At the risk of inciting kvltboi rage here from the word go, one of the reasons I have such an appreciation for black metal stems from the way its relatively straightforward musical template allows for so many different stylistic combinations. Granted, not all of those combinations work–some of the European folk metal offshoots seem a bit silly to me, particularly the stuff that sounds like polka music–but I’d be willing to wager that there have been more fusions of black metal and other styles of music than cringeworthy ones. Honestly, humppa music notwithstanding, I tend to like a lot of the pagan/folk bands.
That being said, I’m not sure I’ve quite encountered a pagan/folk black metal band like Tezcatlipoca before, though. The Leon, Mexico-based outfit is far from band I’ve heard incorporate indigenous Mexican instruments and themes into their music. Hell, the Black Twilight Circle/Crepúsclo Negro bands like Volahn and Anrizmenda have been doing it for at least a decade now. However, instead of taking a similarly raw approach to the black metal aspect of their sound, Tezcatlipoca draw from a different set of influences that end up giving them a more polished sound. Not too polished – no one’s going to mistake their sophomore full-length Tlayohualtlapelani for a 1349 record or anything – but hen they summon the spirits from what they call the ‘Cult of the Ancient Mexicans,’ there’s a welcome sort of clarity in their call.
Tlayohualtlapelani will be available on October 19 from Iron Bonehead Productions (watch for ordering information here), but we’ve got the full album for you here today at the Vault. I also had the chance to chat with bassist/vocalist Yaotl about the band’s history and their themes, so make sure to check that out as well.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey, so thanks for the interview. While Tezcatlipoca isn’t the first black metal band I’ve heard that have incorporated ancient Mexican themes and musical elements into their music, Tlayohualtlapelani doesn’t sound quite like any other album I’ve heard in that style. Before we get to that, though – I’ve not been able to find much information about the band online: you formed in 2011, released your debut Ipehualtiyayohually in 2015, and now you’re getting ready to release its follow-up Tlayohualtlapelani on Iron Bonehead. That’s it. No demos or splits, which is kind of rare these days. Is there a reason you’ve decided to take your time and just focus on full-lengths instead of the occasional shorter release?
Yaotl: Hi everybody. Thank you Indy Metal Vault for this interview.
The main reason of the delay in the album release was because we wanted to make a sequence from the first full-length album. We wanted to establish a connection between each album, so I was afraid to release a demo and break that connection, but now, we are in process of releasing a split every two albums so we can make alliances with other bands.
IMV: Tezcatlipoca (trans. ‘Smoking Mirror’) is one of the main deities in the Aztec religion, a rival of Quetzalcoatl who was associated with a variety of concepts including war, jaguars, hurricanes, obsidian, the earth, and the night sky. What was it that drew you to that particular deity? Did you know from the very beginning of the band that you wanted to focus on the “Cult of the Ancient Mexicans,” as you put it on your Facebook page? At what point did you decide to write all your lyrics in Nahuatl?
Y: We analyzed several names for the band, and as the approach was something serious and we know the influence of Tezcatlipoca, we decided to give strength to the band with that name.
Obviously the approach is 100% related to the cult of our land and the ancient gods. That was the initial intention when we were forming the band.
From the beginning of the band we had contemplated an alternative vision to what was previously heard, and we looked for a closer relationship to our roots and we wanted to recognize the Nahuatl language.
IMV: I’ve tried to figure out the significance of the title Tlayohualtlapelan, but (unsurprisingly) there aren’t any good Nahuatl translation sites online. From what I have found, the ‘tlayohua’ part translates as ‘it gets dark,’ and the rest could be a reference to Tlillan-Tlapallan (‘place of the black and red color’), where Quetzalcoatl fled in shame after Tezcatlipoca got him drunk on pulque and convinced him to neglect his duties and have sex with his sister, the celibate priestess Quetzalpetlatl, eventually committing suicide by self-immolation and transforming into the morning star. Am I even close with that? What is the meaning behind the title? Is there any theme or concept from the title that runs through the album?
