The Depths Below on the August Doom Charts!

We’re sitting at lucky number 13 on this months Doom Charts.


Let’s take a trip with the Boston quintet Cortez. Let’s have them drag us down with them to ‘The Depths Below‘. I reckon we can safely state that most of you freaks out there already dug their earlier releases. Well, get ready to profess your undying love for these guys. Turning a much more metallic corner on some tracks, the fuzz, the grunge and the stoner that Cortez brings is simply amazing. And then there are those more pop sensible, almost catchy moments.

Yes, there is something about this record that screams ‘instant classic’. Vocalist Matt Harrington truly shines on every track and together with the killer choruses, massive riffs, dueling guitars and majestic drum work, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Cortez… Shit, where is the closest grimy tattoo parlor, so I can get Cortez tattooed across my heart!

~ Joop Konraad (Stoner HiVe)


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Cortez at Forge Fest

Our next show is Forge Fest, Saturday September 23 at Dusk in Providence, RI. Doors open at 4PM, we go on at 10:30. It’s a pretty slick lineup, do yourself a favor and come early and stay late.

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Six dumb questions with Cortez on The Obelisk

Six Dumb Questions with Cortez

Let’s face it: a new Cortez outing doesn’t come along every day. The Boston heavy rockers offered up their first release in 2007’s Thunder in a Forgotten Town EP through Buzzville Records. It would be five years before they’d answer with their 2012 Bilocation Records self-titled debut full-length (review here), and five more beyond that for the recently-landed second album, The Depths Below (review here), to make its mark this year as their first domestically-backed collection, issued via the Connecticut-based imprint Salt of the Earth Records. They had a 2014 split with Borracho (review here) and a 2016 digital single covering Deep Purple‘s “Stormbringer” (posted here), but still, they’re not exactly what you’d call prolific.

But, when a new Cortez outing does arrive, it’s all the more of an occasion worth marking. The last half-decade has brought some significant changes in the band, as seen in the departure of longtime drummer Jeremy Hemond (who still plays on The Depths Below) and his replacement with Alexei Rodriguez and the addition of second guitarist Alasdair Swan alongside founding six-stringer Scott O’Dowd, bassist/backing vocalist Jay Furlo and frontman Matt Harrington, but one thing that has remained central to the band is their songwriting. The Depths Below, from the opening aggro thrust of “All Gone Wrong” through the three-part storytelling of “Walk Through Fire,” “The Citadel” and “Blood of Heirs,” and the Life of Agony-esque “Dead Channel” late in the tracklisting, is a shining example of how Cortez are and seem to have always been underrated for the quality of their craft and the purpose of their execution. A well-kept secret known to denizens of smaller Boston-area venues and European labels, it would seem, but primed nonetheless for a wider reach.

As they have been all along. Maybe on that level the lessons of The Depths Below are a refresher course in the kind of straightforward righteousness Cortez have honed since they got their start more than a decade ago, but if check-ins from them are to be so periodic in their nature, then attention and appreciation for the band’s work on its own terms are no less duly earned than they might be if they busted out a new record every eight months. In the interview that follows, O’Dowd and Harrington talk about making The Depths Below and the shifts in lineup Cortez have undergone since the self-titled, as well as the work that’s already begun on their next outing, which is set to arrive whenever the hell they decide it’s good and ready to arrive.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Cortez

A lot has changed for Cortez since the self-titled. How do you feel about everything that’s gone down with the band in the last five years? Tell me about bringing in Alasdair on guitar and Alexei on drums. How do you feel about where the band is at now?

Scott O’Dowd: In the five years since the release of our self-titled album, quite a lot has happened. Not the least of which was adding Alasdair on second guitar. We’ve always envisioned ourselves as a two-guitar band, but after Tony (our original second guitarist) left the band in 2008, we continued on as a four-piece. This was only because we didn’t have anyone else in mind to fill the position. We’re big believers in chemistry, both musically and personally, so rather than adding someone that we didn’t know, we decided to continue with the four remaining members until we found the right fifth member. Alasdair (who happens to be married to my wife’s cousin) had recently moved to the US from Scotland and we really hit it off on a musical and personal level. I told the rest of the guys about him and he came down to rehearsal. He was a perfect fit and has been with us ever since (2012).

We parted ways with our long time drummer Jeremy [Hemond] in November of 2016 when he moved back to Vermont. As might be expected, devoting time to the band had become an issue because of the distance. We decided to move on and look for another drummer. In a complete stroke of luck, Alexei came across an ad we placed and came down to audition. After trying out a handful of drummers who weren’t right for us, we knew Alexei was our guy from the first song. He fit right in and we all feel a renewed sense of purpose.

We’re really happy, looking forward to working on new material, and playing shows.

How did the writing process work out for The Depths Below? When did you start thinking about a follow-up for the self-titled and how did the material come together? Was there anything in particular you wanted to do coming off the first album?

Scott O’Dowd: The writing process worked pretty much the same way it always does, except for Alasdair contributing to the songs, and Matt having even more input this time around. We very rarely stop and say, “OK, it’s time to write for the new album.” Instead, we are always working on ideas whenever we have a chance or are feeling inspired. It’s a perpetual thing for us. Sometimes songs will come together rather quickly, such as “Johnny” from the self-titled. Other times we may have a couple of parts and not be able to finish the song. When that happens we tend to put that particular idea on the back burner and come back to it at a later date. Sometimes even years later. We work on a particular idea until we feel it’s finished, however long that takes. It’s not enough for us to throw a few riffs together and call it done. It’s important that a song has a flow and makes sense. We work democratically and listen to each other’s input and tweak parts until we are satisfied. We’re our own toughest critics.

Some of the material written shortly after the self-titled was in the process of being recorded. Some of the other ideas were fleshed out later on. As I mentioned above, it’s an ongoing thing.

When did you know that “Walk Through Fire,” “The Citadel” and “Blood of Heirs” would tie together? How did that come about, and what is the narrative uniting the songs?

