Red Mesa and Sorcia Announce Intertwining Tours

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 28th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

red mesa (photo by Hayley Harper)

sorcia (photo by Jessica Brasch)

The information you want — i.e., the tour dates — is in the tour posters, but as you can see there, what’s happening is that Desert Records denizens Red Mesa (from Albuquerque) and Sorcia (from Seattle) are both going on tour in August, and for part of each run, the tours will combine.

Got it? So they’re not touring the entire time together, but they’re hooking up for a leg as part of each’s broader stint up and down the West Coast/inland. Lacking a good word for it is how you get to “intertwining” in the headline. I could’ve gone with “conjoined” or “joint,” but I felt like either of those would mean it’d be the two of them the whole time — you can see in the images Sorcia actually have more shows with Tigers on Opium, and both they and Red Mesa will share the stage with a bunch of others in the sphere of Desert Records along the way — whereas “intertwining” at least in my head implies joining with something else from a more solitary state.

And I’m sorry to get sidetracked on language here — I should be dropping review links, right? isn’t that how it goes? like someone’s gonna click that? — but I find words interesting and it’s nice to have an idea what to call a thing when it happens. If you have any other suggestions, hit the comments and please let me know.

Otherwise, the tour(s) announcement(s) follow here, courtesy of the reliably-paradigm-shifting PR wire:


Two of Desert Record’s power trios RED MESA and SORCIA, have announced their respective Western U.S. tours for August 2024. The bands will support each other on a leg from ALBUQUERQUE-SEATTLE.

A multitude of Desert Records bands will support including Nebula Drag, Dali’s Llama, The Penitent Man, Spliffripper, Grim Earth, Droneroom, Breath, Doors to No Where, and Fuzz Evil.

“We’ve been talking about doing a full Western US tour for years…and it is FINALLY happening! We couldn’t be more stoked to do the Albuquerque to Seattle leg with our dear friends Sorcia. As we support our latest album, ‘Partial Distortions’ we will be bringing the heavy desert rock to your city!” – Red Mesa

“We are very excited to announce that we are getting back on the road for another Western US Tour this August! For the first half we will be hitting the West Coast joined by our dear friends, Portland rippers Tigers On Opium. For the second half we will be linking up with our amazing Desert Records labelmates Red Mesa as we make our way through the desert and up through the Rockies, where we will end the tour by hosting them in Seattle for our tour homecoming. We are looking forward to hitting some new towns on this tour, and we have some killer bands lined up to support these shows, so stay tuned for individual show details. See you on the road!” – Sorcia

Red Mesa tour poster by Joey Rudell of Fuzz Evil / Sorcia tour poster art by Misanthropic-Art (poster layout by Jessica Brasch).

Red Mesa is:
Brad Frye – Rhythm and Lead Guitars, Lead and Backing Vocals
Roman Barham – Drums, Lead and Backing Vocals
Alex Cantwell – Bass Guitar, Lead and Backing Vocals, Additional Rhythm Guitars, Piano

Neal De Atley – Guitar, Vocals
Jessica Brasch – Bass, Vocals
Bryson Marcey – Drums

Red Mesa, Partial Distortions (2024)

Sorcia, Lost Season (2023)

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Fuzz Evil Post New Single “Wanderer’s Wake”; Smear Merchants Out Later This Year

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

fuzz evil

What do we know about Arizona’s Fuzz Evil? They’re songwriters. No matter what the Sierra Vista-based troupe led by brothers Joey and Wayne Rudell get up to on a given release — whether it’s their new single “Wanderer’s Wake” below, issued ahead of their Desert Records label-debut, Smear Merchants, or the 2023 full-length that preceded it, New Blood (review here), or anything else they’ve done over the eight years since their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) — they have songs. They’ve never been an overly self-indulgent band, never left their audience behind, and their catalog is that much stronger for it.

Even as they pivot to heavier fare with “Wanderer’s Wake” and introduce the lineup they revealed in January alongside their cover of The Cars‘ “Just What I Needed” (speaking of songwriters…), the song remains the priority, and that’s also what lets them pull off the dive into gruff vocals and harder-hitting tones without losing the plot. It’s a less friendly sound on the surface, but still very much Fuzz Evil in the underlying groove and structure. I would say it meets the stated intention toward more of a stoner-doomed feel, and not that I wasn’t already keeping an eye for Smear Merchants — not sure if it’s an EP or LP at this point, but it’s a title, which is more than you sometimes get — but I hear all the more reason to do so in the single’s sub-five-minute stretch.

TL;DR: New Fuzz Evil track mixes it up with a little bit o’ nasty to go around. Dig it:

fuzz evil wanderer's wake

“Wanderer’s Wake” is the first single from Fuzz Evil’s fourth studio record “Smear Merchants” to be released in late 2024 on Desert Records.

“We are always trying to evolve our music each record and with “Smear Merchants” it will be our take on more doom metal/stoner.” -FUZZ EVIL

As purveyors of chug-heavy, fuzz-laden riffs, this heavy rock ensemble unleashes a monolithic fuzzpocalypse that reverberates through your ears and straight to your soul. With raw, gritty Fuzz and unique tones, FUZZ EVIL combines baritone fuzz, extraordinary riffs, and heavy bass tones to create a sound that’s as soulful as it is earth-shattering.

