go a long way in conveying the subject matter: Aztec history and mythology, both woefully underrepresented in metal. This is also where the flamenco comes in, lending a welcome Spanish touch to the burly death metal at hand. Part of the pluckery is shoved into interludes, but it’s most effective when it weaves in and out of the metal, creating surprising melodic harmonies and providing breathing spaces in the sonic assault. In fact, I wish they would have applied it this way more, even though the album is admittedly more varied as a result. “El Nuovo Reino De Los Ahorcados” is the best example of how well the combination works as it opens with the classical plucking and gradually adds in metal drumming and riffing until a storm of Spanish death metal arises.
The Mesoamerican slaughterhouse only takes one real blow, although it doesn’t topple the mighty empire. Though the master is admirably dynamic, which the drums especially benefit from, the thick layer of guitars sounds somewhat muffled and compacted, as if buried underneath an ancient pyramid. Considering the riffs are the focus and the guitars are the overpowering elements, a lot of detail is lost in the muddy smush, which particularly undermines the too-few moments where the compositions go all-in on the death flamenco. This is not entirely a fault of the mix; the other levels are fairly balanced, and the audibility of the melodic and technical bass is a welcome touch. But the guitars feel cramped to a point of bleeding together, a detriment to the otherwise impeccable music.
It doesn’t deliver the killing blow to the Aztec history lesson, merely smudging an album otherwise expertly written and energetically executed. The unlikely partnership of flamenco and death metal works quite beautifully (despite my gripe over the relative heterogeneity of the mixture,) and it fits the Aztec mythology and history like the stones of the Saksaywaman walls. With performances both primitively brutal and technically deft, this oddball brand of death metal marries two unlikely styles into a cohesive whole that fits the fully realized concept of the Aztec apocalypse. It’s unusual, catchy, and brutally convincing, and it seems Season of Mist can do no wrong as usual. I’d still throw a virgin into a volcano for a more defined guitar, though.