Scott O’Dowd: I’m going to defer to Matt on this one.

Matt Harrington: If I’m remembering correctly, “The Citadel” was the first song we completed of the three. “Walk Through Fire” is in a different tuning, but I must have heard it right before “The Citadel” on a practice recording because I remember really liking the way they led into one another. I also knew I wanted to tell a little more of the story when I finished “The Citadel,” which also plays into the lyrical why of “Blood of Heirs.”

“In the Shadows of Ancients” is a loose adaptation of a story I wrote. “Walk Through Fire” is the radicalization of the disenfranchised, “The Citadel” is the execution of the oath by the faithful with a little familial revenge thrown in, and “Blood of Heirs” is a homecoming of sorts with the backdrop of a battle.

How about the recording? Was the album done in one shot or over multiple sessions? It seems like there’s a more aggressive sound this time around. Was that something you were looking to bring out purposefully, or just how it worked out in the writing and production?

Scott O’Dowd: We recorded the whole album with Benny Grotto. I give him major credit for understanding exactly what we wanted and helping us capture it in the recording. The album was recorded in a few different sessions. The basic tracks (drums, bass, and some guitars) were recorded at Q Division in Somerville, MA, in December of 2014. We recorded most of the rest of the rhythm guitar tracks at Mad Oak in Allston, MA. We finished up leads and vocals at Moontower (R.I.P.) in Somerville. The actual recording was finished in June of 2015. From there we mixed with Benny and sent it off for mastering to Jeff Lipton and Maria Rice at Peerless Mastering.

As for the more aggressive sound, I think partly it just had to do with some of the songs themselves. We’ve always listened to all sorts of music, and I know I tried to bring some more of my metallic influences to the forefront on a few songs. “Walk Through Fire” for example, was a song that had a bit of a NWOBHM feel to me when I came up with the main riff. “Blood of Heirs” has more of an oldschool thrash-metal-meets-Bathory sort of feel to the main riff. I know we made a conscious effort to have a lot of variation in tempo and feel. I’m sure that directly contributed to the genesis of those two songs. Aside from wanting a good amount of variety, there were no strict “rules.” We like to write riffs and songs we enjoy and try not to worry too much about something being a stylistic outlier or odd man out sort of thing. If we like it, we go with it.

What’s the story behind “Dead Channel?”

Matt Harrington: I’ve always loved dystopias. I never expected to live in one, but that’s a whole other thing.

The name is a nod to the first line of William Gibson’s seminal cyberpunk book, Neuromancer: “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.”

That line drew a young me in instantly, and the visual is a favorite of mine. Pretty soon, someone who picks up that book for the first time won’t know what that is without checking Google, if they even bother to. Isn’t it sort of weird, uncomfortable, and exciting all at once that culture and technology change so completely and frequently now?

Lyrically, this song is a companion of sorts to “Poor and Devoid,” in that they both touch on the idea that we are both consumer and product everywhere we go physically and virtually, and what is presented to us (and sometimes what we present) isn’t always genuine or real.

I watched online communities go from USENET and dialing into BBSs to message boards/forums to where we stand now in both the more mainstream and less accessible parts of a vast internet. These communities have become global cultures and I think this sort of connection without boundaries or borders has power, both positive and negative. The optimist in me likes to think that interconnectivity, community, and freedom are ultimately a good thing.

Do we want to live in a dying world or die knowing we built something that lives on? Maybe we find a better us together, and find better ways to communicate and collaborate without the noise, ideologies, or agendas. Maybe we take a look at the old and say… you know what, it’s okay that isn’t a thing anymore. Maybe we decide to tear every last vestige of those old things down completely. Sometimes it takes weird, uncomfortable, and/or exciting to make something new. Nostalgia and fear shouldn’t prevent people from building things. My hope is that the new things we create are real and genuine and not born from the distractions that are all around us now.

You did the release show earlier this month for The Depths Below, so what’s next for you guys? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Scott O’Dowd: To be honest, there was a great sense of relief in releasing The Depths Below and playing the actual release show. The record had been a long time in the “gestation” period (which seems to be our pattern at this point), and it was our first Boston show with Alexei on drums. We wanted to pick up right where we left off and, at the same time, state our intent to continue progressing as a band. It was a packed house at our favorite club, with some of our favorite folks. We couldn’t have been happier.

As for what’s next, we’re working on new material, getting Alexei up to speed on some choice older tunes, and looking forward to the demo process for the new stuff. We’re already pretty booked up for the Fall with a bunch of regional shows. We also have a split 12″ in the works; that will hopefully be released late this year/early next year. We’re just looking to keep it rolling, wherever it takes us.

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The Depths Below on the July Doom Charts!


Let’s take a trip with the Boston quintet Cortez. Let’s have them drag us down with them to The Depths Below. I reckon we can safely state that most of you freaks out there already dug their earlier releases. Well, get ready to profess your undying love for these guys. Turning a much more metallic corner on some tracks, the fuzz, the grunge and the stoner that Cortez brings is simply amazing. And then there are those more pop sensible almost catchy moments. Yes, there is something about this records that screams ‘instant classic’. Vocalist Matt Harrington truly shines on every track and together with the killer choruses, massive riffs, dueling guitars and majestic drum work there is absolutely nothing wrong with Cortez… Shit, where is the closest grimy tattoo parlor, so I can get Cortez tattooed across my heart! ~ Joop Konraad (Stoner HiVe)

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Matt interviewed at Outlaws Of the Sun

An Interview With Matt Harrington From CORTEZ

Boston based Stoner Rockers – Cortez – returned in a big way recently with their epic new album – The Depths Below. It’s been 5 years since the band released their well-received debut album. Newly signed to Salt Of The Earth Records, their new album – The Depths Below – has been winning it’s fair share of acclaim recently with Cortez taking on a more riff-centric and progressive Sludge/Stoner Rock sound.

I was asked recently did I want to interview Matt Harrington (Vocals) from the band and I jumped at the chance. Thanks to Matt for doing such a great interview which goes through the history of Cortez right up to the present day.