To stay updated on Fuzz Evil’s latest releases and upcoming shows, follow them on handles here:

Song written by Fuzz Evil
Song Recorded, Produced, and Mixed by: Joseph Rudell
Art by: Joseph Rudell

Fuzz Evil is:
Vocals & Guitar: Wayne Rudell
Bass & Backing Vocals: Joseph Rudell
Baritone Guitars: Preston Jennings
Drums: Cajun Adams

Fuzz Evil, “Wanderer’s Wake” (2024)

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Cortége Premiere “The Relentless Sun” From Under the Endless Sky EP Out May 10

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 15th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

cortege under the endless sky

Based in Austin but generally found rambling through one open-highway tour or another, Cortége encapsulate a particular vista with their latest EP, Under the Endless Sky. Out May 10 as a self-release from the avant heavy post-Americana outfit — who in 2021 had two offerings on Desert Records in featured in the Legends of the Desert: Vol. 2 (review here) split with The Penitent Man and the prior short release Chasing Daylight (review here) — it resides very much in the band’s sphere of sounds that resonate traditionalism in their cinematic Westernism while also serving as the studio introduction for multi-instrumentalist April Schupmann, whose trumpet is a standout high-end complement to founder Mike Swarbrick‘s low frequency bass VI and the cymbal wash from drummer Adrian Voorhies as “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 2” sweeps in following the two-minute sounds-of-outside-plus-synth opener “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 1” in a near-immediate showcase of the dynamic that’s manifest in the band’s sound since Schupmann joined in 2021.

Those first notes resonating from “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 2” are presented with a starkness that calls to mind Angelo Badalamenti‘s work on the tv show Twin Peaks, which is also in the wheelhouse of alt-universe Americana, so fair enough. Eight years on from their debut EP, Cortége for sure have a defined modus they’re working from, but Under the Endless Sky emphasizes what the true appeal of the band has become, which is their evolution toward that ideal. The process of becoming. “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 1” is barely there at the start, with some rustling and wind chimes on a neighbor’s porch, layers of drone, a rattle, a vague threat looming before piano emerges to clear the air, soon joined by keyboard in the transition to the second part. One might wonder why Cortége would bother including an intro at all to an 18-minute release, but the easy answer is because it matters, especially when mood is so much of the point.

The tubular bells in “The Relentless Sun” — premiering below, and the only one of the included pieces not titled as part of the “Under the Endless Sky” procession, which I’d call a ‘cycle’ were it not so god damned pretentious to do so — will be familiar to those who’ve encountered Cortége throughout their tenure, but what emerges from that churchy beginning, bolstered by melodica from Schupmann as well as the drums and surrounding percussion, is a klezmer-esque bounce. With a bassline you could liken to Fugazi more than Morricone (gotta change it up, right?), what sound like handchimes for melodic flourish and choral keyboard, “The Relentless Sun” is only a little over three minutes long, but it brings new ideas to Cortége and finds a playful moment as it passes through its middle en route to the sharp turn at 2:24 when the bass returns. Tone and crash echo in the stops, and the drum fills between are tense, but Cortége have bigger fish to fry, aesthetically speaking, than just a volume-burst payoff.

Waiting on the other end of the final crash and wash of “The Relentless Sun,” an image of which you’ll recognize if you’ve ever driven across the Great Plains surrounded by the titular ‘endless sky’ itself that seems to touch the ground on all sides of you, deep blue with maybe some high clouds mercifully breaking up a monotone in which one just might drown — ironic since the ocean’s promise of escape is so far away — is “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 3,” which embarks on a lumbering roll in the drums and bass. Punctuated by tolling bells, synth and a melody that’s there in layers of keys and maybe-piano, it is most evocative for being somewhat vague and unknowable, and made huge by virtue of the bass, drums and its depth of mix.

cortege (Photo by Bryan Haile)

That Cortége could construct such a feeling of place isn’t a surprise given what they’ve done over the course of their two albums and various other offerings — I think they’ve discovered the EP format suits them, and it does, but there’s nothing to say a third full-length couldn’t or wouldn’t happen — but the mature grace with which they execute the eight-minute focal-point of the release isn’t to be understated, and neither is the breadth of the arrangement as horns and keys harness grandiosity with the rumble of bass still beneath like gravity stopping it all from floating away. As “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 3” rolls into its second half, some flourish of keyboard circa 4:30 steps out as more X-Files than Gunsmoke — not a complaint; I want to believe… in an expanded sonic palette — and over the course of the next minute, shift toward a droning stretch with the bells and thud/crash/wash of drums holding out. It becomes increasingly obvious they’re not coming back.

