Review: “Visions Of The Dead” by El Chapo

Named after Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, a Mexican drug lord and former leader within international crime syndicate the Sinaloa Cartel, El Chapo have been a around the block and them some since their 2020 demo EP “Breakfast at Riffany’s” saw them bury their flag in the dirt and claim Bristol as their own. Known for an explosive blend of Sludge Metal and Hardcore Punk, the trio have not only successfully navigated the Underground Metal scene, sharing stages with everyone from Mercury’s Well to Street Solider, but also dropped a record every year since. There ain’t many who can say that and went on the live to tell the tale and even fewer who cite influences in Crowbar, Iron Monkey and Gatecreeper

2023 saw El Chapo drop twin track EP “Cold World“, a record with distinctive old school Stoner Sludge vibes and Black Sabbath flavoured riffs and with a DIY or DIE attitude and a little more intensity “Visions Of The Dead” continues the bands journey down the left hand path in a similar vein. “Introducción” servers as a instrumental opening cut that sets the tone without deviating from the path offering hints of Groove Metal and Hardcore in the process and feeling like it was recorded live on the floor with its energy. Raw and punchy “Out Swingin’” brings the down tuned riffs while turning up the heat and intensity a little more, the clean and crisp drum sound a nice counter weight to the Sludgy guitar tone. A headbanging cut to raise a poison chalice to live, the partially buried vocals and demo like quality of the recording give it a charm and warmth that other more polished releases don’t have. “Wronguns” then brings the shout-a-long chorus to the Kings table as well as a step up to Hardcore Punk speed in the final third gives it a little more of a cutting edge. As a three piece, it feels like the band have pushed the bass up in the mix so it’s acting more as a second rhythm guitar at points, something which suits the sound well.

Going low and slow for an extended instrumental introduction “Demon Eyes” is an obvious stand out with its staccato riff breaks and angst laden vocals. Gang chanted parts change things up as the band lean on 90’s Hardcore roots, cranking out chunky riffs with alarming regularity. A fine example of the fact that music doesn’t have to be complex to be fun, the stripped down approach of El Chapo works because it is done so well. They’ve chosen their sound and they’ve sanded down the rough edges by playing their material live and that time has been well spent as its reflected in the qualities of this offering like broken glass glinting in the dirt. Slowing things down with a herb infused spoken word introduction and some mellowed out riffs “Visions of the Dead” then comes to life with an earworm riff as a cautionary tale of what happens if you smoke too much weed too often. Laying down some vicious unclean vocals Merv Hembrough of Priest Crippler fame gives this heavy hitter painted in Sludge infused Hardcore another dimension before the downtempo final verse accompaniment shatters glass at 50 paces [7.5/10]

1. Introducción
2. Out Swingin’
3. Wronguns
4. Demon Eyes
5. Visions of the Dead (ft. Merv Hembrough of Priest Crippler)

Visions Of The Dead” by El Chapo is out 9th May 2024 and is available over at bandcamp

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