So sit back and read on……

Hi Matt, Thanks for doing this interview. How are things with you today. Congrats on your excellent new album. Think you’ve outdone yourselves with this record.

Hey Steve, thanks for reaching out. You know, I can’t complain, man. Hope all’s well on your end, and thank you very much, that’s kind of you. We’re quite proud of it, and stoked that it’s finally out in the world.

Can you give a brief history of how the band came about and where it is today.

Happy to. Cortez came together in 2006, and released “Thunder in a Forgotten Town” on Buzzville Records in 2007. I joined the band in 2008, and we put out a demo in 2009 and started work on the first full length. We released our self-titled in May of 2012 on Bilocation Records. Shortly thereafter, Alasdair joined the group, and we continued the writing process for a lot of the songs that ended up on “The Depths Below.”

We released a split with our buds from DC, Borracho, on AM Records in 2014, hinting at a bit of a stylistic shift with our track “Vanishing Point.” We played the Eye of the Stoned Goat IV later that year as well, and began tracking the new album. We wrapped up recording in and mastering late in 2015, announced our involvement with Salt of the Earth in 2016, and “The Depths Below” was released at the end of June this year.

We recently welcomed Alexei to the group as our new drummer, we’re back to gigging out regularly, and we’re starting to demo material for full length #3. We’ve also got something in the works with Ripple Music that I can’t say much about yet, other than the obvious fact that we’re excited to be working with those fine people and can’t wait to share more.

What can people expect with your new album – The Depths Below.

I think folks aware of our previous work can certainly expect to be challenged a bit. Stoner Rock or Doom are certainly terms used to describe us at times, and for people going in to “The Depths Below” expecting to just get that, well…

What are the underlying themes of the album.

This one is a little different from the S/T, in that there is a loose lyrical concept that runs through the entirety of the record from “All Gone Wrong” to “Orison.” We also have a more overtly conceptual run in tracks 3-5 that perhaps take these themes to a more allegorical place. The main threads concern the power of influence and ideology, how people get swept up in both, what that might mean, and what comes next in terms of how we move forward as individuals and society.

What influenced you when recording the album and was it hard album to write and record for.

As far as the recording process goes, I have to give praise due to Benny Grotto for doing a phenomenal job and immediately/instinctively getting what we were after. We’re incredibly fortunate to have him in the Boston area, and Cortez is looking forward to booking time with him for the next one.

We did a lot of demo work for “The Depths Below,” and I give Scott credit here, since he has to listen to us for hours on end at home. We knew what we wanted to do when we went in, and we knew where we wanted to spend our time experimenting. Jeremy and Jay murdered it in those initial sessions, and it put us in a good place when it came time for tracking and overdubs.

As far as influences go, I was writing these songs between around 2010ish – 2015. The ongoing rise/entrenchment of social media definitely played a part, especially with regards to how that affects interpersonal and wider relationships, the belief systems and ideologies we cling to, the brands we allow to have power over us, and the reality tunnels we force ourselves into. Cortez is not a political band, but a lot of what I saw in the 24/7 global news cycle during that time was incredibly influential to me. I have strong personal opinions about civil rights, class, corporate welfare, government transparency, surveillance, the US military, and our plans to get the fuck off this rock.

It took a long time to be released. Five years after your stunning debut album. Why the long delay.

Shit, man, I’ve been waiting two years to play the finished copy in my car! I don’t know if there’s an easy answer here, honestly. Alasdair joined us a little bit after the album came out, and we knew wanted to spend some time writing with him so he could bring his influences to the material that ended up on “The Depths Below.”

The past several years have seen some significant and positive life events/changes for members of the band, a side project or two, some health issues, and we had to take a little time off here and there as a result. We also had a lineup change last year, recently welcomed Alexei to the band, and SotE had a few releases scheduled ahead of us, so it’s just sort of how it worked out.

Thanks for the kind words about the S/T, we’re definitely proud of that one too.

The album has been released and has been receiving some great reviews recently. Has is it surprised you how well it has been received.

I think any time someone puts themselves out there, there’s a little bit of trepidation as to how it will be received, particularly if they try to stretch themselves creatively. Honestly, I’m just really happy people are listening and enjoying what they hear. We went to some different places on this one, and it’s cool that people dig it.

Salt Of The Earth Records is releasing the album. How did you hook-up with them. Did you have any other record label offers.

Scott Harrington from SotE has been supportive of Cortez for a long time, and when he heard we had finished “The Depths Below” he reached out to us and we had a really good discussion about the plans for the label, some of the bands they were working with at the time, and how we fit in. We’re stoked to be working with a young label that has such an inspiring roster of bands. We had a cool show last year where a few of us got together to play at an amazing DIY venue called The Chürch in VT, and I’m hoping we can set up some more shows like that. There’s a tremendous amount of talent in this crew, and we’re honored to be a part of it.

Haha oh yeah, totally, man. It was like record label Thunderdome. You shoulda seen it.

What’s the song-writing dynamic within the band. Is it down to one individual or is it a group collective.

Very collective and democratic. Generally, someone will bring in a riff or a part and we’ll work from there. Every so often someone will have an idea that’s a little more fully formed, but no one ever walks in saying “here’s the song, everyone has to play it like this.” We try various ideas over the process, no one takes offense if the group collectively decides something doesn’t work, and no one is in a rush to declare “mission accomplished.”

We’re all really good friends and respect each other enough to be constructive and honest with criticism. One of my favorite parts of being in this band is that we all have diverse influences and challenge each other, but nothing ever feels like a compromise.

Some songs get wrapped up in a practice or three, some can take months of work, and another might get halfway there before we put it on the shelf for a while. We don’t try to force things, and there’s a very singular mindset within the group when it comes to song craft. It’s not enough for a song to have good parts, it has to all make sense together, flow well, and be sonically interesting.

While I wouldn’t say there’s a hard and fast method to how we arrange songs, I would say there are times we consciously try to subvert the idea of that.

