Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of Boston classic metal/doom outfit, THE WATCHER. The label will release the band’s first full-length in 2024.
THE WATCHER is the 2016 creation of guitarist/bassist Max Furst, who, after many years of playing darker and heavier styles of metal, wanted to write music that was more driving, epic and up-tempo. Furst embarked on finding the proper musicians, first landing on drummer Chris Spraker. The two promptly began work on the music that would become the “Your Turn To Die” EP. But first, they needed to find a vocalist.
“After years of dead ends and countless ‘no’s,’ I was fortuitously introduced to Paden Reed in late 2020 through a mutual acquaintance,” says Furst. “Paden was the first person to come at the project with sincere enthusiasm, and in July 2020, he sent me a demo of what would become ‘Your Turn To Die.’ I was beyond floored by his delivery of the vocals and his interpretation of the music. I immediately knew we had something special, so we spent the next few months developing vocals for two additional songs from a 2017 instrumental demo. Paden then went into a studio to properly record the vocals; we then mixed and mastered the entire session.”
The “Your Turn To Die” EP finally saw the light of day in 2021. The wait for THE WATCHER was worth it — the EP was warmly received across the metal underground for its tight, immediate songwriting and timeless blend of BLACK SABBATH and NWOBHM. (To boot, all physical copies of “Your Turn To Die” are sold out!)
“The reception of the EP was incredible,” notes Furst. “Very exciting. After having had this project on a shelf for four years, it was so rewarding to have it out for people to hear finally. The positive response made the long uphill battle to get there feel worth it. It also helped actualize a path forward for the band. It inspired me to resume writing for the band and I became determined to compose a full-length album. I pretty much immediately buckled down and went to work with my guitar. The EP was released in April and by July of that year, I had already developed almost the entire album’s foundation.”
Furst says THE WATCHER is currently set to finish tracking the album this coming month with Sasha Stroud at Artifact Audio in New York City.
With new tracks on the way along with the promise of future live shows, joining the Cruz Del Sur Music roster is the logical next step for THE WATCHER.
“Finding a label that felt right for the band was tricky,” says Furst. “I was fortunate enough to be put in touch with Cruz Del Sur through a mutual friend. Cruz Del Sur stood out to me because of the wide range of bands they release. While everything is squarely within the scope of the metal genre, each band has a distinct and unique quality about them. Above all, all of the folks at Cruz Del Sur seem incredibly passionate about the music they release. To me, that implies a true personal investment in what they do and that is the most important trait a label should have, in my opinion.”
Cruz Del Sur Music will release legendary former TROUBLE singer Eric Wagner’s posthumous solo album, “In The Lonely Light Of Mourning” in March 2022.
Recorded at Alpha Sound Services and Aardvark Recording, “In The Lonely Light Of Mourning” was completed and delivered to Cruz Del Sur Music a month before Eric’s untimely passing. Initially scheduled for a November 2021 release, Cruz Del Sur Music — in cooperation with Eric’s manager, Mike Smith — agreed to move the release date to March 2022 to give it the attention it deserves.
“It has been a great honor to have the chance to work with Eric,” says Cruz Del Sur Music owner Enrico Leccese. “He has been a reference in my life since, as a fan, I bought his TROUBLE albums back in the 1980s. I must give WHILE HEAVEN WEPT’s Tom Philips 100 percent credit for Cruz Del Sur Music being able to release Eric’s solo album. Eric really put all himself, his passion, his deepest emotions and his skills into this release. I must also thank Mike and Ron Holzner for the extremely mature talk we had after Eric’s passing. His loss has been a tragic event and we hope that this album gives justice to his career.”
The solo endeavor — a long-time goal of Eric’s — serves as a fitting testament to one of doom metal’s most respected voices. Eric tapped former TROUBLE/current BLACKFINGER drummer Dave Snyder to help him assemble the album’s eight cuts. Along the way, Eric brought in some of his favorite musicians as guests — including past and present members of TROUBLE, BLACKFINGER, THE SKULL, LID, PENTAGRAM, DEATH ROW and PLACE OF SKULLS.
“In The Lonely Light Of Mourning” travels down Eric’s hallowed, familiar doom roads, flanked by melancholic acoustic guitar arrangements. It makes for an album of color, depth and heaviness that will please fans of Eric’s work. “I’d say this album is an amalgamation of TROUBLE, BLACKFINGER, LID and THE SKULL,” says Phillips. “There’s a little bit of each all swirled together. Basically, there’s a little something for everyone!”
“He was excited about the songs,” adds Snyder. “He and I worked on this project for a little over four years. It took that long, mostly because we did it over the phone. Either he would be in Chicago or New Mexico, and I’m in West Virginia, so I’d send him demo riffs, and if he liked something, he’d give me arrangement ideas, and I’d re-demo to fit his vision to place the lyrics. I already miss the process of working with him! Before Eric left for the last THE SKULL tour this summer, he told me about the record and said, ‘It jams. I’m turning it into Cruz.’”
Smith says that if Eric was ever going to do a solo record, it would need to involve the people he’s worked with — and some he hasn’t. The wealth of guest musicians explains why he was particularly excited about having a “family reunion” that tapped into nearly every era of his storied career.
“We have guests representing every band Eric has worked with over the years, and even extended family member @Victor Griffin, which really brings things full circle,” says Smith. “This was not the original plan by any means, but as the process started to unfold, it became apparent that this was exactly how it should be. How it was meant to be.”
