When I first stumbled over the band name TZOMPANTLI my tongue almost tied up in a knot, but when I read that they play Power Metal with some Mexican Folk, I couldn’t care less about my tongue, but wanted to hear what they were about. After several tries to get in touch with the band, it then finally worked out - “Aztec Blade” was mine. Now TZOMPANTLI are by no stretch a green band, they were founded way back in 1989 already, but still this one album and three demos under the name of INCEST under their belt, so talk about taking their time.
But anyways, lyrics about the Aztecs are something fresh and interesting and if the music also manages to convey that, I’m all for it. And “Clash In Mictlan”, the nine-minute opener sets out with something like a horn, some flute, thundering drums and some guitars, setting the atmosphere for an adventure back in time. The song itself is almost pure Power Metal, infused with some indigenous elements in the rhythm and also a return of the flute here and there, with Carlos G.T.’s high and a little peculiar (his timbre), but quite original voice over it, which I could imagine many people will be ready to criticize in the blink of an eye. The whole undertaking is a little hampered by the sound, which lacks a bit of clarity and breathes more the air of the 80s, but at the same time it gives TZOMPANTLI’s music some earthy authenticity that actually is a welcome change to the many sterile and slick productions of late.
Overall variety definitely is not a problem for TZOMPANTLI, as they cleverly vary speeds and intensity throughout and in-between the songs, “The Truth Behind The Glory” sets out slow, before ascending into mid-tempo, introducing a quiet passage and then erupting into a fast, driving part without disrupting the flow of the song, if I imagined this with a good production (here it gets a little too “authentic”, if you know what I mean), this song would be an absolute killer! And “Behind The Shadows” even takes on some thrashy hues with the partly frenetic pace and rough riffing, and even though some of the other tracks can’t keep up with the mentioned three crackers, they never dip below the standard.
The production values are the only setback to “Aztec Blade”, but they are more than weighed up by the song material and the willingness to stray from the beaten path, the voice is part of this, even though it might be held against them by some fans, who can’t get their ears to properly embrace it, overall TZOMPANTLI’s debut effort is a more than remarkable release from Mexico and should find the open ears of quite a few fans of Power Metal, it definitely worked with me!
(Online February 11, 2008)