Full Album Premiere & Review: High Desert Queen & Blue Heron, Turned to Stone Ch. 8: The Wake

high desert queen blue heron turned to stone chapter 8 the wake

[Click play above to stream High Desert Queen and Blue Heron’s Turned to Stone Ch. 8: The Wake split LP in full. Album is out Friday on Ripple Music and available to preorder here for the US, here for Europe, and here on Bandcamp.]

It’s a quick listen to be sure at just 28 minutes, but Turned to Stone Chapter 8: The Wake, which follows a lineage of Ripple Music splits that goes back eight years to the beginning of a series called The Second Coming of Heavy that focused on then-up-and-coming acts like Geezer and Borracho, Red Mesa, Kingnomad, and so on. That series boasted 10 releases and Turned to Stone began in earliest 2020 with Mr. Bison and Spacetrucker (review here) and has continued to roll out two or three split LPs per year since, the latest bringing together Albuquerque desert grunge sludgers Blue Heron and Austin, Texas, purveyors of plus-sized riffs and melody High Desert Queen.

The reason the lineage is relevant — yea, one split begat another split and that split begat another split, on into biblical perpetuity — is that Turned to Stone Chapter 8: The Wake reminds distinctly of the prior series’ specific intent to bolster newer bands; a mission that it directly inherited. Both High Desert Queen (side A) and Blue Heron (side B) present three songs that arrive subsequent to their debut full-lengths, Blue Heron having released Ephemeral (review here) a year ago this week through Seeing Red Records and Kozmik Artifactz and High Desert Queen having made a justified splash on Ripple (pun absolutely intended) with late 2021’s Secrets of the Black Moon (review here), the recording sessions of which birthed the three songs included here.

Cohesion between the two bands in terms of sound isn’t hard to come by. Both are straightforward in their arrangements, putting weighted fuzz out front in their mix and backing it with mostly mid-tempo grooves, more nod than shove, and both have frontmen involved behind-the-scenes in the heavy underground, whether it’s Blue Heron‘s Jadd Shickler serving as a label manager for Ripple as well as Magnetic Eye Records (also under the SPKR Media umbrella, along with labels like Prophecy Productions, Testimony Records and others) and Blues Funeral Recordings (responsible for the PostWax series and releases this year alone from Dozer and Acid King, among others) or High Desert Queen‘s Ryan Garney heading the booking concern Lick of My Spoon Productions, putting on RippleFest Texas and slating shows and tours for his own band and others.

The fourth-wall-breaking, multi-tiered ‘scene’ contributions of Shickler and Garney give another dimension to Turned to Stone Chapter 8: The Wake — emblematic of the DIY manner in which heavy rock and roll has become what it is today; a worldwide subcultural phenomenon most people know nothing about — but none of it would matter as regards this split LP if the songs weren’t there. I’ll confess there was part of me hoping the High Desert Queen tracks — the mega-hooky “Black Moon,” the shorter, floating-but-not-an-interlude “Drift Into the Sun” and the telltale stoner boogie “Roll the Dice” — would be newer recordings, but one takes what one can get, and having “Black Moon” as a late-arriving semi-title-track from that album is welcome, the song fading in on feedback before its forward roll begins in earnest, a somewhat foreboding groove that turns out to be thick enough for everyone to ride opening up in the verse before the layered melody of the chorus.

high desert queen blue heron

Like the album from which they (didn’t) come, “Black Moon” and “Roll the Dice” — the lyrics in the latter seem to be the band asking themselves ‘should we go for it?,’ which is laughable with the hindsight of the two years they’ve spent mostly on tour in the US and Europe, where they’re touring even as this split is released — aren’t trying to play coy in their appeal. They make a space and fill it. “Roll the Dice” has an edge of metal in its post-solo finish, but never crosses over to outright aggression, and is much more a standout single in its impression than a leftover. “Black Moon,” with an even stronger hook at the outset, functions similarly, while “Drift Into the Sun” connects the two to create a sense of fluidity between them, strengthening and broadening the whole as a mini-EP on one side. Don’t be surprised when they show up as bonus tracks on the 10th anniversary reissue of Secrets of the Black Moon eight years from now.

Answering back with “Able Baker” (a Richard Scarry reference?), “Day of the Comet” and “Superposition,” Blue Heron run a thread between first-record-era Queens of the Stone Age in tone and oldschool sludge rock burl as guitarist Mike Chavez (who, like Shickler, was also in Spiritu), bassist Steve Schmidlapp and drummer Ricardo Sanchez smoothly establish themselves on side B. Immersion and atmosphere are prevalent as “Able Baker” runs through its five minutes, with a tonal-highlight of a solo in its second half answering the leads in its first, and melody met with due rhythmic force. “Day of the Comet” is deceptive in feeling looser but maintaining the strong grip on structure, and like High Desert Queen before them, Blue Heron cap with the speedier nod of “Superposition,” a righteous showcase that transposes Facelift-era Alice in Chains onto a foundation of modern heavy.

