As the follow-up to 1998’s Ringmaster, Dusk (Brainticket/Metal Rising), the 2009 offering from San Antonio, Texas, doom bashers Las Cruces, is something of a surprise. Mostly because, since the band more or less called it quits after self-releasing the The Lowest End EP in 2001, there was a good chance we’d have never heard from them again. If for no other reason than because two out of the first three tracks on Dusk have the word “wizard” in their title, that would have been a damn shame.
But not only is Dusk a long time coming in the sense of it being a long time since the band put out their last release, but considering they got back together in 2004 and recorded the album between 2006-2007, it’s been a while on that scale as well. We can only wonder what caused the probably numerous delays that held it back from seeing official release, but finally holding a finished copy of the record, Las Cruces don’t seem to have missed a beat.
Dusk is dudely riffer’s doom. Mark Zamarron, who sings lead vocals on the album (since out of the band) isn’t afraid to let a little classic metal misogyny fly, as “Banished” and “Cocaine Wizard Woman” will attest, but there are souls being burned, Christians being slaughtered and no shortage of blood being spilled otherwise, so I don’t think it’s something particularly against women — they’re just also on the list. If you’ve ever felt like you need a how-to guide for penning heavy metal lyrics, a quick perusal of the Dusk liner notes will do you well.
I hesitate, though, to call Las Cruces traditional doom. Guitarists George Trevino and Mando Tovar know their Sabbath, but there’s a grittier, more uniquely American thrust to their tones that feels more in line with modern biker metal — the sans-cause lyrical rebellion of “Roll of the Die,” uncharacteristic though it is next to the rest of the album, backs up this thought. Las Cruces does play slow, at least for the most part, though, and in that they are wholly separate from any kind of cock rock or dipshit commerciality. So they’re doom. Modern doom with a gruff edge, working with a proven formula, riffs a-plenty and ass-kicking attitude. If there isn’t already a subgenre designation for that, all the better for the band.
The songs are memorable, heavy and varied enough to keep Dusk moving along, but the more you pay attention to it, and the louder you listen, the more you’ll find to dig into. Before I close out the review, it’s worth noting the bass work of Marilyn (since replaced by Jimmy Bell), who plays devastatingly heavy lines to go with the reverse snare hits of drummer Paul Deleon on the title track. The weight of that tone is among the highlights of Dusk, though there are plenty others to complement (“Revelations,” “Farewell” and “Grin,” for example). Considering the band doesn’t exist anymore in this form — Deleon having taken on the vocal role in Zamarron’s absence — Dusk thankfully arrived in time to capture this incarnation of Las Cruces, which, now that we have the album to go by, we know is something not to be missed by loyal doomers.Brainticket, Las Cruces, San Antonio, Texas