Pocho Aztlan

by: Brujeria

Ruling a drug-smuggling cartel with an iron fist and a taste for blood keeps a man busy, or so it would seem. Brujeria, the band whose members want you to believe they're machete-wielding lunatics from Mexico (though they're actually death metal and grindcore dudes who congregate in California), went 16 years between albums by the time they finally released Pocho Aztlan. While a lot happened during that downtime -- including a hiatus, plenty of touring, and the departure of two of the band's founders, Asesino (Dino Cazares of Fear Factory) and Güero Sin Fe (Billy Gould of Faith No More) -- from a musical standpoint, Pocho Aztlan makes it clear Brujeria are up to their dirty business as usual. The album boasts a more robust production than Brujeria's work of the '90s, with the fury of the guitars and drums sounding crisp and muscular as they drop heavy violence on the ears of their listeners, but the nature of the band's assault is very much the same. The volleys of minor-key guitar growling, precise machine-gun drumming, and rancorous Spanish-language vocals spat out in a howl of rage are as punishing as ever, and the bursts of six-string shrapnel from Hongo (aka Shane Embury of Napalm Death) and A. Kuerno (aka Chris Paccou) boast both ferocity and taut, surgical focus. The vocals from Juan Brujo (aka John Lepe) hit with the impact of a fist to the jaw, even if you don't speak English, and though there's plenty of jet-black humor on this album, you laugh at this depiction of a land in chaos at your peril. From a thematic standpoint, Brujeria don't break all that much new ground on Pocho Aztlan, as their obsessions with violence, drugs, and evil in various forms remain essentially unchanged. But in spite of the personnel changes and a long layoff from the studio, Pocho Aztlan sounds like a beating from a bunch of border guards, followed by a quick slice to the throat, which is exactly how Brujeria were meant to sound. Points added for closing with an inspired Dead Kennedys cover/rewrite. ~ Mark Deming

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