Blue Heron – Ephemeral Review

The sun blazes above, so hot and bright that it seems to emit a deafening roar. Dehydration conspires with suffocating heat to bring unfortunate travelers closer to the earth than the living ever desire. Mercy is nothing more than a foreign concept to the boiling sands and blistering wind. To add mental tolls to an already debilitating physical challenge posed by the desert landscape, insurmountable loneliness and pangs of utter insignificance plague all who dare venture these deathly spaces. With stoner doom as their daily driver, Albuquerque’s Blue Heron aims to portray their deserts’ unique sense of scale and isolation with a new full-length record, Ephemeral.

Sonically speaking, Blue Heron finds great success with the stoner doom template, evoking equal parts Thirst Planet and Crack the Skye-era Mastodon. Clean-picked leads bend as does the light when refracted by the intense waves of heat rising from the sand. Fuzzy riffs lumber in the same staggered manner as the feet of journeyers desperately searching for water. Rough-hewn croons alternate with strained rasps to convey the emotional cry of Ephemeral‘s story. Keeping all of that from losing steam, the drumming maintains a steady pace throughout, with a moderately jazzy swing in its step for extra character.

With their sound palette sorted, the most difficult challenge Blue Heron faces is one of momentum. Stoner doom is inherently relaxed and fuzzy, seemingly tailored for casual listening with or without accompanying recreational substances. Ephemeral appears to be perfectly content inside this mold, and as a direct consequence lacks the kind of excitement that more interesting bands like Wizard Rifle offer. Compounding this issue for anyone outside of stoner’s more dedicated fans, Blue Heron took advantage of long-form songwriting to stretch out one or two good ideas across anywhere between six (“The Buck”) to thirteen minutes (“Sayonara”). This is a fantastic strategy for absent-minded listening, as it frees the imagination to wander, crafting its own visual interpretation of the pleasant soundscapes without being rushed or overstimulated. However, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain interest during focused spins. Furthermore, the lack of compelling songwriting offering anything other than cookie-cutter genre fundamentals (“Salvage” and “Black Blood of the Earth”) negatively impacts memorability. Ephemeral proves to be an apt descriptor for the album as a result, entering one ear and leaving the other without leaving much of a mark.

Ephemeral does, however, hint at some creative potential that, if Blue Heron capitalizes on it, evokes an interesting take on stoner doom that could undoubtedly improve any future work. Instrumental track “Where One Went Together” injects a country twang into the proceedings, for example. Not normally heard outside of a few niche acts like Bask, country music seems like a perfect complement to Blue Heron‘s slightly sludgy stoner sound, so I enthusiastically invite the band to use that aesthetic more prominently going forward. Similarly, the trippy pluck-and-bend guitar work on “Infiniton Field” elicits a greater sense of scope in its short two-minute span than all thirteen minutes of “Sayonara,” which tells me that those psychedelic elements contribute more substantial storytelling than I found elsewhere on Ephemeral. Should Blue Heron implement a more prominent country flair and weave in more psychedelics to supplement their fuzz-laden doom, I wholeheartedly believe they would not only distinguish their sound profile further, but also vastly enhance their songwriting in tandem.

To the band’s credit, Ephemeral flows as smoothly as a gentle creek along a relatively tight forty-seven minutes. Though that might appear short for a stoner doom album, Blue Heron arranged everything in such a way that the runtime feels perfect and the song-by-song pacing similarly ideal. Distinguishing factors, personality, and compelling songwriting represent the main areas of improvement for the young act. Those elements do make the occasional cameo on Ephemeral, but without further development, Blue Heron‘s potential remains untapped.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Seeing Red Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 27th, 2022

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