Fans of Brujeria‘s past works will take comfort in knowing that the band succeeds in trying to maintain that thick, dirty sound that has accompanied them on their previous releases. While clearly done at a modern studio, the rawer elements and thicker bass presence take center stage to weave an album that hits the ear drums as if it were released twelve years ago. The distorted harsh vocal style is ever-present against a slight distance on the crisp drums and down-tuned guitars assure you that the band remembers what made their presence in the metal world so threatening beyond the gimmick and press releases. The music, however, is another thing all together.
Even through Brujeria has always done a good job at offering up a nice selection within the death metal and grindcore worlds, Pocho Aztlan ends up a bit too varied for its own good, often running songs that just don’t feel as intimidating as they could or should be. In fact, this is how the effort kicks off. “Pocho Aztlan” starts with an audio sample that sounds like a mixture of native american tribalism with Danny Trejo drug lord undertones, or even Soulfly crossed with the violent nature of Gorerotted‘s “Only Tools and Corpses”. The atmosphere charges forward as though it were to carry a restrained industrial tone, though there are some crossover aspects in the bridges, chorus, and even the vocals that offer a clashing Gwar sensation that dilutes the threat levels greatly.
“Profecia Del Anticristo”, however, is a nice representation of the group’s death metal roots. The deep riffs and pulsating bass lines coupled with the aforementioned vocal effects and layering make this infectious track as intimidating as it is just fun as hell to listen to. When the drums offer up some ritualistic patterns, however, it all comes together in a truly uncompromising offering to Quetzalcoatl that will immediately have you wanting to run to the nearest living thing and kill it. Unfortunately, this is the only one that really stands out for that style. If anything, Pocho Aztlan seems to pride itself on the grindcore more than anything else.
“No Aceptan Imitaciones” grinds forward to remind listeners they are hearing the one true Mexican cartel of death and grind, and death to all imposters. The furious blast beats are met with a stereotypical higher pitch Spanish voice chiming in from time-to-time, a staple on this release and others prior, offering up a truly brutal experience that only lets up for a catchy groove laden break about two minutes in. “Mexico Campeon” isn’t quite as hard-hitting, but the celebratory chorus does amplify a sense of pride and excitement one would expect at a soccer game or the Olympics that the main verses only lightly hint at.
While Pocho Aztlan doesn’t include the current hit single “Viva Presidente Trump!” for some reason, this does collect two of the last songs issued through Roadrunner Records upon the band’s return. The 2008 single “Debilador” is present in all its wondrous hardcore punk and grinding glory. This isn’t a re-recording [as far as I know], but the audio quality is nearly on par with the rest of the new songs recorded for this album. Of course that crushing doom inspired conclusion is still pretty damn punishing overall. The Dead Kennedys cover dubbed “California Uber Aztlan” also makes an appearance and, well, it is what it is really. It’s good, but nothing that remarkable, much like most of this album as a whole.
After multiple spins trying to find anything really good or bad worth highlighting about on this long-awaited release, there just really isn’t much to make note of. Pocho Aztlan isn’t a bad album, but rather an okay one with a few killer tracks worth checking out. Nothing on it really got boring ten spins in, and similarly by the twenty mark. Brujeria is back but the magic just isn’t quite there. Perhaps we’re too far from the last album to have gotten a solid follow-up, the recently inducted members El Clavador on drums (Daniel Erlandsson, Arch Enemy) and Anton Reisenegger (Criminal on bass just don’t mesh with the cultural sound, or maybe its the fact that all the members have all been outed at this time killing the joy of pretending that perhaps there’s at least one actual drug lord in the mix somewhere. Either way, Pocho Aztlan won’t really let you down, but it won’t be the album in their discography you go running to for a quick fix.