Released as the year first stirred but not to be ignored, Legion Mexica is the sophomore album from Mexican metallers Aztlan. It is a tempest of history, tradition and confrontation which across nine ear gripping tracks is easily one of the most rousing and compelling incitements of recent times.
Named after the ancestral home of the Aztec peoples, Aztlan merge death, thrash and Mexican folk metal in a cauldron of sound, the rich essences of Mariachi, Son Jarocho, and progressive bred flavours bringing melodic stock to the band’s ferocious instincts. It is a mix which makes Legion Mexica, the successor to the band’s 2019 debut full-length Mexico Inmortal, as suggestive, seductive and cinematic as it is ravenously aggressive.
From the moment Legion Mexica opener Sangre por Sangre uncaged it’s tempting, the rhythmic prowess of drummer Diablo and Jaguar with his ancestral percussion bred lures had instinctive attention ignited, the equally manipulative and rapacious accosting of their guitars by Attila and El Muerto escalating the swift submission. As in turn Centauro’s bass sheds its infectious swings in the midst of the Hispanic scented shuffle, the beast stirs, the band’s metal inclinations erupting as the vocals of El Patron and Attila uncage throat scarring prowess. Groove and alternative metal align to the band’s inherent death and thrash instincts, all the while that folk and melodic nagging burrowing deeper under the skin.
The track is superb, enough to seal the hunger of eager attention which La Raza feasts upon with its own individual tapestry and incursion of those riveting styles and flavours. In some ways even more predacious than its predecessor but just as melodically and rhythmically animated, the track is pure creative devilment; a temptation unleashed with passion, power and craft not forgetting world induced irritability. As the first song and the following Raices, the track casts an image and intimation as potent and dramatic as the hellacious fury sprung through the heavier ravening sounds, the third song a Mariachi serenade fired in the venom of discontent and rebellion.
Throughout the release rhythms are as punishing as they are rousing, a fusion just as compelling and fascinating through the guitars as epitomised by the outstanding Ritual. The track is an enlivening rapture and persecution, a summoning of physical and emotional uprising through incessant creative harassing proving simply glorious as its catchiness and acrimony unite with traditional and sonic imagination.
Our favourite moment is quickly followed by another in the shape of the album’s title track which from a stroll of cultural inspiration journeys through a mercurial landscape, one colourful and suggestive. Whereas there is a Tarantino meets Morricone lining to some of the previous songs, this carries a more Guillermo del Toro like beauty and vision to its theatre yet still bears a tempestuousness that stirs the spirit and defiance inside; the Stuart Adamson (Skids) like grooves and hooks icing on its travelogue honed cake.
Dia de Muertos emerges from a sonic wasteland with sentiment borne strands of melody, those addictive rhythms again quickly casting their inescapable coaxing as the track bears its traditional and cultural inspirations. Another saunter and adventure which feels like an enlightening journey, one taking the listener to the heart of Mexican and Azteca life past and present, the track makes way for the immediately confrontational and pugnacious breath of Colibri del Sur. From the warmongering incitement of rhythms to the fractious growl of El Patron the sensational track prowls and preys on the senses with increasing tetchiness and enterprise, all the time casting melodic vines of radiant temptation and intimation of past history and injustices.
The final pair of Tlalocan and Mictlan brings the release to a riveting end; the first from within the organic welcome of a rainstorm reveals a subterranean world of shadows and light. The paradise intimation of melodic suggestion is aligned and tempered by the dark/death metal breeding of the band’s sound, a sense of death and lost souls finding some kind of peace emerging in the imagination before the album’s closing track takes ears and thoughts to another mythological underworld the dead travel. As with all tracks, sung in the band’s natural language, our imagination conjures the tales we suggest to you, thoughts potently aided by the band’s eventful and rousing sounds.
With drama and intensity courting every note, whisper, sigh and sonic weave, Mictlan is an impressive end to one glorious release. Legion Mexica proved pure addictive and revelation with every twist and turn, its fusion of sounds and styles a cathartic spark to body and imagination. It may have been out a few months now but as we advocated earlier, Aztlan’s second album should not be missed.
Legion Mexica is out now via Metal Inside Records; available @ https://aztlanofficial.bandcamp.com/album/legion-mexica
Copyright RingMaster Review