Y: We appreciate your interest and your arduous investigation since we understand the difficulty of doing research in that language. There is little information about it and actually we asked for a translator girl for help.
The title of the album means “Nocturnal glorification.” There is a connection with the previous album, because Ipehualtiyayohually means “where the night begins” and that’s where wars are unleashed to see a new sun.
IMV: Musically, you incorporate “autochthonous” or Prehispanic instruments into your songs. Can you talk a bit about what specific instruments you use? The flutes are pretty easy to pick out, but I don’t know enough about Prehispanic music to be able to tell how many different kinds you use or what they’re called.
Y: Prehispanic music has a vast array of sounds that could be similar to flautes. However, they are instruments with different sounds such as: shell, jaguar claw, death whistle, Tezcatlipoca flaute, rain stick and whistles that emulate sounds of different animals or natural environments.
IMV: Aside from the use of indigenous instruments, I find the black metal part of your sound to be somewhat surprising. Maybe it’s because I’m used to the Black Twilight Circle bands that incorporate flutes into their sound like Kuxan Suum or Shatan, who either play raw black metal or barely play black metal at all. Your sound is fairly polished by comparison. There are a handful of songs like “Huey Tlatoani,” the first track you released from Tlayohualtlapelan, that almost have a post-punk feel to it with their drums and prominent bass lines, and even when you’re in full-on black metal mode there’s barely any of the Norwegian ‘tremolo-and-blasting’ style in your music. I generally hate ‘what are your influences?’ questions, but I’m genuinely curious here – where did Tezcatlipoca’s unique sound come from?
Y: We have some admiration for bands like: Nocternity, Peste Noire, Kroda, Temnozor and Black Metal in general.
It is the result of a combination of musical ideologies among the members of the band, generating a dark and somber sound that seeks to go back in time and provide an experience that goes back to our ancient rituals and ancestors.
Hahaha and because we like black metal music 🙂
IMV: I’ve not seen any of the recording information for Tlayohualtlapelan, but it sounds fantastic. Where did you record it – in a studio, or are you more of a DIY band? And since the subject fascinates me, are you a band that’s picky about what gear you use? What did you use in the studio? Was it all that different than what you use when you play live?
Y: Tlayohualtlapelani was recorded at Control Z Studio by Lobo, mixed and mastered at Sound Cool Studio by Is.
No, we are not demanding. We only look for a clear sound and fidelity in our ritual acts to offer a good show.
It was different equipment but it is intended to create the same sound both live and in the recording studio. We are not conformist but we easily join the possibilities of each organizer.
IMV: Speaking of playing live, what are your shows like? Do you incorporate any sort of ancient ritualistic elements into your performances? The face paint you wear doesn’t look like the traditional corpse paint – is there some sort of significance to those designs?
Y: The goal of our show is to create a dark and somber atmosphere that transmits the power of Mexican Black Metal to each one of the spectators.
Yes, all our autochthonous instruments played live are part of a ritual element. The corpse paint we use is specific and we rely on our old Mexican warriors.
IMV: The cover art for Tlayohualtlapelanis very striking. Who was the artist? Can you explain the image a bit? It looks like there’s a bit of sorcery happening there.
Y: The artist was Federico Ruiz for both albums, because he is the one who best understands our ideology.
The graphic representation refers to a nocturnal ritual in which Tezcatlipoca and his alter ego Quetzalcoatl appear. In spite of the influence of one or another deity, the relationship between nocturnality and the ideology that prevails concludes with an offering the cult to the night.
IMV: What are your plans after Tlayohualtlapelan is released? Is there any chance of playing shows in the US at any point?
Y: Our plans contemplate the diffusion of the album at our shows in Mexico.
We are open to the possibility of offering shows in different parts of the world, although it would be difficult to perform a show in the US due to immigration requirements.
IMV: Thanks again for being willing to answer a few questions. I like to leave the last word to the artist – anything else you want to add?
Y: I, Yaotl, in the name of Tezcatlipoca, appreciate the interest in our band and our ideology. We want to thank to this magazine as well for your time and space.