The thing that I’ve noticed with The Depths Below compared to your debut is it’s a lot more progressive and has heavier moments with more emphasis on riffs and melody. Is that a fair assumption to make.

I’d say it’s spot on. The majority of these songs were written with Alasdair on board, and the five piece and twin guitar dynamics allowed us to explore some new territory and let everyone stretch a bit. Speaking personally, I focused a lot on trying to find interesting hooks and melodies in places that hopefully were a little unexpected.

Was that the plan to make something different to your debut album.

I think we always want to try new things and progress as a band, but I wouldn’t say we had a hard and fast idea that we were going to set out to make something completely different. For context, some of the songs on the S/T were more or less done musically by the time I joined the band, and that record was also finished about a year and a ½ or 2 years prior to its release. Adding Alasdair’s influences and having both he and I involved in the writing process for this one certainly brought some new ideas to the party, and Alexei is bringing new ideas in now as we get into the writing process for full length #3. I don’t know if it’s so much the plan as the natural progression of a band over an 11 year span together.

Were you worried that fans might have forgotten about Cortez in the five years since you last released your debut album.

You know, we’re really fortunate in that we’ve had a core group of people who have remained interested during the time since our last release. We put out a split with Borracho in the meantime, as well as released a cover of Deep Purple Mk 3’s “Stormbringer,” and we’ve been lucky enough to have people out there who pay attention, dig what we do, and help fly the flag for us.

Will you be touring this record heavily or will it just be individual, one-off shows such as festival appearances.

I think we’d all like to get back to Europe at some point to do a longer run, but we’ve tended to stick to weekenders up and down the East Coast over the past several years. We’re hoping to have news to share regarding festivals soon.

Do you guys get the chance to tour regularly. Or is it only on certain occasions.

Unfortunately not, but we’ll see how things look now that we’re back to full strength and starting to book out mid-late Fall.

What have your been high points and low points being with Cortez or your musical career in general.

I had a year or so in there several years prior to joining Cortez that was a pretty tough run. I was between bands at the time, and just not finding anything that gelled either creatively or personally with the musicians and bands I was meeting in Boston. I need a creative outlet, I love performing, and I really enjoy collaborating with other people, so it was frustrating for me not to have that after playing consistently for so long.

It was definitely a low during our recent drummer search, but finding Alexei turned that around pretty quickly for us. Between the recent release of “The Depths Below,” Alexei joining the group, and the fact that we’re back to writing at a good pace, I’d say we’re entering a high right now.

Looking back on your musical career so far, is there anything that you would change. Or any funny stories that have happened on your musical journey.

I had some opportunities here and there that might have gone somewhere, but maybe they wouldn’t have. I could have moved, and maybe I’d have found something else. I’ll be honest, I don’t really dwell on that sort of stuff. We can’t change the past, and we wouldn’t be right where we are right now, if we could. I enjoy now.

Haha I could tell a million of them, from various bands over the years, but most of them would get lost in translation. I think they might be better in person over a few rounds of beers, so I can punctuate the conversation with my obnoxious laughter. Hopefully we’ll hang sometime, man.

We have to talk about the stunning artwork for The Depths Below. Who designed the cover and how did you decide to go with that artist.

It turned out really cool, didn’t it? We went with David Paul Seymour this time out, and couldn’t be happier with it. We’ve been fans of his for a while, and knew he’d be a good fit.

Did Cortez have any input at all with the album cover. As it’s a great representation of the album in general.

Haha does sending the album tracks and trusting in the artist count? We wanted him to listen and see what he came up for as far as a direction or ideas. He instantly got what we were looking for, and zeroed in on the concept pretty quickly.

We agree, David nailed it, and we can’t wait to see it in a larger format when it comes time to release it on vinyl.

Before you go Matt, do you have anything to say to your fans.

Just thank you. Truly. I’m humbled by the response to everything we’ve done, and I can’t wait to share the new tunes we’re building right now. I think it’s some of the best work we’ve ever done.

Words by Steve Howe and Matt Harrington.

Thanks to Scott at Salt Of The Earth Records for arranging this interview and to Matt once again for doing this interview. The Depths Below is available to buy now on CD/DD from Salt Of The Earth Records now.

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Matt interviewed by Gideon Smith

Featured Guest is the section of my website where I interview artists, actors, musicians, authors and various cool people I have crossed paths with over the years. Tonight we had a pow wow with main man Matthew Harrington, the singer for the long running and popular Boston band Cortez. Cortez had a new album out on Salt of The Earth Records. Matthew and I talked about his life history, inspiration, films, life perspective and more in this interesting interview. Very cool to talk with Matt today, laying down thoughts on the history, the present and the future of Cortez. – G

1.Matt how are you doing today man? Good to speak with you.

Hey Gideon, doing well, my man. Hope all’s well on your end. Likewise, and thank you for reaching out, I’m honored.

2.Glad you’re doing well man. Yes thanks all is good here. You’re welcome and to you too. Tell us a little about your background, are you from Boston originally?

I’m not, but I have lived in this city for most of the last 17 years. I grew up in a military family, and while we spent most of our time in Hawaii and Rhode Island, we lived in several other spots up and down the East Coast as well. I went to 4 high schools in 4 wildly different states (and something like 10 or so schools overall), so unlike a lot of folks who probably had bands growing up, I didn’t really have that chance since we moved so frequently and never really got out of basements/garages.

Yeah okay.

Aside from one lengthy stretch our second time in Hawaii, we moved every few years, and I would say that transience and exposure to diverse cultures is something that has influenced me in many ways. It’s at the center of my worldview, core philosophy, and outlook on life.

Yeah I can dig it, when I was younger I similar experiences and it definitely in hindsight played a huge hand in the same ways. That’s great man.

I’m lucky, in that I’m an incredibly social person and don’t have a hard time forging friendships with people, but it wasn’t like that was something that happens overnight in a new place that may be far removed from the last, both culturally and geographically. The music was always there though, and got me through more than a few rough patches. Still is. Still does.