And just in case you thought they forgot or that they’d leave a plot thread unresolved in the otherwise so mindfully immersive sprawl, “Under the Endless Sky, Pt. 3” caps by fading out that last crash-laced synth/bass drone and returning briefly to a reprise of the EP’s intro, going so far as to include the windchimes again, which I swear to you I’m not imagining, however much that breeze seems to keep blowing after the track has actually stopped. There’s a lot to take in for a release that’s under 20 minutes long, but Cortége are that much more able to let the listener process what they’re hearing by conveying a sense of overwhelm — as surely the state of being Under the Endless Sky will do — without actually being too much or doing more than the songs seem to call for. More textured and progressive than they’ve yet been, and maybe more patient, which is saying something, Under the Endless Sky establishes this semi-new incarnation of Cortége in the band’s oeuvre while expanding the conceptual parameters there included.

In its overarching atmosphere and in the adventurous courses of its individual pieces, it shows Cortége‘s commitment to ongoing creative growth and leaves a trail behind of hints as to where that may be headed. Hitting play again to go back through Under the Endless Sky for another round, I can only look forward to discovering where it leads.

“The Relentless Sun” premieres below, followed by more info from the PR wire including your dates Swarbrick will do with Destroyer of Light, for good measure.




Instrumental, post-western, retro-futurism innovators Cortége will release their new album titled, Under The Endless Sky, worldwide on May 10, 2024.

Cortége (pronounced kor-‘tezh) is the French word for funeral procession. The band was co-founded in 2012 by Mike Swarbrick, who holds a degree in Mortuary Science. Originally rooted in doom, Cortége expanded into the realms of drone and electronic soundscapes. Drawing from early electronic composers, progressive rock icons of the ’70s, instrumental music, film score elements and the cowboy psychedelia-drenched guitar twang of famed Lee Hazelwood discovery Duane Eddy, the band’s sound continued to evolve and draw influence from the aesthetic of the old West. A hallmark of the trio’s sound is their use of tubular bells both in the studio and live.

Austin-based drummer Adrian Voorhies (Humut Tabal, Canyon of the Skull) joined the band in the fall of 2017. By 2021 April Schupmann (Sniper 66) joined on trumpet and percussion. Cortége will appeal to fans of Bell Witch, Earth, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Spindrift and Federale.

Under The Endless Sky was recorded at Red Star Mule Barn Sound Studio in Austin, Texas, and engineered by Sam Whips Allison. “The name of the album, came from touring and driving across the plains in ‘big sky country,'” says Mike Swarbrick.

The band has shared the stage with acts such as Mdou Moctar, Rezn, Hippie Death Cult, The Well, Duel, The Schisms and Dead Register. Cortége plans to tour and perform frequently in 2024. They are confirmed to play Surf by Surf East in Austin, Texas on March 2, 2024 at Hi Sign Brewing.

Under The Endless Sky track listing:
1. Under The Endless Sky part 1
2. Under The Endless Sky part 2
3. The Relentless Sun
4. Under The Endless Sky part 3

Sam Whips Allison: Engineering
Matthew Barnhart: Mastering
John Pesina, Bryan Haile: Photography
David Paul Seymour: Logo
April Schupmann: Layout
Rosie Armstrong: Saxophone
Kurt Armstrong: Trombone

Mike Swarbrick of Cortége on tour with Destoryer of Light:
4/10 – El Paso @ Rosewood
4/11 – Tempe, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room
4/12 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Usual Place
4/13 – Oceanside, CA @ The Pourhouse
4/14 – Palmdale, CA @ Transplant Brewing
4/16 – San Francisco, CA @ Knockout
4/17 – Portland, OR @ High Water Mark
4/18 – Seattle, WA @ Substation
4/19 – Boise, ID @ Realms
4/20 – Salt Lake City @ Aces High
4/21 – Denver – @ Black Buzzard
4/23 – Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge
4/24 – Oklahoma City, OK/Wichita, KS @ TBA
4/25 – Tulsa, OK @ Whittier Bar
4/26 – Van Buren, AR @ Iron Horse Records
4/27 – Little Rock, AR @ White Water Tavern
4/28 – Arlington, TX @ Growl

Cortége is:
Mike Swarbrick: bass VI, synthesizers, tubular bells, piano
Adrian Voorhies: drums
April Schupmann: trumpet, melodica, percussion

Cortége on Bandcamp

Cortége on Facebook

Cortége on Instagram

Desert Records on Facebook

Desert Records on Bandcamp

Desert Records store

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Ruben Romano to Release …Twenty Graves Per Mile on Desert Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

That was quick. Ruben Romano — he of The Freeks who did stoner rock the first time around drumming for the earliest incarnations of Fu Manchu and Nebula — released his Western-themed instrumental solo album, The Imaginary Soundtrack to the Imaginary Western Twenty Graves Per Mile (review here), digitally just last month, and in addition to the limited tape that Northern Haze was putting out (I think that’s still happening?), Desert Records has picked up Romano for what one assumes will be the CD and LP editions.

No word on a release date, as the announcement below is pretty preliminary, but there’s no reason to think such a thing couldn’t manifest by the Fall, schedules permitting. Either way, …Twenty Graves Per Mile is streaming now should you like to embark on its cross-prairie course, classic in its Americana sprawl and sun-baked psychedelic reach. It streams at the bottom of this post. I know you know this. I don’t know why I feel compelled to say it all the time. Gonna go punch myself or whatever.

