If you’re a fan of death metal and/or grindcore, chances are that you’ve at least heard of Brujeria. Conceived in 1989, they’ve had a long list of associated musicians, featuring members of some of the most influential bands in hardcore and metal, including Fear Factory, Napalm Death, Dead Kennedys, and At The Gates, to name a few. All the members play under stage names, posing as Satanic members of a Mexican drug cartel, singing lyrics in Spanish that are violent and racially charged. The band has seen a number of controversies due to their confrontational stage personas, violent lyrics, and the infamously gruesome artwork on the band’s first full-length album, Matando Güeros. After a 16-year wait, and a brief hiatus, Brujeria return with their latest LP, Pocho Aztlan.
Picking up where they left off with 2000’s Brujerizmo, Brujeria take on a more groove-oriented sound, as opposed to the scrappy, raw deathgrind-oriented sound of their early material. While there is still plenty of death and grind in the band’s sound, as can be heard on songs like “Satongo” and “Culpan La Mujer,” now the tone is a bit more refined, and the musicianship is a little tighter. “Profecia Del Anticristo,” for instance, sounds more like the new material from Soulfly than from Carcass, thanks to the mid-paced riffing, tribal drumming, and thick bass lines. “Angel De La Frontera” has a similar feel, and even delves into an almost gothic industrial sound towards the end, akin to Fear Factory (despite the fact that Dino Cazares is no longer a member). Rather than watering the sound down, however, these groovier numbers add another dimension to the band’s brutal onslaught, and are quite enjoyable. “Debilador” has an old-school sounding production, that serves as a bit of a throwback to the band’s older material, though the difference in production quality between the rest of the album and this one track is somewhat distracting, and creates a disjointed effect. A re-recording/re-written version of the famous Dead Kennedys anthem “California Uber Alles,” renamed “California Uber Aztlan” here, showcases the band’s punk roots and sense of humor. There are lot of sound clips, as should be expected on any Brujeria release, but they don’t really distract too much from the songs, and help push the “Mexican drug cartel” persona a bit further.
If you’re new to Brujeria, the gimmicky nature of the band might wear a little thin pretty quickly, and the humor might be a tough pill to swallow. I found myself skipping some of the tracks, like “Plata o Plomo,” which had some great groovy riffs, but had sections of vocals that were just a little too similar to rapping vocals for comfort. “Codigos” is another one that might divide some opinions; I personally like the eerie gothic vibes that are incorporated towards the end, but it could turn off fans looking for an all-out sonic beat down. It’s often difficult to tell if the band is trying to celebrate Latin culture with tongue planted firmly in cheek, or if they’re genuinely unaware of the caricature that they come across as. Regardless of the band’s intentions, though, you can’t deny that they still have plenty of aggression left in the tank.
While Pocho Aztlan isn’t without its weaknesses, longtime Brujeria fans will find plenty to be happy about, and it can even be a great place to start if this is your first time hearing the band. The humor might not be for everybody, but as is the case with many grind/death metal bands, Brujeria are meant to be offensive, and should definitely be taken with a big grain of salt (with some lime and tequila, of course).
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