BLUE HERON – Black Blood Of The Earth / A Sunken Place

The name Spiritu was never stoner rock’s most famous, but the New Mexico band left behind a brief legacy which included a Jack Endino produced album and live experiences shared with Clutch and the mighty Spiritual Beggars. For those who missed the band at the time, it would be fair to suggest that their Kyuss derived sound would be broadly appealing to most fans of that style. Six years on from Spiritu’s second and final recording, ‘Human Failures’, half of the band have emerged from hibernation, making up the core of Blue Heron. Despite being a new name on the stoner scene for 2021, the sounds they make are of a timeless appeal, and ahead of an already completed debut album, this two song 7” gives a fantastic taste of a band about to gain some huge traction with the desert rock diehards.

An instantly classic slab of stoner, ‘Black Blood of The Earth’ fades in with the howling desert wind, before a furious rumble of drums introduces a very busy sound. The relentless drumming continues throughout the first verse against Chav’s buzzing, Kyuss-esque guitar parts, and although everything is a little noisier than your bog standard Fu Manchu derived sound, it’s immediately clear that the band are onto a winning formula. Jadd’s gravelly vocal style – sort of a stoner/hardcore hybrid – will certainly be more divisive, but there’s a lot about its aggressive tendencies that is suited the full on mood, especially when set against that drum part. A chorus hook (of sorts) ushers in far more melody with a standard stoner groove and clean vocal, and it’s here that the band will definitely start to win fans, even if the style is of the tried and tested variety. By the mid point, everyone wades through some Sabbath influenced doom, with a slow, almost bluesy take on some monolithic metal, but again, this is handled with the utmost precision, sounding like the work of musicians with the stoner ethic pulsing through their veins The slower riffs have a brilliant buzz; distorted edges give a feel for how loud things must’ve been in the studio, and a slow, confident lead guitar break adds so much to the over-riding melodic core of the piece. Via several bars of heavy groove that would put Crowbar in the shade, the band arrives at a second solo that really ups the blues laden vibe, and although by the end of the track, the band end up in a completely different headspace to their noisy origins, the playing – and general atmosphere – is superb.

If anything, the heart of ‘A Sunken Place’ is even heavier. The guitars are loaded with maximum distortion on a massive riff; the bass is overdriven and equally distorted, and the fuzzy lead guitars carry a very live sound. With the whole band absolutely going for broke in the heavy stoner stakes, it could have been hard going, but a very melodic amd largely clean vocal really adds an important counterpoint. There’s a really obvious southern rock influence cutting through the main voice which, despite ongoing waves of crushing distortion, sets up Blue Heron as a much heavier version of 20 Watt Tombstone. Factor in a very old school guitar solo and a belated sense of groove driving the second half of the track, and this becomes the kind of performance that lovers of the heaviest southern rock/stoner will really enjoy.

The basic elements of Blue Heron’s sound have been recycled by many over the years, but originality be damned; when it sounds this confident, you really don’t need a new twist. This pair of heavy, bluesy workouts have the attitude and feel that instantly makes for great stoner metal. If you’ve ever had a passing fancy for Sleep, Electric Wizard, Crowbar, or underground bands like Fuzzcrafter and Astral Void, then this is definitely worth seeking out.

October 2021