The following comes from Desert Records‘ and Romano‘s social media:

ruben romano desert records signing

The DR roster is growing…


Ruben Romano is southern Cali desert rock royalty. Current drummer/guitarist of The Freeks and former founder/drummer of Fu Manchu and Nebula!!!

We are stoked and honored to have Ruben on board to help him release his solo album – The imaginary soundtrack to the imaginary western ‘Twenty Graves Per Mile.’ Cinematic spaghetti western/desert rock at its finest.

Says Romano: ‘A Super Huge “THANKS” to @desertrecords for having some faith in my musical efforts and letting me join their family! They will soon be releasing; “The imaginary soundtrack to the imaginary western,’ Twenty Graves Per Mile” my little audio homage to Great Frontiersmen, Westward Expansion and an Ode to Oxen. Please Check them out, their catalog is so diverse, as wide as the Great Plains and deep as all the deserts combined, ranging from the darkest of doom to the vast echoes of reverb. I am beyond elated!’

More news coming soon…

Ruben Romano, The Imaginary Soundtrack to the Imaginary Western Twenty Graves Per Mile (2024)

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, The Quill, Nebula Drag, LLNN & Sugar Horse, Fuzzter, Cold in Berlin, The Mountain King, Witchorious, Skull Servant, Lord Velvet

Posted in Reviews on February 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Day four of five puts the end of this Quarterly Review in sight, as will inevitably happen. We passed the halfway point yesterday and by the time today’s done it’s the home stretch. I hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been a lot — and in terms of the general work level of the day, today’s my busiest day; I’ve got Hungarian class later and homework to do for that, and two announcements to write in addition to this, one for today one for tomorrow, and I need to set up the back end of another announcement for Friday if I can. The good news is that my daughter seems to be over the explosive-vomit-time stomach bug that had her out of school on Monday. The better news is I’ve yet to get that.

But if I’m scatterbrained generally and sort of flailing, well, as I was recently told after I did a video interview and followed up with the artist to apologize for my terribleness at it, at least it’s honest. I am who I am, and I think that there are places where people go and things people do that sometimes I have a hard time with. Like leaving the house. And parenting. And interviewing bands, I guess. Needing to plow through 10 reviews today and tomorrow should be a good exercise in focusing energy, even if that isn’t necessarily getting the homework done faster. And yeah, it’s weird to be in your 40s and think about homework. Everything’s weird in your 40s.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Monkey3, Welcome to the Machine

monkey3 welcome to the machine

What are Monkey3 circa 2024 if not a name you can trust? The Swiss instrumental four-piece are now more than 20 years removed from their 2003 self-titled debut, and Welcome to the Machine — their seventh album and fourth release on Napalm Records (three studio, one live) — brings five new songs across 46 minutes of stately progressive heavy craft, with the lead cut “Ignition” working into an early gallop before cutting to ambience presumably as a manifestation of hitting escape velocity and leaving the planetary atmosphere, and trading from there between longer (10-plus-minute) and shorter (six- and seven-minute) pieces that are able to hit with a surprising impact when they so choose. Second track “Collision” comes to crush in a way that even 2019’s Sphere (review here) didn’t, and to go with its methodical groove, heavy post-rock airiness and layered-in acoustic guitar, “Kali Yuga” (10:01) is tethered by a thud of drums that feels no less the point of the thing than the mood-aura in the largesse that surrounds. Putting “Rackman” (7:13, with hints of voice or keyboard that sounds like it), which ends furiously, and notably cinematic closer “Collapse” (12:51) together on side B is a distinct immersion, and the latter places Monkey3 in a prog-metal context that defies stylistic expectation even as it lives up to the promise of the band’s oeuvre. Seven records and more than two decades on, and Monkey3 are still evolving. This is a special band, and in a Europe currently awash in heavy instrumentalism of varying degrees of psychedelia, it’s hard to think of Monkey3 as anything other than aesthetic pioneers.

Monkey3 on Facebook

Napalm Records website

The Quill, Wheel of Illusion

the quill wheel of illusion

With its Sabbath-born chug and bluesy initial groove opening to NWOBHM grandeur at the solo, the opening title-track is quick to reassure that Sweden’s The Quill are themselves on Wheel of Illusion, even if the corresponding classic metal elements there a standout from the more traditional rock of “Elephant Head” with its tambourine, or the doomier roll in “Sweet Mass Confusion,” also pointedly Sabbathian and thus well within the wheelhouse of guitarist Christian Carlsson, vocalist Magnus Ekwall, bassist Roger Nilsson and drummer Jolle Atlagic. While most of Wheel of Illusion is charged in its delivery, the still-upbeat “Rainmaker” feels like a shift in atmosphere after the leadoff and “We Burn,” and atmospherics come more into focus as the drums thud and the strings echo out in layers as “Hawks and Hounds” builds to its ending. While “The Last Thing” works keyboard into its all-go transition into nodding capper “Wild Mustang,” it’s the way the closer seems to encapsulate the album as a whole and the perspective brought to heavy rock’s founding tenets that make The Quill such reliable purveyors, and Wheel of Illusion comes across like special attention was given to the arrangements and the tightness of the songwriting. If you can’t appreciate kickass rock and roll, keep moving. Otherwise, whether it’s your first time hearing The Quill or you go back through all 10 of their albums, they make it a pleasure to get on board.