3. For sure, I can see that because most people who move often like that have a hard time forming new friends and adapting during that time of their life. Yeah that’s really good. What inspired you to sing in rock groups and what was your history leading up to joining the group Cortez?

I’ve always loved to sing and write, so I think it was more of an unavoidable inevitability than anything particularly inspirational. I enjoy telling stories, performing, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy attention, so that’s part of it as well.

I wanted to be a guitarist growing up and maybe someday people will see my sweet rock moves, but I’ve been incredibly fortunate to consistently link up with talented people who put my humble playing to shame, so I’ve stuck to what I do best.

4.Did you have any favorite albums or groups that inspired you during your early years?

As a kid, I grew up listening to a lot of classic stuff like The Stones, Queen, Boston, Heart, The Beach Boys, and The Who. Led Zep, ZZ Top, Pink Floyd, Bowie, and Sabbath were in the rotation as well as I got a little older. As a teen into my 20s, it was mish mash of punk and hardcore, classic rock, post-punk, surf rock, new wave, hip-hop, indie rock, and grunge. All that stuff definitely informed and continues to inform my approach to music in general, but also specifically how I approach Cortez tunes.

Very cool man.

I’d say the stuff that has stuck with me the most as musical touchstones from my youth/formative years (aside from the previously mentioned) would be The Misfits (I sing in a Misfits tribute called The Double Whoa Sevens), Melvins, Danzig (1 and 2 especially), Talking Heads, Descendents, Faith No More, Wipers, Monster Magnet, Killing Joke, Morphine, Clutch, Hüsker Dü, The Cure, Iron Maiden, The Pixies, the Jesus and Mary Chain, Naked Raygun, Motörhead, Neil Young, and Black Flag.

Great man, I didn’t know you sang in a Misfits tribute band. That’s awesome. Yeah I love a lot of those too. How did you meet the band and Cortez come together?

So, it’s funny. Jay and Jeremy used to play in a band called Steelhead around the turn of the century, and my band Left of Heaven used to play shows with them here and there, so I knew those guys prior to joining. I actually tried out for another one of their bands later on, and then tried out for Cortez a year or so before I went to see them at the end of a tour where they had gone out as an instrumental group. Scott and I had a good time talking over a few beers that night, he sent me some new stuff they were working on, and a week or two later we got together to jam on some tracks from the EP and a few songs that eventually became part of the 1st full length. I joined the band officially a few months later. A couple of years after that, we were lucky enough to welcome Alasdair on board to bring us back to a 5 piece, and just recently we added Alexei on drums.

6.Awesome. You guys have a new record out now, can you tell us a little about the recording?

Sure thing, and I’ll start with heaping much deserved praise on the wizard, Benny Grotto, who I can’t say enough good things about. The man is a master of his craft, and just an all-around fun dude to work with.

Oh yeah he’s great, very cool producer.

I don’t know about other bands’ processes, but we demo and edit and re-demo and re-edit and then edit some more before we declare a song “done,” let alone think about stepping foot in a studio. We want to be as efficient as possible with our time during basics, so we have the cash and freedom to experiment later in the process. We came into this session knowing we wanted to track every single song we had “finished,” so we’d have some tracks ready for splits, comps, or whatever, and we knew we needed to be as tight as possible to make that happen. Jeremy and Jay are total pros, and just killed it during the initial sessions. That set Scott, Jay, Alasdair, and myself up with plenty of time to work with Benny on our tracking, overdubs, and ultimately on the whole mixing process itself.

Benny, Scott, and I had a lot of fun with the vocal tracking and mixing this time around, and I’ll give my guys total credit here for putting me in a position where we had the time and freedom within our budget. It also doesn’t hurt that Scott did a LOT of extra work on our demos this time around, and we really had a solid idea of what we wanted to execute on by the time we had Benny in front of the board.

7.How did you hook up with Salt Of The Earth Records?

Scott Harrington from SotE has been a fan of Cortez going way, way back. When we announced that “The Depths Below” was complete, he hit us up and we had a great discussion around their plans for the label, some of the bands they were beginning to work with, and their potential plans for us. As I said, it really helps that Scott H has been a longtime fan and the whole SotE team loves the music we create as a band. It’s very exciting to be involved with a new label that has such an inspiring roster of bands, and respect for the music that we all create.

8. Yeah man, Harrington’s such a great guy. Solid, supportive, enthusiastic dude. He’s been way cool to me for years. That’s awesome bro. What inspired your songwriting on the new record?

It’s interesting… this record was wrapped up about 2 years ago, and some of these songs date back to right around the time we completed the 1st full length, so there’s about 5 or so years in there where I was actively writing for this record. I had some significant personal change going on at that time, and there’s a couple of nods to that. I’ll preface this next part by saying that Cortez is not a political band, but there were many moments and movements covered by the 24/7 world news cycle from around the time of the lead up to the 2012 US Presidential election through the seemingly endless Primaries that lead up to the 2016 US Presidential election that were certainly influential and inspirational to me. Also, the continuing march of social media and how that affects interpersonal and wider relationships, the belief systems and ideologies we cling to, the brands we allow to have power over us, and the reality tunnels we force ourselves into.

Yeah okay.

There’s a loose lyrical concept that runs through all the tracks on this record concerning the power of influence and ideology, how people get swept up in both, what that means for society, and what comes next in terms of redemption or how we move forward as individuals and a people. All of that is a little more allegorical and perhaps more traditionally conceptual in the trilogy that makes up tracks 3 through 5, but the same ideas thread their way through the rest of the songs as well, from “All Gone Wrong” all the way through “Orison.”

9.Very original man. Of all your live shows what are some of the stand out memories in your band’s history?

