High Desert Queen, Secrets of the Black Moon (Ripple Music 2021)

Groovy, fuzzy, and ever soulful, High Desert Queen brings its music to the masses with Secrets of the Black Moon.

Austin, Texas desert rockers High Desert Queen are fairly new to the scene but have already landed a firm position in the melee. Mystery surrounds the band with only sparse photographic evidence and in-person experience to speak on their essence. Setting aside the who, what, and when, listening to their music is what really pays off.

There are seven songs and a quirky element on Secrets of the Black Moon. First up: “Heads Will Roll.” Confident riffs greet you along with a general fuzziness and a welcoming vocal entreaty – you gotta roll my head, it says. All right then. “The Mountain Vs. The Quake” is the story of achievement and “As We Roam” echoes a secret without revealing it completely. All of this is wrapped in an irresistible package of hypnotic guitar rhythm and lead. It is hard rock, indeed, and desert rock, for sure, and you might find there is a state-altering component too if you listen for it.

Side two road a little harder on me, and I liked it. “Skyscraper” offers up a very heavy riff at the start paired with gentle, coaxing vocals. “The Wheel” has the swing of doom, broadcasting as it does a deep and somber tone and vocal melancholia. “Bury The Queen,” an ode, churns slowly like the purposefully roiling of the primordial ocean, manifesting a formless creation to the endless wonder of a newly interested universe. The music can be thought provoking if you want to take it that way, or you can just ride along and let it be part of you. The choice is yours and there are no wrong answers. Recommended.

Secrets of the Black Moon is out now through Ripple Music. You can snag your copy from the label’s Big Cartel site or through the ever-ready Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/secrets-of-the-black-moon

High Desert Queen website, https://highdesertqueen.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/highdesertqueen/

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/high-desert-queen-secrets-of-the-black-moon-deluxe-vinyl-editions

High Desert Queen, Secrets of the Black Moon (Ripple Music 2021)

Crystal Spiders, Morieris (Ripple Music 2021)

The second Crystal Spiders album, Morieris, is an even bigger deal than the first.

The duo Crystal Spiders released their first long-player just last year, Molt. I listened to that album as recently as two weeks ago. It has been on my mind ever since it came out. There is just something about the music that mesmerizes and lingers in your mind. The phrase “highly anticipated” doesn’t really capture my state of mind leading up to the drop date of the new album, Morieris.

The band is Brenna Leath (bass) and Tradd Yancey (drums). Joining them for the session on guitar is Mike Dean. There is also a guest appearance by High Priestess Nighthawk of Heavy Temple on cello.

The first song of the set starts out spacey and groovy, leaning into the mystery with hypnotic vocals and spell-casting guitar. That’s the title track. “Septix” comes next and lays a commanding bass up front to set the stage, turning into a rambler after ninety seconds or so – the perfect accompaniment for a drive down a dark country road at night alone.

“Harness” brings the doom and then shifts to high-test. The middle section of reflective solo work is a breath before the charge starts again. Indeed there is a lot of up-tempo music on this album, offering an excellent balance to the more ethereal passages. “Pandora,” for example, is a two minute rager that perfectly sets up the epic “En Medias Res,” a song that takes all the time it needs, offering desert overtones and tantalizing strings over eight sumptuous minutes.

“Maelstrom” and “Golden Paw” are the final two songs, the former being a super fuzzy, adrenaline-fueled spectacle and the latter a contemplative cool-down. Having heard Molt we might have been able to anticipate the general form on the new album but we could not have known its breadth and depth. Morieris is excellent in every way – concept, composition, and execution. Highly recommended with no reservations.

Morieris is out now through Ripple Music. Bandcamp and the Ripple store are linked below. You know how this works – the physicals often go fast so if you are a collector you want to jump on it.

Band photo by Marissa Straw.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://crystalspiders.bandcamp.com/album/morieris

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/crystalspidersinmymind/

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/crystal-spiders-morieris-deluxe-vinyl-editions

FFMB review of Molt, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/09/28/crystal-spiders-molt-review-ripple-music-2020/

Crystal Spiders, Morieris (Ripple Music 2021)

Witchcryer, When Their Gods Come For You (Ripple Music 2021)

Austin, Texas heavy metal band Witchcryer offer up a new set of songs filled with beguiling incursions.

