Although this review should in fact have been done weeks ago, there’s something highly appropriate about finally writing it at this point in time. I happen to be in Mexico on a business trip, and that’s even in Monterrey, one of the places in this otherwise lovely country that has been marred by drug related violence over the past years. Colleagues have told me how they used to come from outside Monterrey and how they’d enjoy going out here and have fun.
Not so anymore. They got scared. And I don’t get it. My colleagues here are the most wonderful people. Open and hardworking people. And what you see outside is two types of heavily armed police and the army constantly patrolling the main roads in vans, and you’re advised not to leave your hotel. Terrible business, this is.
No wonder that some extreme music artists can find inspiration in this climate of careless violence and total lack of respect of human life in the quest for the white gold.
The initially mysterious gang of supposed drug lords called Brujeria were ones to grasp the idea around 1990. They did make an impression, that much is true. The imagery they used was horrific and obviously banned in all sorts of places where pictures of decapitated heads weren’t in fashion for album covers. Their music was equally brutal, and the themes likewise. Much death was dealt with!
But, you see, that is part of life. And the way human beings are being treated in the Monterrey area is also a fact of life, absurd as it may be. For an old thrash metal fan like myself who cried hell yeah when Metallica sang about societal and moral injustices, there is no reason in hiding the fact that not everything is dandy in the world of men. It certainly isn’t, and I actually thought it was kind of brave of Brujeria to bring this out in the open.
The masked gang turned out to be not exactly drug lords by profession, but musicians who paid and pay their dues in bands like Fear Factory, Carcass and Napalm Death and there’s front man Juan Brujo, a Los Angeles native born by Mexican parents.
It’s amazing that the band has survived so long when you think about the likelihood of something that’s actually a non-band coming together to record a new album – but then again, it’s been 16 years since the last one.
Anyhoo, here it is: A new album by Brujeria, entitled ‘Pocho Aztlan’ (Wasted Promised Land).
Is it good? Yeah.
Is it brutal? Yup. But it is also groovy in its own way.
If anything, I’d say that this is Brujeria as you’d expect it. It combines the sounds of the above-mentioned bands, and for the record, I don’t find that half bad. Add to that Juan Brujeria’s shout/vocal and a few gang shouts in the background. It’s kind of hardcore stylistically, only heavier and, well, better in my humble opinion and offers lots of variation.
For example, Plata O Plomo is a tune to jump to with its Fear Factory anno late nineties touch, just more brutal and direct because of the Spanish vocal whereas Satongo is a full-on blast monster. Isla De La Fantasia is a staccato riff banger with Slayer elements, and Bruja offers a lot of atmosphere and an almost danceable (!) verse part, and so the examples of great things go on.
Is it a perfect album? No. There are bits and pieces that simply make you think that the album could have been 40 minutes rather than 46. Debilator has a middle part that’s going kind of nowhere, and this is the case in three or four instances across the album. But no matter, this is overall a really good album, and Brujeria’s take on California Uber Alles is very entertaining.
California Uber Aztlan indeed.
- Pocho Aztlan
- No Aceptan Imitaciones
- Profecia Del Anticristo
- Angel De La Frontera
- Plata O Plomo
- Isla De La Fantasia
- Mexico Campeon
- Culpan La Mujer
- California Uber Aztlan
Playing time: 46 minutes
Release date: 16th of September, 2016
Label: Nuclear Blast