High Desert Queen and Blue Heron offer further complement to each other in the depth and apparent reach of their mix. Both bands sound big without being overblown or sacrificing craft to studio-born largesse. For committed heavy rockers or those who’ve followed along with the series, Turned to Stone Chapter 8: The Wake is a no-brainer. The kind of release you can pick up and see where it takes you. To those who are unfamiliar or have seen the names around but have yet to check out the songs, the sampler-style encapsulation of what they do is likewise convenient and actually-good. While they’re coming off their respective debuts, as noted, Blue Heron and High Desert Queen share a knowledge of what they want to accomplish in songwriting and performance, and that sense of control makes it that much easier as a listener to roll along to where the riffs are leading.

That destination might be the desert, if we want to talk about aesthetic, but the direction is forward, as both clearly have more to say than has been said here or on their respective first LPs. Ultimately stronger for its relative brevity, Turned to Stone Chapter 8: The Wake leaves the audience wanting more from one band and then the other, engaging with new takes on classic methods with a realized intent toward quality and fullness of sound. The only way to lose is by missing it.

Quotes from the bands, PR wire info, preorder and social links, etc., follow in blue:

High Desert Queen Blue Heron Turned to Stone Chapter 8 The Wake vinyl

Ryan Garney on Turned to Stone Ch. 8: The Wake:

“It’s an honor to share a split with Blue Heron. From the first time we saw this band play live we were immediately happy to do anything with these musical juggernauts. Incredible musicians and even better people. It’s also great to be able resurrect three songs from the dead. These 3 tracks didn’t make our debut record and we are happy they get to see the light of day in conjunction with three powerful songs from Blue Heron.”

Jadd Shickler on Turned to Stone Ch. 8: The Wake:

“Split releases work best when there’s a reason for them to exist. It’s easy to slap two bands on a record to fill up the album sides, but when there’s something to connect them, that’s when a split makes sense. Blue Heron and High Desert Queen are both from the Southwest, we’ve both got a shared love of massive desert rock and, whether we intend it or not, a lot of grunge influences. We also dig them as people and as musicians. We welcomed them for their first out-of-state show at our 7-inch release gig in 2021, and they hosted us at Ripplefest Texas last year. We respect the hell out of their ambition, their musicality, and their dedication to huge riffs, so it’s a real pleasure to share this record with them. As for the songs, we put a bit of pressure on ourselves. Our debut album came out just a year ago, and we wanted to follow that with a batch of new tunes that are compact and fairly straightforward, but still show our love for starting a song in one place and ending up somewhere radically different.”

“Turned To Stone Chapter 8: The Wake”
Out May 26th on Ripple Music
US preorder – https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products

European preorder – https://en.ripple.spkr.media/

Bandcamp – https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/turned-to-stone-chapter-8-the-wake

Pairing up two highly esteemed bands of the Southwest underground scene, “Turned To Stone Chapter 8” is a gigantic masterclass of heavy rock, with six tracks that will take you on a riff-fueled journey with no further ado! Between HIGH DESERT QUEEN’s versatile and massive-sounding heavy and BLUE HERON’s raucous and desert-shaped songcraft, it is no understatement to say that we are in presence of true forces of nature, an alliance between two up-and-coming greats of the US stoner and desert rock scene.

“Turned To Stone Chapter 8” will be available on May 26th in various vinyl formats as well as digitally, with preorders available now on Ripple Music. The artwork was created by award-winning comic and poster artist Johnny Dombrowski.

1. High Desert Queen – Black Moon
2. High Desert Queen – Drift Into The Sun
3. High Desert Queen – Roll The Dice
4. Blue Heron – Able Baker
5. Blue Heron – Day Of The Comet
6. Blue Heron – Superposition

High Desert Queen:
Morgan Miller – Bass
Phil Hook – Drums
Ryan Garney – Vocals
Rusty Miller – Guitar

Blue Heron:
Mike Chavez – Guitar
Ricardo Sanchez – Drums
Steve Schmidlapp – Bass
Jadd Shickler – Vocals

High Desert Queen on Facebook

High Desert Queen on Instagram

High Desert Queen on Bandcamp

Blue Heron on Instagram

Blue Heron on Facebook

Blue Heron on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Facebook

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Ripple Music website

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One Response to “Full Album Premiere & Review: High Desert Queen & Blue Heron, Turned to Stone Ch. 8: The Wake

  1. […] American heavy desert rockers High Desert Queen and Blue Heron are streaming the upcoming split album »Turned To Stone Chapter 8: The Wake« its entirety on The Obelisk! […]

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