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High Desert Queen - Secrets of the Black Moon Award winner

High Desert Queen
Secrets of the Black Moon
by Hutch at 17 December 2021, 12:39 AM

I’m partial to a bit of stoner rock, especially when it’s sun-baked from the desert sun. When HIGH DESERT QUEEN’S debut dropped in October I was enthralled and it’s no surprise to see it appearing in those end of year lists. When it arrived in the inbox, I smiled at another opportunity to get the listening gear involved with this album again.

Formed in 2019, the band relocated from Houston to Austin to accommodate bassist Matt Metzger and drummer Phil Hook. It’s a move that has paid dividends, for “Secrets of the Black Moon” is more addictive than a Covid vaccination booster and provides much more pleasant side effects. It’s the perfect length in just under 40 minutes, with the epic conclusion of the eight minute “Bury the Queen” held until the final song.

It’s always interesting how bands choose the running order on albums and HIGH DESERT QUEEN have played it straight. “Heads Will Roll” opens with a bass sound that could wake the dead, overlaid with fuzzy guitar work and a simple and effective drum beat that crashes like waves on the ocean shore. This provides the platform for Ryan Garney to immediately add his quality, his rich and soulful vocals matching the underlying riffs with a style that few can match. It’s a slow burning song, allowing the listener to ease into the album without any panic. As the track meanders along, Rusty Miller’s guitar suddenly bursts into life with a fine solo. It’s a good start and we are up and running.

Delve deeper into the record and we get the thunderous combustion of “The Mountain vs the Quake”, with its resonating riffs, the gentle pause in the mid-section before more rolling grooves conclude. “As We Roam” and its infectious groove demands attention whilst the Eastern interlude of “The Rise” which segues into the literally soaring “Skyscraper”.

But in case you think this is all similar stoner tunage, HIGH DESERT QUEEN has one or two tricks up their sleeve. Roll in “The Wheel” which combined some spleen moving bass with a gorgeous melody, some of Garney’s best singing on the release and a couple of blisteringly good solos from Miller. It all combines into possibly the song of the album. I say possibly because you cannot ignore just how good “Bury the Queen” is. There’s more than a touch of the Sabs here, the bass eerily reminiscent of “Black Sabbath” in the early parts and it is crushingly heavy, like elephants dropping paving slabs from a seventh-floor window heavy. Garney roars, the rhythm section shifts the earth off its axis, and you just slip into a stoner coma of gargantuan proportions.

A massive debut, “Secrets of the Black Moon” is magnificent from start to finish. The playing is exceptional, the songs constructed with craft and passion and overall, it’s just a stellar release.

Songwriting: 9
Musicianship: 9
Memorability: 9
Production: 8

4 Star Rating

1 Heads will Roll
2 The Mountain Vs The Quake
3 As We Roam
4 Did She?
5 The Rise
6 Skyscraper
7 The Wheel
8 Bury the Queen
Ryan Garney- Vocals
Rusty Miller- Guitar
Matt Metzger- Bass
Phil Hook- Drums
Record Label: Ripple Music


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