You recently spoke with my label mate, Bill Kole of Ol’ Time Moonshine, and you’ll have to forgive me but I’m gonna copy my buddy’s homework here. We had an amazing show in Vermont last year at this rad spot called The Chürch, and played in front of a packed house at one of the coolest DIY venues I’ve ever had the privilege of playing. It was really fun to be able to share a stage with Scissorfight, OTM, and Buzzard Canyon in front of that crowd. I hope it’s something we can do again this year, and maybe make it an annual thing. They have a great group of people up there at The Chürch, and they should be proud of the scene they’ve built.

10.Yeah okay, Bill’s a cool guy, I really dug talking with him (see Bill Kole interview) . Cool man sounds really good. What do you hope to accomplish in the near future with your music?

I think we’d all like to head back to the EU and do a stretch of dates over there, but we just had our CD release show in Boston, so right now we’re focused on playing regional shows and getting the word out about “The Depths Below.” We’re also well into writing songs for full length #3, and I’m really stoked at how the new tunes are coming along. We’ve had some health issues, life changes, and lineup changes in the last couple of years, so we’re hoping we won’t take nearly as long to get the next album out for people to hear.

11.Outside of music talk, What life skill do you feel everyone should have?


12.Right on. What do you feel were some of your mistakes in your life and some of your best choices?

You know, I try not to dwell on things I can’t change. I think it’s more important to understand the lesson and use that to become a better human.

13.What advice would you give to a younger artist starting out today?

Haha marry into wealth, lawyer up, get divorced, and take half? Honestly, I think I’d just say be open minded and constructive with your band mates or partners during the writing and recording process. You owe each other honesty, respect, and the freedom to try something new or different. That said, play and write for the song, not yourself. It’s important to be critical of the music you make.

Also, unless I’m somehow speaking to a young Iron Maiden in this scenario, no one really wants to see you play for more than 30-40 minutes. Practice until you’re tight as fuck, get your shit on and off stage quickly, respect the sound engineer, and ritually murder everyone in the room with a solid 35ish minute set that would leave them wanting more if you hadn’t just killed them all.

14.I can dig it. I always say short explosive sets are memorable and always bring the fans back in for another with excitement. But in time long shows really please fans, it all depends on the time period of the band’s history and yeah style. Sure, that’s a good example saying Maiden. Yeah great points, sound engineers need to respect the band and bands need to respect the engineers. In what ways has your perspective shifted about underground music scenes since you began playing?

You know, I don’t know that it really has. I think it’s cool to see a return to that DIY mentality over the past decade or so, and this is one place where I see the Internet as a boon for a lot of artists. People have endless creative freedom within music, and there is an audience for everything out there now. I’m particularly excited to see bands stretch outside the confines of genre and expectations, especially as they start to build that audience and get wider attention.

15.I can dig that man. Good answer. Do you have other creative interests outside of music?

I write short-form fiction and have a few things I’m working on, but my job keeps me incredibly busy and I don’t have nearly enough time to devote to them as I’d like. I really enjoy cooking and the creative nature of that. I used to cook in some pretty nice places for a living when I was younger, and I’ve always found it incredibly meditative and satisfying from a creative standpoint.

16.Do you have any favorite books?

Oh, quite a few. I tend to be in the middle of 2 or 3 books at any given point. I also love comics or graphic novels or whatever we’re calling them these days. Some of my all-time favorites would be The Lone Wolf and Cub Series (‘Satan’, from the s/t album, is a nod to this), Dune, Neuromancer, The Illuminatus Trilogy (and Robert Anton Wilson in general), Lord of the Rings, Transmetropolitan, everything Philip K Dick, Lord of Light, Akira, The Big Knockover, Watchmen, Saga, American Gods, Y The Last Man, Tao Te Ching, Ancillary Justice, Chuang Tzu, The Stand, Manufacturing Consent, The Handmaid’s Tale and the MaddAddam trilogy (Margaret Atwood is a fave in general), The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (and a lot of Heinlein’s work)… and, shit man, I’ll stop there or I won’t ever stop.

17.Haha okay I understand, good sources for sure. Favorite films?

Where do I even start? Probably with Repo Man. Fucking legendary.

Great to hear you say Repo Man. Nobody talks about that one much, I remember it really well.

Also: 2001, Dr Strangelove, Empire Strikes Back, Blade Runner, Akira, The Great Escape, Apocalypse Now, Shogun Assassin, Wall-E, Coming to America, Blue Velvet, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Kill Bill, The Fall, Children of Men, They Live, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Blazing Saddles, Godfather I and II, Yojimbo, Goodfellas, Videodrome, and the Citizen Kanes of 1989 and 1991 respectively, Roadhouse and Point Break.

18. Great yeah, 2001. Children of Men, very heavy film. They Live is always a favourite. Interesting to hear you name Yojimbo. Blade Runner, also a classic. I interviewed a friend who is Hindu and we talked about his life and Hinduism, he always talks about Blazing Saddles. I think for some people certain films kind of make this impression and the variety are wide. I think everything goes back to Conan the Barbarian and Point Break, but I’m a huge fan of so many kinds of films for so many reasons. All those are very cool man. Big fans of Roadhouse and Point Break around here. What are some of the bands you know you’d encourage readers to check out?

So, I’ll admit it… I’m kind of the worst about listening to new music, but like a lot of people I’ve been digging the hell out of that new Elder record. I’m looking forward to new Chelsea Wolfe, Monolord, and Ufomammut later this year, and hopefully making the time soon to actively listen to the new Bison, Unearthly Trance, Mutoid Man, Boris, and Melvins records.

Man I am too, I am really bad at checking out new bands as often as I should. Some of those I know and some of those I need to check out!

Lately I’ve been rocking a lot of Whores, Earth, Tombs, Crippled Black Phoenix, Danzig’s Lucifuge, Beastmilk, Lana Del Rey, Ulver, quite a bit of Soundtrack work (Morricone, Stranger Things, Black Mirror, Halt and Catch Fire), 35007, Disfear, SURVIVE, Emma Ruth Rundle, Adolescents, Kendrick Lamar, A Place to Bury Strangers, a lot of NWOBHM classics, and 90s hip-hop like Smif N Wessun, Gangstarr, and GZA’s “Liquid Swords” album.

