Review: Maquahuitl – At the Altar of Mictlampa (Balamku, Feb 21)

A few years ago, I came across Blood of Kings and Ancestral Might, Maquahuitl’s debut cassette. I was initially apprehensive due to the last two words in the title, which might imply that the album is some sort of repugnant nationalistic manifesto (like so many other extreme metal albums, unfortunately). I was dead wrong, however; Maquahuitl does owe a lot of its distinct style to history and ancestry, but these things are incorporated in a reverent, almost mystical manner, steeping the music in a rich sense of antiquity even as it blazes forward with fresh-faced USBM zeal. On At the Altar of Mictlampa, Martin Tudon’s solo recording project thankfully hasn’t lost any of the lo-fi grit, breakneck speed, or colorful ritualistic flavors that hooked me so immediately when I first heard his music. Beginning with “Illumination of the Dead Sun (Tzontemoc),” a lively yet occult mood-setter, the album quickly takes off into fiery transcendence once “Roaring Rivers of Clashing Mountains (Apanohuaya – Tepetl Monamoclia)” hits. Infectious guitar melodies, impassioned howls, and immersive atmospheric stretches abound throughout At the Altar of Mictlampa, the music perfectly conveying the simultaneously beautiful and terrifying imagery presented by the cover; all blood reds, deep blacks, and sublime greens. Tudon’s songwriting has reached new heights here, especially with tracks like “Piercing Arrows of Unseen Hands (Temiminaloyan),” whose breathtaking instrumental intro conveys more raw emotion than I could ever have thought possible.

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