LAS CRUCES
"Dusk"

(Brainticket)

01. Wizard
02. Revelations
03. Cocaine Wizard Woman
04. Burning Bright
05. Wings of Gold
06. Banished
07. Dusk
08. Farewell
09. The Level
10. Roll of the Die
11. Killing Fields
12. Grin

RATING: 7/10

These guys have been kicking around the periphery of the doom/stoner scene for a lotta years now, sweating it out in obscurity in Texas while stoner rock went in and out of vogue, depending on who you talked to, faster than you can say "America's Volume Dealer". LAS CRUCES have always worn their TROUBLE influences on their sleeve, but they've always been a more scrappy and rambunctious, cleaner-sounding, more metal-oriented band than some of their doom contemporaries. Their signature sonic quality — a bass tone that churns and roils, uprooting trees and dominating the proceedings with a low end that hits you in the solar plexus — both made their unique and ghetto-ized them among genre purists.

"Dusk", recorded three years ago and featuring a singer no longer in the band, would seem like an ill-fitting reintroduction of LAS CRUCES to the world. Better to think of it as a farewell to the Mark Zamarron-fronted era of the group, who are now carrying on as a four-piece with a singing drummer. Regardless of the circumstances, "Dusk" is an album that needs to be heard, easily mopping the floor with the group's other two long-ago efforts, delivering multiple blows of lurching doom rock, edgy metal and walloping low-end groove galore.

The title track ratchets it down to classic CATHEDRAL doom turf, all sodden and slow, while "Cocaine Wizard Woman" is steeped in blues, STEPPENWOLF biker rock and Detroit proto-punk. Elsewhere, riffs don't get much more TROUBLE-y than "Farewell" or "Burning Bright", or more primal and sinister than the "Children of the Grave" chug of opener "Wizard". Throughout, the throb of the bass guitar, the bluesy metal rasp of Zamarron's on-point vocals, and the inspired-but-familiar riffing combine for an impassioned performance, at once low-rent desperate and classic-metal elegant.

It all starts to fall apart in the last third of the album, fizzling with a few less-than-inspired cuts put over the top by energetic playing and the sheer inertia of the earlier, more powerful tunes. "Dusk" is about half of a great record, and definitely worth your time if you're into the slow, the heavy and the sun-scorched soulful doom jams of a place and a headspace a bit removed from what you've come to expect in this realm from the southern states.

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