Witchcryer has its origins in the upper Midwest with guitarist Jason Muxlow and saw its completion a little farther south with Javi Moctezuma (drums), Marilyn (bass), and Suzy Bravo (vocals). There is a heavy doom in the atmosphere and desert rock in the stylings. But then, see, the vocalizations often come in from another realm entirely, and there are transitions you wouldn’t expect from a doom or desert rock band. So this then is Witchcryer, its own category. Their inaugural album, Cry Witch, set a high bar and the new one, When Their Gods Come For You, sails right over it.

There are eight songs on the album and every one of them has its own way of taking you over. The clomp and wallop of “Hellmouth” is quantitatively mesmerizing. When the vocal enters it seeks your ears like an shaman’s ayahuasca chant. “Nemesis, The Inevitable” is a deadly serious declaration delivered with such surety it is almost matter-of-fact, as if this statement of intent has already happened. It’s right in the title, I guess: inevitable.

“The Devil & The Deep Blue See” lures with a mystic enheartening almost solemn in nature while “I Rise!” is a full-force charge at resistance, ending in conquest and victory. And then there is the title track which anchors the set. It begins gently, patiently. The music builds hypnotically, unnoticed until you start to feel the walls shaking around you. Quiet again, and then another swell. Suzy Bravo makes everything believable, her every word, and Jason Muxlow seals the story with mesmerizing guitar work. When Their Gods Come For You is definitely one of the best desert-doom-heavy-dark-blues-metal-rock albums of the year. Highly recommended.

Out now from Ripple Music, you can catch up at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/when-their-gods-come-for-you

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/witchcryer/

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/witchcryer-when-their-gods-come-for-you-deluxe-vinyl-editions

Witchcryer, When Their Gods Come For You (Ripple Music 2021)

Doctor Smoke, Dreamers and the Dead (Ripple Music 2021)

The second album from Ohio heavy rockers Doctor Smoke stirs the cauldron and speaks the words.

The Witching Hour came out in 2014. That album set a rattle in my bones that still gives me a tingle now and then. The music is a collaboration with darkness and groove, horror and insight, and it presents the world to you in a way you might not have thought about before. And yet it rings absolutely true. There are not a lot of groups who can do that, so Doctor Smoke occupies a rarified ethereal realm. The band is Matt Tluchowski (guitar and vocals), Steve Lehocky (guitar), Jeff Young (bass), and Cody Cooke (drums).

Ten sinister tracks of rock and metal mayhem, that’s what Dreamers and the Dead is. The tendency is toward mid-tempo enhanced by an enthusiastic flair that moves the music along like an evenly distributed accelerant. Rebellious shifts abound revealing alcoves and clandestine mysteries. As an example, “These Horrid Things” is a song burbling with variegation and insistent twists highlighted by elegant guitar work. And it is not the only one. The entire album is an enigma in the sense that it is fascinating – a reliably wicked puzzle from which you cannot look away.

I particularly appreciate “What Lies Beyond” with its lounge-tuned section followed immediately by a ripping lead break, and title track, with its blunt assessment of the nature of reality. This album absolutely cracks. I was enormously impressed by the band’s first album, and I like this new one even better. If you don’t yet have Doctor Smoke on a playlist you are really missing out. Highly recommended.

Dreamers and the Dead is out now from Ripple Music. You will find the digital, CDs, vinyl, and merch at the links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://doctorsmoke.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/doctorsmokeband

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/doctor-smoke-dreamers-and-the-dead-deluxe-vinyl-editions

Doctor Smoke, Dreamers and the Dead (Ripple Music 2021)

Turned To Stone Chapter III, Wizzerd vs. Merlin (Ripple Music 2021)

Ripple Music’s battle split series Turned To Stone throws down on Chapter Three with Wizzerd vs. Merlin.

The previous Turned To Stone splits are Chapter 1: Enter Galactic Wasteland by Mr Bison / Spacetrucker and Chapter 2: Masamune & Muramasa by Howling Giant / Sergeant Thunderhoof. These both came out in 2020 and they are magnificent musical pairings. As with Chapter 2, this new release has each band contributing a single song that runs a full side length.

From Kalispell, Montana, Wizzerd goes toward the fuzzy psychedelic realm with their entry, “We Are.” It starts out with forest creatures in the background and an acoustic guitar on its own. It is a slow build from there. Soon enough the electric fuzz kicks in and we are rolling. There are many movements, expansions, and explorations over the course of nineteen minutes. It is a beautiful and curious thing.

