Review: High Desert Queen & Blue Heron ‘Turned To Stone Chapter 8: The Wake’

It only took until Chapter 8, but the Turned To Stone series has finally given me a split where I have at least some basic familiarity with BOTH bands. Feeling like an informed reviewer is a novel and slightly disturbing experience for me, so let’s strap in and enjoy the ride – next time I’m sure I’ll be blathering about something I know literally nothing about.

High Desert Queen & Blue Heron 'Turned To Stone Chapter 8: The Wake' Artwork
High Desert Queen & Blue Heron ‘Turned To Stone Chapter 8: The Wake’ Artwork

First up we have High Desert Queen from Austin, Texas, who released their debut album Secrets Of The Black Moon on Ripple Music back in 2021. I remember it as a really solid album of catchy heavy rock and the band have been busy since with a European tour so extensive it came within 20 miles of Basingstoke.

High Desert Queen kick the split off with Black Moon, which I can only assume was going to be the title track of their album and then got inexplicably left off – inexplicable because it’s a seriously kick-ass tune. The track is more doom and grunge flavoured than I remember the rest of the album being and its mid-paced plod really locks into a sweet groove. There are nice guitar harmonies and a ripping guitar solo just to polish things off. I’d forgotten how good a voice singer Ryan Garney has and there’s something about how his vocals sit in the mix that reminds me of some band back in the day. Player’s Club maybe? I’ll get back to you.

Next up is Drift Into The Sun, showing their quieter, mellower side. In terms of guitar tone and the overall feel of the song, it’s very much like one of the brooding, low-key songs that Monster Magnet would drop onto their records on occasion. Think Your Lies Become You and you’re not a million miles off. Good stuff. Last up is Roll The Dice, a more straight-forward rocker with a decent chorus. It’s a solid tune at a little over four-minutes but not much more than that really.

On the flip side are Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Blue Heron who I think would be the best card in any sort of stoner rock Top Trumps set, should such a thing exist. Apart from hailing from a real desert, Blue Heron are fronted by Jadd Shickler – co-founder of MeteorCity Records and All That’s Heavy webstore (ask your parents), who now runs Blues Funeral Recordings. Because that clearly isn’t quite enough scene cred for one man, he also fronted Spiritu (ask your parents again seeing as you contacted them in the previous sentence) and recruited old bandmate Mike Chavez to play guitar.

another excellent entry into the Turned To Stone series…

Blue Heron’s debut album Ephemeral was one of the musical highlights of 2022 for me with its gritty take on old-school stoner rock so I was looking forward to this. Kicking off with Able Baker (possibly an apt reference to the first two nuclear bomb tests conducted on Bikini Atoll) Shickler shows off his ability to slip effortlessly between a pleasant croon and a throaty roar. It’s not all about Jadd either – the guitar and bass alternate between bouncy old-school stoner riffs and pounding, hypnotic stoner-doom sections both of which are excellently done.

Day Of The Comet is next and delivers an expert blend of mid-paced desert-tinged fuzz. It builds to an eery climax that really harks back to the early days of stoner rock and the very first QOTSA records. The Blue Heron side rounds off with Superposition, another cracking tune based around an awesome heavy riff that could have happily featured on any number of Man’s Ruin releases.

Clearly, Chapter 8 is another excellent entry into the Turned To Stone series, but two things to note before I head off on my merry way. Firstly, I wanted to point out that the artwork by Johnny Dombrowski on this record is awesome. Not normally something I would bother mentioning, but the ‘50s sci-fi comic-inspired cover is so good I felt like I needed to.

Secondly, my only real criticism of the record: it’s length. I’ve reviewed the previous seven instalments of the series and they’ve all fallen squarely into the expected parameters of your old split LP – two EPs adding up into one normal length album. Chapter 8 doesn’t quite occupy a full half-hour and both sides of the record, while excellent, both feel a track light. In terms of format, it feels more like one of Heavy Psych Sounds EP-and-a-bit Doom Sessions records. Certainly not something to dissuade you from listening, but it seems strange to stray from the formula this far into the series.

Label: Ripple Music
High Desert Queen: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Blue Heron: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Liam Blanc