The Quill on Facebook

Metalville Records website

Nebula Drag, Western Death

Nebula Drag Western Death

Equal parts brash and disillusioned, Nebula Drag‘s Dec. 2023 LP, Western Death, is a ripper whether you’re dug into side ‘Western’ or side ‘Death.’ The first half of the psych-leaning-but-more-about-chemistry-than-effects San Diego trio’s third album offers the kind of declarative statement one might hope, with particular scorch in the guitar of Corey Quintana, sway and ride in Stephen Varns‘ drums and Garrett Gallagher‘s Sabbathian penchant for working around the riffs. The choruses of “Sleazy Tapestry,” “Kneecap,” “Side by Side,” “Tell No One” and the closing title-track speak directly to the listener, with the last of them resolved, “Look inside/See the signs/Take what you can,” and “Side by Side” a call to group action, “We don’t care how it gets done/Helpless is the one,” but there’s storytelling here too as “Tell No One” turns the sold-your-soul-to-play-music trope and turns it on its head by (in the narrative, anyhow) keeping the secret. Pairing these ideas with Nebula Drag‘s raw-but-not-sloppy heavy grunge, able to grunge-crunch on “Tell No One” even as the vocals take on more melodic breadth, and willing to let it burn as “Western Death” departs its deceptively angular riffing to cap the 34-minute LP with the noisy finish it has by then well earned.

Nebula Drag on Facebook

Desert Records store

LLNN & Sugar Horse, The Horror bw Sleep Paralysis Demon

LLNN Sugar Horse The Horror Sleep Paralysis Demon

Brought together for a round of tour dates that took place earlier this month, Pelagic Records labelmates LLNN (from Copenhagen) and Sugar Horse (from Bristol, UK) each get one track on a 7″ side for a showcase. Both use it toward obliterating ends. LLNN, who are one of the heaviest bands I’ve ever seen live and I’m incredibly grateful for having seen them live, dig into neo-industrial churn on “The Horror,” with stabbing synth later in the procession that underscores the point and less reliance on tonal onslaught than the foreboding violence of the atmosphere they create. In response, Sugar Horse manage to hold back their screams and lurching full-bore bludgeonry for nearly the first minute of “Sleep Paralysis Demon” and even after digging into it dare a return to cleaner singing, admirable in their restraint and more effectively tense for it when they push into caustic sludge churn and extremity, space in the guitar keeping it firmly in the post-metal sphere even as they aim their intent at rawer flesh. All told, the platter is nine of probably and hopefully-for-your-sake the most brutal minutes you might experience today, and thus can only be said to accomplish what it set out to do as the end product sounds like two studios would’ve needed rebuilding afterward.

LLNN on Facebook

Sugar Horse on Facebook

Pelagic Records website

Fuzzter, Pandemonium

fuzzter pandemonium

Fuzzter aren’t necessarily noisy in terms of playing noise rock on Pandemonium, but from the first cymbal crashes after the Oppenheimer sample at the start of “Extinción,” the Peruvian outfit engage an uptempo heavy psych thrust that, though directed, retains a chaotic aspect through the band’s willingness to be sound if not actually be reckless, to gang shout before the guitars drift off in “Thanatos,” to be unafraid of being eaten by their own swirl in “Caja de Pandora” or to chug with a thrashy intensity at the start of closer “Tercer Ojo,” doom out massive in the song’s middle, and float through jazzy minimalism at the finish. But even in that, there are flashes, bursts that emphasize the unpredictability of the songs, which is an asset throughout what’s listed as the Lima trio’s third EP but clocks in at 36 minutes with the instrumental “Purgatorio,” which starts off like it might be an interlude but grows more furious as its five minutes play out, tucked into its center. If it’s a short release, it is substantial. If it’s an album, it’s substantial despite a not unreasonable runtime. Ultimately, whatever they call it is secondary to the space-metal reach and the momentum fostered across its span, which just might carry you with it whether or not you thought you were ready to go.

Fuzzter on Facebook

Fuzzter on Instagram

Cold in Berlin, The Body is the Wound

cold in berlin the body is the wound

The listed representation of dreams in “Dream One” adds to the concrete severity of Cold in Berlin‘s dark, keyboard-laced post-metallic sound, but London-based four-piece temper that impact with the post-punk ambience around the shove of the later “Found Out” on their The Body is the Wound 19-minute four-songer, and build on the goth-ish sway even as “Spotlight” fosters a heavier, more doomed mindset behind vocalist Maya, whose verses in “When Did You See Her Last” are complemented by dramatic lines of keyboard and who can’t help but soar even as the overarching direction is down, down, down into either the subconscious referenced in “Dream One” or some other abyss probably of the listener’s own making. Five years and one actual-plague after their fourth full-length, 2019’s Rituals of Surrender, bordering on 15 since the band got their start, they cast resonance in mood as well as impact (the latter bolstered by Wayne Adams‘ production), and are dynamic in style as well as volume, with each piece on The Body is the Wound working toward its own ends while the EP’s entirety flows with the strength of its performances. They’re in multiple worlds, and it works.