Awesome. Love a lot of that stuff. Lana Del Rey, NWOBHM, those early Danzig records. I dig Gangstarr and I’m a big 90’s hip-hop fan too. I listen to all kinds of music.

I definitely encourage people to look into the Salt of the Earth catalog, as there have been some stellar releases so far and our label mates Atala and Scissorfight had a great showing at Roadburn and Desertfest this year. Around Boston/MA, Darryl Shepard has a new project called Test Meat and Jim Healey (Black Thai/We’re All Gonna Die) is just about to debut Set Fire, Worshipper put out a really fun record recently, and I’m hoping we’ll get some new stuff from Birch Hill Dam soon. Outside of that, I’ll happily point people towards our buds in The Humanoids, Crowrider, Wasted Theory, Borracho, and Mighty High.

19.Right on for sure. Yeah man I think that’s amazing about Atala and SF at Roadburn. I dig a lot of those guys and the ones I need to hear I will get to soon. Do you guys have any shows or news coming up you’d like to talk about?

Oh, absolutely. Now that we’ve had our CD release, and we’re in the back half of summer, we’re booking Fall and looking beyond that. We’ll hopefully do a weekender or two down the coast before the year is out, and we’re really excited to be part of Forge Fest in Providence on September 23rd. The lineup is pretty stacked on both days, and it’s going to be a blast.

We’re hoping to have something to share soon about pressing “The Depths Below” to vinyl with Salt of the Earth. We’ve also got something in the works with Ripple Music that I can’t say much about just yet, but for those looking for a little more of that new Cortez… stay tuned, we got you.

That’ll be great bro.

Other than that, we’re back to work on tracks for the not even close to being titled full length number 3. We’ve got the basic skeletons of about 7 or 8 songs right now, and knowing us, these may take a few different forms as we push them towards a demo worthy state. Alexei joined us early on in the writing process, so we’ll have some new influences making their way into our sound and I’m excited to see where that takes us. This is really my favorite part, man… we’re building the groundwork for what’s coming next, actively creating together, and the whole process just puts a big smile on my face.

20.Awesome brother. Look forward to keeping up with new stuff. Any last words for your fans?

Thank you, truly. It’s incredibly humbling to have people from all over the world connect with the work our little band from Boston is putting out. We’re building some of the best stuff we’ve ever done right now, and I can’t wait to share it.

Matthew, thanks to you for the interview. A pleasure catching up with you bro. Keep me updated on your new stuff and keep up the rock. Thanks bro and take care, G

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The Depths Below reviewed at Angry Metal Guy

Pretty decent review, although it’s safe to say that this writer didn’t dig the song “Dead Planet” 🙂

Cortez – The Depths Below Review
By Dr. A.N. Grier On July 1, 2017

It’s occurred to me that when I go stoner, more times than not, I tend to lean against bands just west of me. Bands like Kyuss, Sleep, High on Fire—all residing in sunny California. Funnily enough, my favorite stoner outfit is all the way out in England [That’s east of you, Magellan. – Steel]. Hell, if you were to look at my stoner collection, you’d think Orange Goblin was an outlier and that stoner metal was an American thing. And my review of Temptation’s Wings newest record wouldn’t challenge that assumption. And now, the stoner bug has bitten old Grier once again. I desire something that’ll make my eyes puffy, my ears happy, and chill me the fuck out. Cue Cortez and their newest release, The Depths Below. I bet you’ll never guess where these doomy stoners are from…

… Boston; that’s where [That’s east too. Get thee a Garmin. – Steel]. Five years ago, this quintet released a fine self-titled debut, chock-full of chunky riffs, killer grooves, lots of good swearing (“Anything that bleeds, can fucking die!”), and hooks galore. It’s a fun record that chugs, sweeps, and swoons with a classic combination of doom and stoner. On the surface, it’s got riffs that hit hard like Orange Goblin, distorted sludge akin to Down and Corrosion of Conformity, and rocking cleans with gruffs that remind me of Brand New Sin. The result is a band just as much rock as they are doom and stoner. And their hooking songwriting proves that.

But, for how much I like Cortez, I like The Depths Below just a touch more. Because of their songwriting approach, there is a great demand on the vocals to shine as much as the guitars. Thankfully, Matt Harrington doesn’t disappoint, delivering his best performance to date. Also, the new record avoids feeling too long—something Cortez couldn’t quite avoid. What’s funny is that The Depths Below has a longer runtime than its predecessor. With careful consideration, the band has crafted lengthy songs like “The Citadel (In the Shadows of Ancients part II),” “Kill Your Ghosts,” and “Orison” to be concise and memorable. But, that doesn’t mean this album is any less diverse than the debut. In fact, it’s even more so.

For road-trip-ready numbers that’ll have you belting repetitious choruses down the freeway, go no further than “All Gone Wrong” and “To the Skies.” For some heavy riffage, be sure to check into the finale of the mid-album trilogy, “In the Shadows of Ancients.” For some sinister groove, whose chugs are ever-exaggerated by its The Sword-like layered vocals, rap at the door of the “Poor and Devoid.” Need some slow-burning groove, with even more old-school vibes thrown in? Then you can’t go wrong with album nightcap, “Orison.” Though these individual descriptions might lead one to believe this album is a clusterfuck of dissimilarities, uniformity does exist.

The song, though, that tops them all would have to be the second part of the “In the Shadows of Ancients” trilogy: “The Citadel.” Most of the song takes on a slow, moody pace that allows Harrington’s vocals to soar high. Then he unleashes some serious gruff when the chorus hits. Along the way, the drums pick up a tribal tone and the stoner-esque guitar solos cap its bass-led interlude. The song concludes with riffs that’ll dry up and crack the mirk below your feet. Unfortunately, the conclusion to the trilogy, “Blood of Heirs,” doesn’t quite capture the power of its predecessor to close out these three tracks. It’s not a bad song, but it feels forced and its underwater chorus just doesn’t click with me. Similar vocal effects are found on “Kill Your Ghosts,” but its psychedelic introduction, melodic qualities, and olde-school ’70s character fit them like a glove.

