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Yaotl Mictlan - "Dentro Del Manto Gris De Chaac" (CD)

Yaotl Mictlan - "Dentro Del Manto Gris De Chaac" CD cover image

"Dentro Del Manto Gris De Chaac" track listing:

1. Dentro del Manto Gris de Chaac (7:21)
2. Garra de Jaguar (Ocho Venado) (6:16)
3. Cihuacoatl (La Llorona) (6:20)
4. Hun Hunapu (4:55)
5. Gemelos Heroes (4:32)
6. Noche Triunfadora (6:08)
7. Huelitiyotl Mexica (7:33)
8. Nada Verde Creece Aqui (6:21)

Reviewed by on August 19, 2010

"Yaotl Mictlan is proof that a band doesn’t need to buckle their identity to make an impact. "

Music has the power to transcend cultures and language barriers. While that may sound like something stolen from a motivational poster, it reeks of truth. Yaotl Mictlan is proof that a band doesn’t need to buckle their identity to make an impact. English isn’t the language of choice for their unique approach to black metal, and yet, the band does an excellent job of expressing a dark ancient Mayan atmosphere on sophomore album “Dentro del Manto Gris de Chaac.”

To gain some sort of popularity in the United States, many bands from other countries learn enough English to write simplistic lyrics. Having no songs in the native tongue of the majority of the population in the U.S. is usually career suicide in terms of popularity. If the title of the album didn’t provide enough of a clue, all the lyrics are in Spanish. Obviously, non-Spanish speaking listeners will be clueless as to what is going on. Even so, the vocal lines are effectively catchy; a tall mountain to climb for a band that uses harsh screams and rasps. After several listens, it isn’t out of the question to be singing along with a few tracks.

Yaotl Mictlan’s debut album “Guerreros De La Tierra De Los Muertos” was an epic trek to get through, clocking in at over 70 minutes long. The length is cut down on their second album, keeping things to a tight 50 minutes over the course of eight tracks. This works to the band’s benefit, as the incorporation of traditional woodwind and percussion instruments is implemented with a flawless technique into each track to add authenticity to the proceedings. A feeling of comfort is invoked whether the black metal switch is flipped on or an ambient hazy hue pops its way in. The band’s enthusiasm for the subject matter of ancient Mexican civilizations is vibrant.

From the very beginning, the atmosphere is palpable. The title track sets the standard that the rest of the tracks have to live up to. A light rainstorm and soothing clean guitars set the stage for the quick heavy outburst that makes up a bulk of the song. The rough production sounds like the band is trapped deep in a temple, trying in vain to take one last breath before the oxygen is sucked out for good. Samples are used sparingly to accentuate the mood, including fire burning alongside haunting chanting on “Cihuacoatl (La Llorona)” and a deadly horse-led exposition on “Noche Triunfadora.”

Though showing a melodic edge on more than one occasion, the essence of Yaotl Mictlan is still black metal. The band doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary with the precise, lightning-fast drums, inaudible bass, and tremolo-picked riffs that have defined the genre since its inception. The only misstep is the two tracks sandwiched in-between the first and last three songs. “Hun Hunapu” and “Gemelos Heroes” are stripped-down and linear, lacking any of the experimental touches of the other tracks. They aren’t bad tracks, but feel like firecrackers compared to the atomic rhythm that precedes and follows the pair.

If any band wanted to use another language to express themselves, what better genre to do it in than black metal? Much of black metal in English is nonsensical anyway, so it’s not like using Spanish is a big deal. “Dentro del Manto Gris de Chaac” adds a little culture to the common grime-crusted black metal sound. Yaotl Mictlan is treading their own path away from everybody else in the genre, and those who take a chance and follow along will find the opportunity to be well worth it.

Highs: Does a great job of expressing a dark atmopshere, woodwind and percussion instruments integrated perfectly in, suffocating production sets the appropriate mood.

Lows: Spanish lyrics may turn some off; the middle portion sags.

Bottom line: A rich atmosphere and authentic ancient instruments make this a worthwhile black metal album.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)