Cold in Berlin on Facebook

Cold in Berlin website

The Mountain King, Apostasyn

the mountain king apostasyn

With the expansive songwriting of multi-instrumentalist/sometimes-vocalist Eric McQueen at its core, The Mountain King issue Apostasyn as possibly their 10th full-length in 10 years and harness a majestic, progressive doom metal that doesn’t skimp either on the doom or the metal, whether that takes the form of the Type O Negative-style keys in “The White Noise From God’s Radio” or the tremolo guitar in the apex of closer “Axolotl Messiah.” The title-track is a standout for more than just being 15 minutes long, with its death-doom crux and shifts between minimal and maximal volumes, and the opening “Dødo” just before fosters immersion after its maybe-banging-on-stuff-maybe-it’s-programmed intro, with a hard chug answered in melody by guest singer Julia Gusso, who joins McQueen and the returning Frank Grimbarth (also guitar) on vocals, while Robert Bished adds synth to McQueen‘s own. Through the personnel changes and in each piece’s individual procession, The Mountain King are patient, waiting in the dark for you to join them. They’ll probably just keep basking in all that misery until you get there, no worries. Oh, and I’ll note that the download version of Apostasyn comes with instrumental versions of the four tracks, in case you’d really like to lose yourself in ruminating.

The Mountain King on Facebook

The Mountain King on Bandcamp

Witchorious, Witchorious


The self-titled debut from Parisian doomers Witchorious is distinguished by its moments of sludgier aggression — the burly barks in “Monster” at the outset, and so on — but the chorus of “Catharsis” that rises from the march of the verse offers a more melodic vision, and the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Antoine Auclair, bassist/vocalist Lucie Gaget and drummer Paul Gaget, continue to play to multiple sides of a modern metal and doom blend, while “The Witch” adds vastness and roll to its creeper-riff foundation. The guitar-piece “Amnesia” serves as an interlude ahead of “Watch Me Die” as Witchorious dig into the second half of the album, and as hard has that song comes to hit — plenty — the character of the band is correspondingly deepened by the breadth of “To the Grave,” which follows before the bonus track “Why” nod-dirges the album’s last hook. There’s clarity in the craft throughout, and Witchorious seem aware of themselves in stylistic terms if not necessarily writing to style, and noteworthy as it is for being their first record, I look forward to hearing how they refine and sharpen the methods laid out in these songs. The already-apparent command with which they direct the course here isn’t to be ignored.

Witchorious on Facebook

Argonauta Records website

Skull Servant, Traditional Black Magicks II

skull servant traditional black magicks ii

Though their penchant for cult positioning and exploitation-horror imagery might lead expectations elsewhere, North Carolinian trio Skull Servant present a raw, sludge-rocking take on their second LP, Traditional Black Magicks II, with bassist Noah Terrell and guitarist Calvin Bauer reportedly swapping vocal duties per song across the five tracks while drummer Ryland Dreibelbis gives fluidity to the current of distortion threaded into “Absinthe Dreams,” which is instrumental on the album but newly released as a standalone single with vocals. I don’t know if the wrong version got uploaded or what — Bauer ends up credited with vocals that aren’t there — but fair enough. A meaner, punkier stonerism shows itself as “Poison the Unwell” hints at facets of post-hardcore and “Pergamos,” the two shortest pieces placed in front of the strutting “Lucifer’s Reefer” and between that cut and the Goatsnake-via-Sabbath riffing of “Satan’s Broomstick.” So it could be that Skull Servant, who released the six-song outing on Halloween 2023, are still sorting through where they want to be sound-wise, or it could be they don’t give a fuck about genre convention and are gonna do whatever they please going forward. I won’t predict and I’m not sure either answer is wrong.

Skull Servant on Facebook

Skull Servant on Bandcamp

Lord Velvet, Astral Lady

lord velvet astral lady

Notice of arrival is served as Lord Velvet dig into classic vibes and modern heft on their late 2023 debut EP, Astral Lady, to such a degree that I actually just checked their social media to see if they’d been signed yet before I started writing about them. Could happen, and probably will if they want it to, considering the weight of low end and the flowing, it’s-a-vibe-man vibe, plus shred, in “Lament of Io” and the way they make that lumber boogie through (most of) “Snakebite Fever.” Appearing in succession, “Night Terrors” and “From the Deep” channel stoned Iommic revelry amid their dynamic-in-tempo doomed intent, and while “Black Beam of Gemini” rounds out with a shove, Lord Velvet retain the tonal presence on the other end of that quick, quiet break, ready to go when needed for the crescendo. They’re not reinventing stoner rock and probably shouldn’t be trying to on this first EP, but they feel like they’re engaging with some of the newer styles being proffered by Magnetic Eye or sometimes Ripple Music, and if they end up there or elsewhere before they get around to making a full-length, don’t be surprised. If they plan to tour, so much the better for everybody.

