By Octavio Ramos Jr.
On August 2, 2019, Desert Records assembled 22 more New Mexico bands and songs under the banner The Land of Enstrangement, Vol. 2. Once again, this collection showcases bands tied to rock and roll, but the genres on display cover all facets of the genre, from hard rock and mellow indie rock to modern metal and so-called intelligent pop. The compilation’s title combines the state’s tagline, “Land of Enchantment,” with how many locals describe the area, “lonely” and “strange.” Like Vol. 1. (considered the “red” compilation, given the album’s primary color), Vol. 2 (called the “green” compilation, with its green coloration) can be snagged under the “name your price” deal at bandcamp.
Opening this volume is Albuquerque’s Amped Owl Drive with their hard-charging “The Fall.” Rooted in the hard rock of the 1980s with a distinctly party sound that complements the fist-pumping of that era, “The Fall” kicks off with a bone-crunching guitar riff by Jude Sanchez, quickly followed by the driving rhythm section of bassist Pietro Berardinelli and drummer Richard Keller. Vocalist Fabian Luna channels the gravel-laden vocal approach of the 1980s while throwing down some stellar lead-guitar solos. This type of music lives or dies depending on the rhythm section, and Amped Owl Drive have no worries, as this track exemplifies the type of hard rock that both young and old can jam to.
Formed in 1997, Albuquerque’s Anesthesia play a potent mix of hard rock and thrash metal. The band’s contribution on this collection is titled “Boneman.” The song kicks off with a pair of intertwining guitars, courtesy of Jake Pacheco and Jon Savage. As the guitars weave a hardened template, drummer Dax Lujan and bassist Ziggy Busey kick in, giving the track a thrash-laden edge. Pacheco then gurgles his vocals right out of Metallica, but the band itself is much harder and darker, with the guitar licks menacing the drum beats vicious as hell. Fans of thrash metal will dig “Boneman,” but so will fans of metal in general and those into hard rock. The combination of technical prowess, an ever-changing musical structure, and great songwriting make this one worth playing over and over.
Around since June 2017, Ashes of Jupiter are based in Albuquerque and play modern metal oddly driven by Southern-fried rock, with influences that range from Sevendust, Primus, and TOOL to Queen, Rage against the Machine, and Cheap Trick. “Inevitable” is a fusion of catchy hard rock and molten metal. Thundering bass lines by Robson Guy and punctuated by the drums of Jared Houston. The song starts off moody, but then Tim Scarberry’s guitar kicks in, setting down a heavy, hard, and crunchy pace. Vocalist Adam Liston screams his lyrics, but he does so with panache, using his low-end register to good effect. If you like what you hear, snag the band’s EP, titled Celestial Warfare.
Founded in 2007, Albuquerque’s Bellemah play indie rock, which they call “something or other.” The band has released an album titled The Dirt I Settled in, and “Lightening Bug” is a track taken from this album for this compilation. Unlike the hardened rock and metal that precedes this track, “Lightening Bug” is a moody piece, one with acoustic guitars mixed with plodding electrical rhythms and easy percussion complemented by sustained bass lines. Keyboards are thrown in to accentuate the lovely guitars. Leading the song are the dual vocals, courtesy of Billy Bellmont and Peri Pakroo. This song is a slow burner, but it’s effective at building tension as it goes along.
Howling from their home base in Santa Fe, Blood Wolf play blistering old-school thrash metal. Expect a full-on guitar attack bolstered by a solid rhythm section and some back-of-the-throat vocals by Ross Reno. “Hollow Souls” taps into the realm of speed metal, as well as the New Wave of British Heavy Metal. Get ready to throw up the horns and bang your head but hard.
Next up is another change of genre. Albuquerque’s Carrier Waves play a mix of shoegaze and dream pop. The band’s contribution is titled “Broken Rhyme,” which can also be found on their self-titled CD at bandcamp. The mix of overt pop sensibilities and the dreamy quality of the music make this a feel-good track, down to the simple beat, effective bass licks, and far-off vocals. Not quite psychedelic, but not quite pop, these guys are refreshing in their approach to “oh, wow” music.
You want some post-hardcore with a slight punk vibe? Then look no further than Albuquerque’s Crown & Casket, whose “Appleseed” provides both clean and harsh vocals, a nod toward pop sensibility with the guitars, a hardcore-driven rhythm section, and a punk-pop pace. Not a bad piece, although the post-hardcore genre remains saturated with such bands.
Founded in 2017, Santa Fe’s Devil’s Throne play a solid blend of doom and progressive metal. “The Horned God” taps into the droning nature of modern doom metal, but with twin guitars thrown into the mix to add a bit of variety. Vocalist Ashley Romero uses guttural vocals and there’s a hint of black metal when it comes to the band’s rhythm section. The song’s middle section features some keys and some more progressive arrangements that enhance the mood, making “The Horned God” ideal for fans of doom, progressive, and even black metal.
Next up is Albuquerque’s Dust City Opera, which plays folk rock with a country-like swagger. The eclectic “I Need A Man” channels folk-rock and country sensibilities, but it does so with a decidedly blues-based rhythm and flavor. In addition to traditional instrumentation, the band takes advantage of instruments such as trombone and accordion to expand what is admittedly an acquired taste, but one that those who dig it will find this track absolutely kicks ass.
Based in the San Juan Pueblo, Friend2Foe contribute “Charlie Brown,” a fist-pumping combination of thrash and groove metal akin to Pro-Pain, only done with a heavier, more restrained pace. Joey Atencio screams his lungs dry while guitarists Lionel Agoyo and Eli Tafoya set down some bone-rattling riffs. Switches in rhythm and timing are handled well by bassist Ron Salazar and drummer Darren Trujillo. There are even keyboards, courtesy of Alberto Alcocer, which give the track a somber mood, complete with a shift in guitar and vocal approaches. Those who dig this track would do well to pick up the band’s self-titled release, which is available at bandcamp.
