Austin Texas’s High Desert Queen created a bit of a stir, signing to Ripple Music for their anticipated debut Secrets of the Black Moon. The band stated influences are eclectic, with such acts as Queens of the Stone Age, Tom Waits, Elder, Alice in Chains, and The Allman Brothers mentioned. With a palette like that in which to work from, the listener could reasonably expect a heavy, sonically diverse, most likely, at least, a little southern fried record, so does Secrets of the Black Moon sound like any of this?
For this reviewer, yes and no. The album opens strongly enough with the low-end, rumbling riff of Heads Will Roll before quickly hitting the pedal, turning the distortion off, and giving way to singer Ryan Garney’s gentle crooning. The song follows this loud-soft-dynamic throughout, before thrusting head first into to lead single The Mountain vs The Quake featuring a Down-style riff courtesy of guitarist Rusty Miller, and some nice rhythm work from drummer Phil Hook and bassist Matt Metzger, keeping that low end thumping along.
As We Roam follows the familiar loud-soft dynamic, the song has a nice build-up, if not predictable, as Garney’s soaring vocals beg the listener to help him to find a way. Did She features a flurry of decent riffage, and a touch of the aforementioned Queens of the Stone Age influence shows up, with some echo-y backup vocals, but this compliments the song, and works well on this track.
lumbering riffs meet loud-soft dynamics, all with Garney’s epic, ever-present crooning…
Skyscraper and The Wheel fall back into the heavy, lumbering riffs meet loud-soft dynamics, all with Garney’s epic, ever-present crooning. Bury The Queen carries a ton of heft initially, there’s some mountain-moving riffage going on, but as with the rest of the record, they slow it down to let Garney croon, although he’s at his most anguished on this track, really displaying his vocal prowess. Saving their best for last, Bury The Queen is an excellent choice, sequentially, as the album closer.
Secrets Of The Black Moon production is stellar, courtesy of legendary Swedish producer Karl Daniel Lidén (Lowrider, Green Leaf, Crippled Black Phoenix) with every instrument sounding massive, the effects where they need to be, and Garney’s voice melding well with the instrumentation.
As with any band, or any form of artistic self-expression, the art will connect with some more than others. High Desert Queen, and their debut album definitely connected with people. While I didn’t dislike the record, I found some of the riffs to be pretty stock, southern-style- stoner rock, which is expected, being their form Texas. Additionally, I think Garney is a good-to-great vocalist, yet I found his crooning and vocal stylings unwelcome at times. Again, art is in the eye of the beholder, as they say, or in this case, the ear of the listener. Secrets Of The Black Moon is a solid, well-executed, well–produced record, it just didn’t speak to this reviewer on the same level as it has to others.
Scribed by: Martin Williams