Review of the Compilation Land of Enstrangement, Volume 1

By: Octavio Ramos

On January 18, 2019, Desert Records unleashed a 22-song compilation of New Mexico bands of various genres. Titled The Land of Enstrangement, this compilation showcases bands tied to rock and roll but free to explore its various genres, which range from heavy metal and alternative rock to rockabilly and garage rock. The compilation’s title combines the state’s tagline, “Land of Enchantment,” with how many locals describe the area, “lonely” and “strange.” Twenty-three bands contributed songs for this excellent anthology.

Says Brad Frye of Desert Records, “This is a very rad release of New Mexico bands showcasing one song of their choice. It’s the bands’ choice to put forth a song that represents their sound and attitude. Lots of the songs have been previously released. However many of the bands on this comp are recording a new song for this album! Very exciting.”

Up first is Albuquerque’s Alien Space Kitchen, with its track “In the Mud.” Formed in 2010, this power trio plays space rock. “In the Mud” brings with it a heavy low end punctuated by piercing guitar riffs and grain-laden vocals. The lyrics are hypnotic and engaging. This is a strong track, particularly for fans of psychedelic rock, space rock, and stoner metal.

Albuquerque’s Chicharra (Spanish for “cicada”) bring forth the track “Rabbitbrush.” Founded in 2013, the band plays what it calls “glam insect metal.” “Rabbitbruch” is a haunting track, with softened but driven percussion and eerie layers of guitar and suppressed bass. One key feature of this song consists of the lush and interweaving melodies of Monica and Marisa Demarco, whose delivery reminds me a bit of Switchblade Symphony and its ethereal melodies.

Albuquerque’s Cobra vs. Mongoose contributes to “Brand New.” Established in 2014, the band plays a mix of hardcore punk and heavy metal. “Brand New” brings out facets of both genres, combining the heavy and melodic with the fast and sardonic. The vocals are pure hardcore punk, but the guitar leans toward the metal realm. Wait for the killer bass riff, punctuated by the bass drum and echoed vocals.

“Nox Medicus” is the contribution by Albuquerque’s The Coma Recovery. A well-established band with several releases available at Bandcamp, The Coma Recovery plays an eclectic mix of genres, creating its own distinct vibe. “Nox Medicus” weaves between melodic rock and progressive metal, with a vocal delivery lined with angst. Fans of music designed for inner exploration will definitely dig this track.

Albuquerque’s Constant Harmony break out the stoner desert punk with the track “Push Your Friends/Blood Moon.” This power trio consists of two sisters and a brother, all of whom are influenced by grunge, stoner metal, and punk rock. This song is a hard-driving mix of all three, leaning more toward the punk rock vibe with a grunge-laden guitar. Wait for the downturn, the highway lined with Sabbath-driven vibes done old school with hints of the psychedelic. Turn this one way, way up.

Established in 2015, Albuquerque’s The Despots play a mix of rock, surf, blues, jazz, and punk. The band’s contribution, “Hot Pursuit,” uses surf as its underlying lick and punk as its driver. The end result is a catchy tune with a hint of the heavy, with simplicity used to great effect. This type of toe-tapping, fist-pumping music “breathes” from start to finish and will never grow old.

Founded in 2009, Albuquerque’s Distances presents “God Rest.” The band plays post-metal, with an emphasis on atmosphere and experimentation. “God Rest” begins quietly but then erupts with a signature post-metal sound, with barked vocals and slamming percussion. The guitars remain melodic, with the bass serving as an undertow. Although some experimental rock is little more than noodling, Distances demonstrates a knack for effective strong structure, making “God Rest” accessible while acknowledging the genres that it taps into.

Prepare to switch gears hard, as the next track is “Abyssal Plain” by Santa Fe’s Dysphotic. Formed in 2015, Dysphotic plays blackened death metal. “Abyssal Plain” is a punishing track, one lined with the heaviness of black metal and the bone-crunching technicality of death metal. Fans who like their metal rough but refined will throw the horns while this one plays.

“Silva Lanes,” by the GRAL Brothers, brings the compilation back to an indie vibe, with this band kicking back and using a blues and jazz-like foundation to create a kicked-back tone with a hint of the sanguine. The pace is slow, like the ocean ebbing and flowing, with instruments taking center stage only to fade into nothingness. Good stuff.

Cosplay masters The Horned God contribute “Battle for the North,” which displays the band’s penchant for crafting Celtic-driven stoner rock. Spawned in 2012, the band has a new full-length studio CD out, this one titled Volume: 1. “Battle for the North” is a bone-crunching song with a killer guitar solo lined with a great bass lick.

Albuquerque’s Manhigh spew forth “High on Spacetime.” This track exemplifies desert rock, down to its catchy percussive drive, stoner-metal guitar vibe, and subtle dance beats. The vocals are pristine stoner metal, punching up the kicked-back tone.