Lord Velvet on Facebook

Lord Velvet website

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Sorcia Announce April Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2024 by JJ Koczan


Seattle sludge rockers Sorcia will hit the road in April to support their Desert Records-issued sophomore LP, Lost Season (review here), on a weekend-to-weekend stint around their appearance at Rocky Mountain Riff Fest in Kalispell, Montana, on April 20. Before they get there, of particular note is the Road to Riff Fest Showcase in Spokane on April 19, at which Sorcia will be joined by Mos Generator and Merlock, both also making their way to Kalispell the next day.

The regional run is certainly welcome news, and it follows a broader West Coast tour the trio undertook last summer around the time of Lost Season‘s July release. Still, Substation aside, it’s at least Sorcia‘s third escape from Seattle (cue a grunge-era Snake Plissken in the best movie the ’90s never made, and not a gritty reboot), and an occasion worth marking all the more with a revisit to the album, which you’ll find streaming below should you want to lose your head again in the lumber of “Entering the Eighth House,” which, yeah, you probably do.

Info from the PR wire:

Sorcia spring tour 2024 poster

Sorcia Spring Tour 2024


We are very excited to announce our Spring Tour 2024! We look forward to shaking walls around the NW with so many amazing bands as we make our trek to Rocky Mountain Riff Fest and back. More details to come, so mark your calendars and stay tuned!

4/18 – Ray’s Golden Lion | Richland, WA
4/19 – Road To Riff Fest Showcase | The District Bar | Spokane, WA
4/20 – Rocky Mountain Riff Fest | Eagles | Kalispell, MT
4/21 – Mikey’s Gyros | Moscow, ID
4/22 – Substation | Seattle, WA
4/26 – High Water Mark | Portland, OR
4/27 – McCoy’s Tavern | Olympia, WA

(Poster by Jessica Brasch)

Neal De Atley – Guitar, Vocals
Jessica Brasch – Bass, Vocals
Bryson Marcey – Drums

Sorcia, Lost Season (2023)

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Red Mesa Premiere “Witching Hour”; Partial Distortions Out April 19

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 14th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Red Mesa

Albuquerque desert metallers Red Mesa will release their fourth album, Partial Distortions, on April 19 through guitarist/vocalist Brad Frye‘s Desert Records with a Euro pressing on Majestic Mountain, and it is nothing less than the point at which they find their sound. The blend of grueling sludge and uptempo earthy groove on opener/longest track (immediate points) “ÓDR” shows a character that both 2020’s The Path to the Deathless (review here) and the follow-up willful-aural-divergence of the single “Forest Cathedral” (review here) hinted toward, but the balance between nod and aggression, the density of the atmosphere emerged from the tones, and the sense of the band having genuinely dug into their own approach are all palpable across an album that I can’t stop thinking of as a point of arrival. As potential realized.

That’s before you get to the Soundgardenery of “The Assertion” or the suitable roll and more forceful chug of “Desert March,” and, sitting back there waiting for you all the while, closer “Witching Hour,” which premieres today. Hints of a blend of doom, rock, metal and maybe even hardcore that reminds of Solace‘s brooding moments is met with a multi-layer vocal and an explosive back and forth in the hook that is worthy of the album it caps. The thing’s not our for two months, so I don’t want to sit here and review it before anyone’s ready. Think of this as me sharing a song I think you might dig in a spirit of friendship and a hope for making your day, week, whatever, better.

There’s a press quote from me floating around with the album. I was asked to give one and did, pretty straightforward. As a rule, I don’t run press quotes, even my own, because I should be having my own opinions instead of cutting and pasting someone else’s, but I’ll just say I stand by what I put there. This is a new level for the band. And there’s a lot to say about consistency in lineup, expanded input from the rhythm section in the writing process, exploring different sides of one’s personal influences, on and on. I’ll hope to have more to come as we get closer to the release.

“Witching Hour” premieres below. Partial Distortions is out April 19.


Red Mesa on “Witching Hour”:

“This is our foreboding tale inspired by the creepier elements of Stephen King’s “Pet Cemetery”. The closing track is heavy and dark with Alex taking the lead on vocals. Musically, the song consists of two sections that were organically brought together. The first half of the song consists of two riffs that Brad showed Roman and they recorded it into the voice memos of an Iphone in early 2021. The second half showcases a huge riff that Alex had been keeping in his back pocket for 20 years. Once the ending riff was worked out, the song came together quickly. We have been adding this song to our live setlists and is quickly becoming a staple.”

‘Partial Distortions’ shows a powerful return of the Albuquerque, NM heavy desert rock trio Red Mesa with their fourth full-length. The album will be released on April, 19th 2024 via Desert Records (North America) and Majestic Mountain Records (Europe).

This 6-track album features the same lineup from their 2020 release ‘The Path to the Deathless’ and the 2022 single ‘Forest Cathedral’.