Next up is Albuquerque’s Guadalupe Blue, which describes it sound as intellipop, saying that the band “sculpts intense sonic portraits over the framework of song that might be pop music if anyone else was playing them.” “Frog Song” does indeed bring with it a pop sensibility, but the song is also odd and modernly psychedelic, as if the band members were channeling Syd Barrett and other more exploratory acts, including the eclectic Leeches of Lore.
Albuquerque’s Prism Bitch play soul punk. “Treehouse” lasts little more than 30 seconds, with the punk vibe softened a touch by facets of new wave. The barebones punk vibe from this mostly girl band (one of the three guitarists is a male) is a fun romp but a bit too short. I wanted more. Pick up the band’s self-titled EP at bandcamp.
Keeping the vibe going are Albuquerque’s Red Light Cameras, which play a mix of soulful rock and garage pop. “Caged” stresses pop but it is driven by soul, with a strong vocal performance by Amanda Machon. Drummer Joe Gonzales works magic on the kit, shadowed by bassist Barney Lopez. Chris Walsh’s soulful guitar is simply beautiful, a combination of catchy and emotional. Take a moment to check out the band’s excellent discography at bandcamp.
Albuquerque’s Russian Girlfriends describe their sound as “aggressive adult contemporary.” The short track “All My Friends are Ghosts,” a cover of a Scared of Chaka (also an Albuquerque band, which was active up to 2001 or so) tune, is a straight-up punk scorcher, but one delivered with aplomb and clean production. The instrumentation is basic, but a close listen reveals some effective musical shifts, guitar hooks, and even some reverberating bass licks. Vocalist Adam Hooks definitely as the voice for punk, but his delivery is clear, giving the song an added sing-along punch. Those who are interested can peruse the band’s discography at bandcamp.
Up next is “Metaphors,” courtesy of Albuquerque’s Skyholder, which straddles the line between alternative metal and rock. The mix of hard rock and metal on “Metaphors” is effective, with the metal drumming on Colin Yepa and the thumpy bass licks of Harold Simmons countered by the catchy guitar riffs and solos of Trevor Turner. Turner also has pretty good vocals, which for me were not aggressive enough (too soft), but nevertheless this song does rock hard. Visit the band’s main website to pick up a CD or two.
Back to the sick metal: Albuquerque’s Sothoryos (“the land of plagues”) play blackened deathcore. “Malicious Beasts” is centered on the droning guitars of Xander Augustson, backed by the blasting of Samuel Navarro and the phantom beasts of bassist Jacob Maestas. Up front is Marcus Coffelt, who uses both demon scowls and death grunts. Those into blackened death with just a hint of hardcore should give this one a listen. Pick up the band’s debut self-titled EP at bandcamp.
Formed in 2011, Albuquerque’s St. Petersburg play indie rock. “Walk Out” is a heartfelt ballad, one that goes from a soft and folksy opening to a rockish approach that nevertheless continues its core approach. Vocalist Sloan Armitage has a great vocal approach, with lyrics that are beautiful and haunting. Instrumentation is quite creative, with guitars used to create solid rhythms and some nice hooks. The rhythm section fires on all cylinders, knowing when to pull back and pour it on. Compositions like this give me hope for the future of rock and roll. Check out the band’s releases at bandcamp.
Santa Fe’s St. Victims play a mix of thrash metal and brutal grind. “Botfly Reunion” (you know about these pesky parasites, right?) uses the essential structures of thrash to build its distinctly grinding sound, down to pig-squealed vocals, blaster percussion, and death-metal guitar licks. An interesting addition is vocalist Enrique Martinez belting it out on trombone (!), creating some bizarre sounds across from the guitar. Fans of metal and grind really need to check out these Santa Fean metallers. Check out the band’s self-titled album at bandcamp.
Albuquerque’s Sweet Nothin play what they call “high-energy garage rock.” “Not Cool” comes off as raw rock and roll, complete with a driving rhythm section, slightly distorted guitars, and back-of-the-throat vocals. The vibe is pure old-school rock, with just a hint of melody and pop to make it catchy. Another example of how old-fashioned rock and roll with a modern bent gives me hope for the future of good music.
Albuquerque’s The Sex on TV play groove-driven rock and roll. The band’s contribution to this collection is titled “Weak Knees,” which will definitely earn any rocker’s instant attention. Guitarist Eugene Martinez sets down some catchy riffs with a low-end vibe while drummer Kelen Mahan works the kit to amplify the groove. Then there’s bassist/vocalist Lexi Parker, who taps into the blues to bolster her already kick-ass delivery. This is the type of rock that’s best played at full volume while driving windows down a stretch of abandoned highway.
Albuquerque’s Tenderizor play thrash noise. The track “Ides/Wrath” comes from the band’s three-track EP The Demo Years Vol. 1: The Cover Years, available at bandcamp. It’s a cover of the Iron Maiden song, and the cover is pretty damn good, down to the droning bass lines, dueling guitars, and solid vocals.
This compilation’s final track comes from TV Killers, a band based in Santa Fe that play “rough and tumble rock stylings combined with polished and sweet country-folk sensibilities.” “Thirst is Eternal” demonstrates this fusion well, with guitarist/vocalist Bill Palmer setting down some folk vibes augmented by some effective percussion by Matthew Tobias and a second guitar provided by Justin Lindsey. The music remains in the folk realm, with the second guitar bringing out some country vibes while bassist Stephanie Hatfield sets down a nice rhythm of her own. Kick back and let this one take you to a much better place.