Merlin, from Kansas City, Missouri, has a more epic- and quest-like take on their side, “Merlin’s Bizarre Adventure.” I got a Grail lore feeling on the opening notes. The vocals are very mysterious and a little disturbing. This one is a trip, too, but of a whole different kind. There is a peppy jazzy break fairly early in the twenty-two minute run and it is an identity that returns. Toward the end the spooky comes back. Well done.

I love this split series because it either introduces me to bands I didn’t know before or gives me new music from bands I already follow. The synergy of the artistic twinning is icing on the cake. Recommended.

This one is out now. On the digital album, there is also a single edit of each song if you are short on time. Check out Ripple Music’s site or Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/turned-to-stone-chapter-iii-wizzerd-vs-merlin

Wizzerd Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/wizzerddoom

Wizzerd Bandcamp, https://wizzerd.bandcamp.com/

Merlin Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/MERLIN666

Merlin Bandcamp, https://merlin666.bandcamp.com/

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Turned To Stone Chapter III, Wizzerd vs. Merlin (Ripple Music 2021)

Yawning Man, Rock Formations (Ripple Music 2021)

The classic album from Yawning Man, Rock Formations, gets a re-release through Ripple Music.

Originally unleashed in 2005 by Alone Records, Rock Formations has become a reference point for music with psychedelic desert vibes. The musicians are Gary Arce (guitar), Alfredo Hernandez (drums), and Mario Lalli (bass), and they created something that was immediately admired by both fans and peers.

Spacey desert surf music is what you can expect, heavy on all those attributes. That’s on every song. Each one has its own particular memorable inflection and direction. You can’t forget the opener, “Rock Formations,” because it gets at you first with its beguiling ways. “Perpetual Oyster” has compelling and engaging percussion that stands out, and then “Stoney Lonesome” is an unforgettable melancholy whisper. 

“Advanced Darknuss” has a very sinister construction, despite the title. It does not instill dread, but it definitely creates a mood. I could say the same thing about “She Scares Me” but I would mean something very different. That song puts me in mind of a David Lynch movie. For a complete switch in mood, try “Buffalo Chips,” which makes me feel like I am in a 1960s western being filmed in Spain. 

This instrumental music is sometimes haunting, sometimes quirky, and at other times it sparks nostalgia in you on an individual level. This album is groundbreaking, and it will be considered a classic whenever enough time passes for that label to kick in — I wouldn’t feel bad about calling it that already. If you haven’t heard it yet, this new incarnation is an excellent opportunity. Recommended.

Rock Formations is out now in digital and vinyl and can be had through Bandcamp or Ripple Music’s site.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/rock-formations

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/yawningmanofficial

Yawning Man website, http://yawningman.com/

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Yawning Man, Rock Formations (Ripple Music 2021)

Ripplefest Texas, August 7, 2021

Taking place at the Texas Ski Ranch in New Braunfels, Texas, Ripplefest is going to be a day of crushing music.

The line-up will eat you alive: Mothership, Wino, Freedom Hawk, Howling Giant, Void Vator, Bone Church, Witchcryer, Holy Death Trio, Thunderhorse, Switchblade Jesus, Forming the Void, High Desert Queen, Mr Plow, and Fostermother.

We have reviewed many of these bands in the past year or two and this will surely be a festival to remember. Get ready for some of the best desert, doom, heavy music there is.

At this writing there were still tickets available. Hit the link below before it is too late.

Ripplefest Texas Tickets, http://www.outhousetickets.com/Event/17387-Ripplefest_Texas/

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products

© Wayne Edwards.

Ripplefest Texas, August 7, 2021

Bone Church, Bone Church (Ripple Music 2021)

The self-titled album from Bone Church gets a re-issue with bonus tracks.

One of my favorite albums from 2020 was Bone Church’s Acid Communion. It is as solid a set of blues-infused heavy groove you are likely to come across. Each song is an extension and a complement to the one before. It is fantastic.

When you hear a record like that, you want to go back and listen to everything else the band has released. Ripple Music is making that easy for you with a deluxe re-issue of the first Bone Church album. The new edition has the complete original Bone Church set plus two live tracks.

As soon as you drop the needle on the first album you see where the second came from. The music is heavy metal laid down with the confident ease of musicians channeling primal elements. “Altered States” and “Pale Moon Sacrifice” are my favorite tracks but they all qualify as top picks. These are the two songs that have live versions included on the re-issue so that puts me over the moon.