The record shows further collaboration between band members as guitarist/vocalist Brad Frye, bassist/vocalist Alex Cantwell, and drummer/vocalist Roman Barham all contributed musically and lyrically throughout the album.

Red Mesa has been leading the new generation of desert rock by proving that the genre is capable of greater expanses. The trio has expanded their signature heavy desert sound on ‘Partial Distortions’ to include more doom and sludge metal moments. “Blackened desert” sound collages and an overall doomier and downright frightening musical path will confront the listener, as the album is darker musically and thematically. All whilst still dwelling within an optimism that instills hope that amongst the loss, the tragic endings, and the suffering that this existence brings, that life is still worth living.

Presale for limited edition LP and CD have begun on Bandcamp and and

Album cover gouache painting by Marco Blasphemator.
Gatefold and back cover photos by Hayley Harper.
Graphics and Layout by Dave Walsh.

Recorded by Augustine Ortiz at the Decibel Foundry in Santa Fe, NM in December 2022.
Recorded and mixed by Matthew Tobias at Empty House Studio in Albuquerque, NM in April, June, August, & October 2023.
Mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege in Portland, OR in October 2023.

1. ÓDR
2. The Assertion
3. Dying in the Cold Sun
4. 12 Volt Shaman
5. Desert March
6. Witching Hour

Red Mesa is:
Brad Frye – Rhythm and Lead Guitars, Lead and Backing Vocals
Roman Barham – Drums, Lead and Backing Vocals
Alex Cantwell – Bass Guitar, Lead and Backing Vocals, Additional Rhythm Guitars, Piano

Red Mesa, “Forest Cathedral” (2022)

Red Mesa, “Witching Hour” live in Albuquerque, NM, Jan. 27, 2024

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Red Mesa to Release Partial Distortions April 19

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 1st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Albuquerque-based trio Red Mesa laid a foundation for themselves in straight-ahead, gruff-but-not-necessarily-aggro desert-style heavy rock, and their 2022 standalone track, “Forest Cathedral” (review here, also streaming below), pivoted toward more of a classically doomed style — think Cathedral the band as well as things grandiose and churchy. Partial Distortions, which is the band’s fourth full-length and was recorded over nearly a year’s span, has been in discussion from Red Mesa for at least a year now, and they seem to hint below that the album continues to expand on where Red Mesa started out, which has kind of been their thing all along. Gradual, organic evolution.

Check out Majestic Mountain getting involved for the Euro release, while of course the North American edition will be handed by guitarist/vocalist Brad Frye‘s Desert Records, which much like the band has seen its definitions of ‘desert’ and ‘heavy’ willfully broadened. I do not think that’s a coincidence, and I do look forward to having more to come on the album before it’s out in April. There’s a premiere in the works for sometime between now and then, anyhow.

From the PR wire:

red mesa (Photo by Hayley Harper)

Red Mesa announce new fourth full-length album ‘Partial Distortions’ to be released on April 19th, 2024.

‘Partial Distortions’ shows a powerful return of the Albuquerque, NM heavy desert rock trio Red Mesa.

Desert Records will release the album on limited edition Vinyl LP, CD, and Cassette in North America and on digital download/streaming platforms worldwide.

“Red Mesa bring their signature heavy desert sound with more doom and sludge metal!” – Desert Records

Majestic Mountain Records will release a limited edition vinyl LP in Europe.

“It is an honor for Majestic to be involved in the release of Red Mesa’s excellent new album!’ – Marco Berg/Majestic Mountain Records

Presale will begin in mid-February.

The 6-track album features the same lineup from their 2020 release ‘The Path to the Deathless’ and the 2022 single ‘Forest Cathedral’.

‘Partial Distortions’ shows further collaboration between band members as guitarist/vocalist Brad Frye, bassist/vocalist Alex Cantwell, and drummer/vocalist Roman Barham all contributed musically and lyrically throughout the album. Red Mesa employs a three vocal attack as all band members share vocal duties.

The trio has expanded their signature heavy desert sound on ‘Partial Distortions’ to include more doom and sludge metal moments. “Blackened desert” sound collages and an overall doomier and downright frightening musical path will confront the listener, as the album is darker musically and thematically. All whilst still dwelling within an optimism that instills hope that amongst the loss, the tragic endings, and the suffering that this existence brings, that life is still worth living.

Recorded by Augustine Ortiz at the Decibel Foundry in Santa Fe, NM in December 2022.

Recorded and mixed by Matthew Tobias at Empty House Studio in Albuquerque, NM in April, June, August, & October 2023.

Mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege in Portland, OR in October 2023.

Red Mesa is:
Brad Frye – Rhythm and Lead Guitars, Lead and Backing Vocals
Roman Barham – Drums, Lead and Backing Vocals
Alex Cantwell – Bass Guitar, Lead and Backing Vocals, Additional Rhythm Guitars, Piano

Red Mesa, “Forest Cathedral” (2022)

Red Mesa, “Witching Hour” live in Albuquerque, NM, Jan. 27, 2024

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