Next up is Albuquerque’s Prey for Kali, who contributes “Skynet.” Formed in 2009, the band plays stoner metal. “Skynet” definitely has a stoner vibe, one bolstered by a melodic guitar and muddy drums with some haunting and backfilled vocals. This is one hell of a song and is a personal favorite.

Another proponent of desert rock, Albuquerque’s Red Mesa throws down the song “Route 666.” The track kicks off with a catchy riff, and as the bass drum and cymbals do their thing, the riff morphs, throwing out some nice hooks, until the vocal kicks in. Heavy but captivating, “Route 666” will tap that inner mojo with ease.

Albuquerque’s Rock Jong Il contribute to “Super Collider.” This band plays punk-fueled rock, which “Super Collider” demonstrates from its opening guitar salvo and its spat-out vocals that are delivered with a hint of melody. The phrasing goes back to old-school punk, giving the song a catchy vibe that many will find appealing.

Formed in 2011, Albuquerque’s Shoggoth is influenced by the works of H.P. Lovecraft, making it essential listening for fans of the cosmic horror genre (me included). The band calls forth “Shub-Niggurath,” laying down music more in keeping with driving hard rock than overt metal. The band’s rhythm section sets a heavy tone, with the guitars branching out to set down some melodic solos. However, in keeping with the occult genre, the band also introduces some subtle guitar hooks that are otherworldly, giving the song a mysterious vibe. Great stuff from Shoggoth.

Next up is Albuquerque’s SHREWD with its song “Them Tigers Mean Business.” The band plays “punky post something,” and that something consists of grunge, facets of old-school heavy metal (such as early Iron Maiden), and straight-ahead rock and roll. “Them Tigers Mean Business” has plenty of punk-laden sass, but it crosses over into ass-kicking rock with enough power from heavy metal to keep it churning.

This compilation’s 17th song is Sorry Guero’s “Whine.” This Albuquerque-based band plays American death-groove. “Whine” kicks ass from start to finish, the combination of death aesthetics complementing the rap-driven groove structures on the other side. The thrashy guitars make this track one that warrants multiple plays at max volume.

Albuquerque’s SugarMotor plays what the band calls “cartoon fuzz rock.” The band’s contribution, “Dream Gods,” sounds like a riff of bands such as Acid Bath, down to the vocalist’s distant voice, low-end rhythm section, and piercing guitar riffs. The pace is slow and heavy, evoking an eerie atmosphere with a heavy, hard-driving vibe. When the song does pick up speed, the drums, guitar, and even the bass gallop along quite nicely, giving the song an added atmosphere. I really liked this song.

Founded in 2012, Albuquerque’s Sun Dog plays psychedelic rock. “The Draft/Oh Si” brings out a dreamy quality in its composition, but with facets of lightened nightmares at the peripheries that hint that something may be terribly wrong (think of Syd Barrett’s work, both with Pink Floyd and solo). The song’s centerpiece is the guitar, with the rhythm section used to alter pace at will and the vocals taking a back stage to the music.

Albuquerque’s SuperGiant is a personal fave, a band that I have listened to for several years. It comes as no surprise, then, that “Tres de la Manana” (Spanish for “Three in the Morning”) quickly became my favorite tune on this compilation. Playing a distinct combination of doom metal and stoner rock, SuperGiant fuses melody and heaviness on “Tres de la Manana.” Percussion keeps a mid-tempo vibe while a crunchy guitar taps into those hips to get them moving. The mellow lyrics are perfect for modern doom. This song is a must for fans of anything doom.

Albuquerque’s killer duo The Talking Hours hand over a track titled “Smug.” Formed in 2015, the band plays alternative rock, although the couple touch upon other genres of music at will to convey how they feel. “Smug” vibrates with facets of electronica, indie, lighter metal, and of course rock and roll. This is the kind of modern music the populous should tap into, as it remains timeless and appealing every time the song is spun.

Closing out the compilation is The Timewreckers with its 11-minute track “Real Bad Man.” This band pulls off some oddball combinations, fusing alternative country with shoegaze and even pop rock. The emphasis on “Real Bad Man” is on the cosmic, with psychedelic, spacey instrumentation and vocal delivery. The country and shoegaze transmutation works really well, with the guitar at times giving off country’s signature twang while others resorting to the good-feeling fuzz of the cosmic. Great way to close out Land of Estrangement.

The Land of Enstrangement is available on Bandcamp for a “name your price” deal, so be sure to get it while it’s still available. For New Mexicans, this compilation is a great way to hear the talent in this state. For those outside of New Mexico, this compilation demonstrates that we have more than mountains, UFOs, crazy-ass science, and cool caverns in this state. Check it out and let the music take you.