Eric’s THE SKULL and former TROUBLE bandmate Ron Holzner, guests on the album. Ron says “In The Lonely Light Of Mourning” was “more personal” to him than his BLACKFINGER and LID output, two albums that enabled the frontman to work outside of the boundaries of TROUBLE.
“The LID record [1997’s ‘In The Mushroom’] was a break from Trouble and his first tastes of freedom. The BLACKFINGER records were more of a sideband to express himself differently than THE SKULL. It’s been a long journey lyrically for Eric and his story was coming towards the end. He sensed his time was short. The new record was his career coming full circle, in a sense. He included musicians from all his records and never intended this record to be a band. It was more a solo record than anything he ever did before. He needed to share his journey since this record was to be the end — he was contemplating retirement. The new THE SKULL record would be the epitaph to his story.”
Eric’s untimely passing this past August left behind a musical legacy that has influenced countless bands while providing comfort and solace for those impacted by his lyrics. Alongside CANDLEMASS, TROUBLE is arguably the most impactful post-BLACK SABBATH doom band. Their first four albums are undisputed classics, making Eric the solitary voice for the downtrodden and disaffected.
“There’s no doubt that he will be rightly remembered as one of the most iconic voices of metal — not just doom metal considering he had the power to traverse anything he sang over from psychedelic to somber, from acoustic tenderness to bone-crushing metal,” says Phillips. “Of course, he’ll always be tied to the legacy of TROUBLE and thus, considered by nearly everyone — including myself — as one of the founding fathers of the doom metal genre. But for those who knew him, we’ll also never forget his laid-back personality, sense of humor and ‘Eric-isms.’ It’s a staggering and totally unnecessary loss, but he lived by his own rules and spent 2021 doing all of the things he loved doing the most, so there’s some solace in that.”
“He did what he wanted, said what he wanted, lived like he wanted and wrote what he wanted…his way,” says Holzner. “He touched a lot of souls with his life and death.”
“He was a friend to everyone he met,” adds Snyder. “He always would hang out with fans and, through his music, helped a lot of people through tough times, including myself. His lyrics were always thought-provoking and his voice was one of a kind. When you heard it, you knew it was Eric Wagner! Ultimately, his legacy to me is his work with TROUBLE. I am eternally grateful to have been close to him at times, to have finished this record and to have worked with what many call the ‘Godfather of Doom.’”
“Eric was a dear friend, and I miss him immensely,” closes Smith. “This solo album became so much more than we initially expected, and I hope fans will be able to listen with open hearts and realize how lucky we all were to have Eric in our lives.
When Eric and I signed off on the album back in July and delivered it to Cruz Del Sur Music, Eric said something I will never forget: ‘If this were to be my last one, it’s a perfect final chapter to the story.’”
Vintage, adventurous proto-metal that taps into the deep well of ’70s rock!
Formerly known as Witch Hazel, SpellBook marries Black Sabbath, Pentagram and progressive rock for seven songs of entrancing classic metal!
During the writing process for what would eventually become Magick & Mischief, the members of York, Pennsylvania vintage proto-metal purveyors Witch Hazel realized there was no better time than the present to change their name. The idea had long rested on their mind, but the risks in changing a band’s name are numerous, if not painfully obvious. After all, since their 2007 formation, Witch Hazel independently released three studio albums, Forsaken Remedies (2012), Nocturnity (2015) and Otherwordly (2018), and had already generated buzz in the doom metal underground. But, with the confidence that the material they created for Magick & Mischief was the strongest of their career, Witch Hazel reached back into their past for the song “The Spellbook” from Forsaken Remedies and rebranded themselves SpellBook. Soon, a deal with Cruz Del Sur Music was signed, and the band started a new chapter that begins with the release of Magick & Mischief.
Recorded in May 2019 at Developing Nations with Kevin Bernsten, Magick & Mischief is the embodiment of a band going further than before, honing in on their obvious strengths as songwriters while exploring new territory in the sprawling classic metal and vintage heavy rock landscape. SpellBook, who feature vocalist Nate Tyson, drummer Nicholas Zinn, guitarist Andy Craven and bassist Seibert Lowe, followed a fairly simple approach when writing the album: There is no formula. There are no rules. Write what feels good. The best songs win. As a result, Magick & Mischief is a varied, adventurous body of work, reeling in Iron Maiden and proto-metal vibes on “Wands to the Sky” and “Ominous Skies,” an epic concept piece in the form of “Dead Detectives,” which appropriately recalls Alice Cooper at his theatrical peak, along with regular crowd-pleaser “Amulet,” which the band honed in the live arena before committing it to tape. Elsewhere, doom, acoustic guitars and sterling lead vocal work from Tyson are interwoven with ease, all the while staying true to SpellBook’s impeccable list of influences of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Thin Lizzy, Blue Oyster Cult, Kiss and Pentagram.
The album artwork was created by Chad Keith, who dutifully melded each of Magick & Mischief’s songs in visual form to comprise the cover. It’s a fitting representation of an album that puts a fresh twist on a classic style.
Magick & Mischief track listing:
LP version Wands to the Sky Black Shadow Ominous Skies Not Long for This World Motorcade Amulet(Single Version) Dead Detectives
CD version Wands to the Sky Black Shadow Ominous Skies Not Long for This World Motorcade Amulet/Fare Thee Well Dead Detectives