As I start listening to "Turquoise Monolith," the new single from local doom metal band Drought, everything around me ceases to matter, almost melting into nonexistence. My eyes close while I shift to make myself more comfortable. After all, this song is 18-some-odd minutes long, and I can already tell it demands my full attention.
Shapeless images and flashes of color begin to play on the insides of my eyelids as guitarist Zac Hogan, bassist Anna Wooldridge and drummer Luke Sheppard launch into what I can best describe as the soundtrack to the end of the world.
I get the distinct feeling that something primal is stirring inside me, as if Drought has tuned into some ancient connective force that binds all living things. Damn.
The track speaks for the trio's entire catalogue. Yes, this absolutely is a metal band, but I'll let you in on a secret: Drought only calls itself doom for lack of a better genre title.
"I'd call it more of an obsession with the occult and the spirituality of the Earth through the ages…that or down-tempo psychedelic," Sheppard says. "The music is about the ritual and building a spiritual phenomenon that comes from living in the desert."
"Ritualistic" may be the perfect descriptor. Drought takes its time, building atmospheric mantras that drone on almost endlessly before suddenly transforming into jarring crescendos and unsettling, barely there riffage. It's almost religious (think chanting monks, but maybe more evil—yeah, I said "more").
"I have definitely found a higher power through playing this music," Wooldridge says, "not, like, God or anything, but something ancient."
With headphones pressed firmly against my head, I've quietly drifted off someplace. A sudden cymbal crash brings me back to "Turquoise Monolith." Drought has kept within the basic framework laid down at the beginning of the song, but I feel a new sense of urgency I hadn't before.
Thus far, Drought has released a self-titled cassette on now-defunct Albuquerque label Featherspines. That was in 2008, when the band consisted only of Hogan and Sheppard. Wooldridge joined in early 2010 and added more depth.
"I'd known [Wooldridge] for so long that something clicked for us when she joined," Hogan says. "Usually, the songs would come out of me messing around with a practice amp in my bedroom, and while that's still kind of true, Anna helps with constructing my various guitar pieces into actual songs."
Sheppard also plays a major role in the songwriting.
"Ego has never been a factor in Drought," he says. "Everything is open for discussion."
Drought's newest self-titled record (this time with Wooldridge) can be downloaded for free, but another cassette release is on the way.
I'm not sure how long I've been out, but I have definitely fallen asleep. My computer looped back to the beginning of "Turquoise Monolith" some time ago. I'm not sure where I am, but I find it remarkable that such a heavy band has soothed me into unconsciousness.
I restart "Turquoise Monolith" (can't help it) and decide that I won't underestimate Drought's importance to the Santa Fe scene. We have nothing else like this, and if this town were smart, more people would pay attention. I close my eyes again and mull over Wooldridge's parting words.
"We want to bring Santa Fe back to a place where they're excited to see bands," she says. "Not a DJ, not a show you go to so you can drink and ignore music—I mean actually watching and absorbing music."
Download Drought's album for free at droughtdoom.bandcamp.com
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