And then we come to “Dead Channel.” It’s so out-of-place on the record that I’m still trying to decide if I like it or not. Between its in-your-face vocals (that sit somewhere between the poetic angst of Project 86 and rap metal), a mid-song riff straight from everyone’s favorite ’96 Metallica record, and a chorus that sounds like the crying baby of Volbeat and The Sword. It’s fucking weird.

I’d say Cortez‘ debut is a livelier set of tracks, but The Depths Below is a better set of songs. At times, the album is all over the place, but it manages to keep itself together. But, without closer “Orison” behind “Dead Channel,” I’m not sure I could say that. This Black Sabbath-loving doom piece builds until it drives the final nail into the casket. I wouldn’t say The Depths Below is the most original record out there, but its got a classic vibe that many will find pleasing.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Salt of the Earth Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: June 30th, 2017

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The Depths Below released!

The day is finally upon us. The wait is over. We have finally given birth to our long gestating album “The Depths Below”. Nine songs clocking in at 44 minutes with cover art by the incomparable David Paul Seymour. You can download the digital album directly from our Bandcamp page or order physical copies from our record label SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS. We will also have copies for sale at our album release show on July 8 at O’Brien’s.

“…Their reputation as songwriters is well established going back a decade to their 2007 Buzzville Records-issued Thunder in a Forgotten Town EP, and it’s that core of craftsmanship that allows them to go where they will sonically across this material. Despite several distinct sonic turns both early and late in the proceedings, Cortez remain in complete control of their direction, and so guide their listeners skillfully from front to back.”
-JJ Koczan / The Obelisk

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The Depths Below reviewed on Outlaws Of the Sun

Had the privilege of checking out the amazing new album from Boston based stoner/grunge band Cortez entitled The Depths Below. I understand the term “grunge” can make some get that prickly feeling inside, but I use it with the utmost of love and respect. As a guy turning 40 (good lord….) this summer, I grew up musically in the midst of the grunge explosion. If you do the math I was 14 years old when Nevermind came out.

But I digress, to the band at hand. This Cortez album is a definite rock monster. The band wears their musical hearts on their sleeves and do absolute justice to the influences you hear in all of the songs. You can hear elements of certain bands in just about every song, but Cortez manages to have a sound all their own.

Goddamit if their isnt an almost John Garcia/Kyuss like “Well alright” that kicks off the album opener All Gone Wrong. This track rips with a definite desert/stoner rock vibe. Poor and Devoid follows with a bit more of the grunge based influence. There are times when it sounds musically, like the more rocking moments of Alice In Chains. The next three songs are part of a sort of musical trilogy called In the Shadows of Ancients.

The first is the song Walk Through Fire which features a killer driving chorus. The second part is the excellent The Citadel which shows the band slowing it down a bit in the intro and features some flourishes of acoustic guitar before closing with a big rocking outro. The trilogy closes with Blood of Heirs, which has a more old school metal feel. I may be wrong, but I swear I felt a bit of Motörhead in this one.

To the Skies is a rocker that has just a touch of Doom to it. That feeling gets revisited a bit later on. Next is Kill Your Ghosts which has a somewhat post grunge/90’s modern rock feel due to the tempo before it takes a turn to stoner rock. Dead Channel carries on the mix of stoner rock and grunge with a killer chorus on this monster. The record closes with Orison which is an amazing Doom-grunge combination. Kind of a first to me, but I dig it.

The Depths Below is a mighty record. Whatever genre of rock you dig, you shouldnt have an issue getting down with Cortez. The songs are tight. It is well recorded and rocking. The vocals are excellent throughout. Their is plenty of driving guitars and killer solos. Rock fans will not be disappointed. Get down with Cortez!!
– Todd S

Read the review at Outlaws Of the Sun

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The Depths Below review at Riff Relevant

(By Damon Gravitoyd, Guest Contributor/Writer,

With their most recent offering ‘The Depths Below‘, Cortez takes it further down to delve into a
dark pool of possibilities. Shine your eyes across a review of the new album and hear an audio
stream of their first single, “Walk Through Fire”.

Cortez have been around the block (or ten). Since 2006, this Boston brigade of five has been
no stranger to writing songs born of heavy. With Matt Harrington on lead vocals, the dual
guitar work of Alasdair Swan and Scott O’Dowd, bass and vocals from Jay Furlo, and new
drummer Alexei Rodriguez, Cortez has come screaming back with a vengeance.

Their aggressive release “The Depths Below”, via Salt of the Earth Records, shows Matt’s vocals
are strong and lend his capable voice to the razor-sharp riffs and runs that claw forth out of
the guitars of Alasdair and Scott.

Jay Furlo’s relentless bass lines are hammering and focused. His low-end rumblings form the
backdrop in which Swan and O’Dowd release their melodious hooks. All the while, the utter
lambasting of the skins serves to punctuate the story, as it unfolds song by song and enforces
the tales of depth and understanding.

Cover artwork by David Paul Seymour

This album’s subtleties insinuate through note and word, at times with sword to throat. Either
way, ‘The Depths Below‘ evokes powerful imagery.

When Salt of the Earth Records signed Cortez last year, they signed a band that had been
working together as a unit for four years. Rodriguez signed on as the new drummer earlier this
year in 2017 (replacing Jeremy Hemond, who performed all drum tracks recorded on ‘The
Depths Below‘). Guitarist Alasdair Swan had already been onboard for four years and frontman
Matt Harrington for eight.

Scott O’Dowd and Jay Furlo, guitar and bass respectively, represent a full decade of the
band’s history. New drummer Alexei Rodriguez is no rookie, as his résumé can attest with his decades of experience refined with the likes of Catharsis, Prong, 3 Inches of Blood, and Walls
of Jericho, to name a few.

This band has the chops to pull off a very good album… and they do just that right here with
“The Depths Below”.

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