What might initially read as a Kesey-esque hallucinatory figment is instead a context free translation of ancient Tenochtitlan based Mexicas’ (Aztecs) primary god of war. Hurler of spears and vibrating with the dark energy of the ‘left’ side of the world Huītzilōpōchtli is himself the Sun locked in an eternal battle with his brothers (celestial bodies) and sister (the moon); His very conception was believed to have been through immaculate means, a point of rage for his siblings that’d incite creation and posit the constancy of war represented through the cycle of night and day. Though historians don’t always agree on the role of Huītzilōpōchtli prior to Itzcoatl (1428–1440) he would incontestably become the primary god of war and a major point of worship for the rise of Aztec religion and culture across the entirety of the Nahuas (indigenous Mexican and Salvadoran peoples). As militarism consumed central american culture so persisted the bloodiest, most torturous sacrificial rites at that point in history. In the minds of the Mexicas the belief was that to strengthen Huītzilōpōchtli was to strengthen Tenochtitlan and prevent the cyclical apocalypse that threatened the world every fifty-two years. Southern California pagan black/war metal project Blue Hummingbird on the Left arrive at their debut in serious invocation of ancestral warrior culture and bearing ‘Atl Tlachinolli’, a ‘difrasismo’ representative of the collision of blood and fire into third entity, a signet to represent the coming and constancy of sacred war.
Although indigenous central american themed extreme metal has a long and brilliant history today few black metal circles receive as much notoriety as the Black Twilight Circle of southern California (Long Beach) who generally focus on atmosphere, dissonance, and obscurae in their brutal worship of ancient Mexica culture. Though not all use traditional instrumentation or rhythmic influence all call upon thick and weaving darkness in channeling their tribute to warrior culture. Split releases with groups such as The Haunting Presence and Bone Awl have helped to bring to light the stunning works of bands like Muknal, Volahn, and now we’re served with this debut from Blue Hummingbird on the Left. At the center of just about every band you could mention within the Circle you’ll find musician Volahn (Eduardo Ramírez) aka Yayauhqui who has been active in the southern California black metal scene since the early 2000’s starting with the fairly underrated Ashdautas. Though you will no doubt see and hear the lineage of the Black Twilight Circle in Blue Hummingbird on the Left‘s debut full-length, this is a step into greater clarity and aggression markedly different than the other Volahn lead output so far.
With Volahn handling both the drumming and rhythm guitar interactions the concept of the albums sound and structure should be immediately obvious. The crossover between the obscuration of modern war metal and ancient pagan black metal is stunning but it is vocalist/flutist Tlacaelel who immediately brings personality to Blue Hummingbird on the Left. It wasn’t as if he was void on ‘Bloodflower’ (2014) EP but here on ‘Atl Tlachinolli’ he growls and echoes his bloody warrior mantras with the voice of leadership, quite the feat considering the compelling weave of Volahn‘s songwriting. Howls, yips, chants, and delay soaked roars all contribute to a primal and energetic record that never dips in its expressive quality. The guitar work itself surprisingly lifts up from the muck of war metal you might’ve expected after their splits with Volahn and Kallathon and towards the primal scrimmage of Mortuary Drape and spiked fury of early Katharsis. No doubt the less thoughtful war metal fandom will want more punkish blood and the pagan metal crowd will yearn for melody and restful interlude but folks well indoctrinated with the grimier side of Vrasubatlat and Rhinocervs releases should easily grasp the unhinged appeal of ‘Atl Tlachinolli’.
The echoing delay of the vocals is at once distinctive and a bit of a cliche in certain smaller war metal sects and though Von, Revenge and Beherit have had tryst with savage echo it will certainly invoke the experimental barks of Sect Pig. “Blood Flower” and “Hail Huitzilopochtli” are all the more memorable for that performance but once the disorienting psychedelic thrill of the vocal effects wears a bit, the guitar work is what truly shines on Blue Hummingbird on the Left‘s debut; “Storm” is exactly that, a perfect whirling gust of wailing riff and vomited rhythmic bark. Much of this will be expected as several of these songs have appeared in nascent form on the bands EP and split releases but the middle of the record is where things take a more interesting turn; “Rain Campaign” is surprisingly intricate and melodic as it offers true highlight to the experience when set next to the atmospheric reminiscence of “Tenochtitlan”. The tracklist is surely littered with ideas that will meet the expectations of Volahn/Black Twilight Circle fandom but there is no denying that this debut is far more accessible in terms of melodic interest, ‘clean’ presentation and aggressive rhythmic appeal. It is a sharp debut from an inspired project and I can recommend it with some reasonable enthusiasm. Moderately high recommendation. For preview “Blood Flower” is a clear ‘hook’ and a grand entrance but the pairing of “Rain Campaign” / “Tenochtitlan” should convince most to try the full record.
¡Tletl! Ihíio, Itlátol. 4.0/5.0
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