Bone Church is going to be at Ripplefest Texas on August 7th and I can’t wait to see them play live. At this writing you can still get tickets to that event (link below) so grab them while you can.

Bone Church is out now. Don’t let another day go by without hearing it. Highly recommended.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/bone-church-reissue

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/bonexchurch/

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/bone-church-s-t-reissue-limited-digipak-cd

Ripplefest Texas tickets, http://www.outhousetickets.com/Event/17387-Ripplefest_Texas/

Acid Communion review, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/06/03/ripple-round-up-2020-round-01/

Bone Church, Bone Church (Ripple Music 2021)

Boss Keloid, Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music 2021)

The soundscape presented by the new Boss Keloid album Family The Smiling Thrush rivals the stirring of primordial oceans.

Going back more than ten years, Boss Keloid has been creating some of the most interesting and sweepingly original heavy music on the planet. They have a way of translating musical complexity and quirkiness into a common language that everyone can hear. The band is Paul Swarbrick (guitar), Alex Hurst (vocals and guitar), Ste Arands (drums), and Liam Pendlebury-Green (bass).

Sometimes sounding a bit like Emerson, Lake, and Palmer while at other times moving more in a Zappa vein and then suddenly shouldering a hard turn into the inexplicable, Boss Keloid’s music cannot be predicted. Family The Smiling Thrush opens with the nine minute track “Orang of Noyn.” The song defies succinct description. Heavy prog rock is a functional label but it leaves a lot out. The music takes you over and you quickly lose track of how long you have been listening. If another song hadn’t started after, I am not sure how long it would have taken me to realize the first track had ended.

“Gentle Clovis” is up second and it has a reassuring anthropological feel to it. You get transported back to the 1970s with the keys and guitars in the lines, riffs, and echoes. There is a battering drama at the end that is entirely appropriate and it runs right on into the next piece, “Hats The Mandrill.” If you are not feeling the scope of the musical vision at this point then you should start the album over and try again because by now it should entirely surround you.

There are builds big and small throughout, all of them engaging, and welcoming and demanding, too, simultaneously. I was particularly swept up by the pair “Smiling Thrush” and “Cecil Succulent.” I suspect that the experience will land differently for individuals and yet still I wager there will be places you are drawn to, no matter how much you like the work in its entirety. There will be a part that takes hold of you and finds something to fulfill you didn’t even know was wanting. The album is elemental. Recommended.

This one is out tomorrow. Some of the limiteds have already flown, but you can still get physicals through Bandcamp or Ripple Music, and the digital is there, too.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://bosskeloid.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/bosskeloidband

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Boss Keloid, Family The Smiling Thrush (Ripple Music 2021)

Wytch, Exordium (Ripple Music 2021)

The debut album from Sweden’s Wytch is a rugged and dynamic statement of intent burgeoning with both straight-forward and clandestine perambulations.

Formed in 2017 as Aska, the band released an EP under that name and then switched to Wytch for their first long-player, Exordium. The musicians have performed with numerous other bands over the years, including Vintersorg. The roster is Simon Lundström (bass), Fredrik Nilsson (drums), Niklas Viklund (guitars), Mattias Marklund (guitars), and Johanna Lundberg (vocals).

There are eight tracks on the album. Each song is set up with a clever and catchy hook that the song develops around. It is a bluesy heavy psych sound defined by those rummaging guitar parts and Johanna Lundberg’s unforgettable, haunting voice. The zippy lead breaks are sometimes pepperpot shots and at other times are languid and insinuating. Sturdy bass and drum lines free the voice and guitars to crossover each other while simultaneously self-actualizing therewith, engendering a synergistic construct. It all sounds effortless but of course it couldn’t be. Music like this is rare.

Stand-out tracks for me are the pairings of expansive “Blood” with “Evil Heart” and doomy “Break You Down” with “You.” That’s half the set, isn’t it – I’m not really narrowing it down much. The thing is when you first hear any song on the album it immediately draws you in and holds onto you with a mystical spell that may or may not be sinister. It is not like a Siren song but instead it is more like the snowfall that awakens the intrepid journeyers in The Wizard Of Oz. It just doesn’t make any sense to stop listening. Recommended.

You can get Exordium right now. Look over the options at Ripple Music’s store or on Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/exordium

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/people/Wytch-Band/100063579726744/

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/wytch-exordium-limited-digipak-cd

Wytch, Exordium (Ripple Music 2021)