MIKE BOTELLO: Indigenous


Although you might not be familiar with the name, Mike Botello is no stranger to the music scene. Not only did he start playing drums at a very early age, but he was also active in the late ‘80’s/early 90’s club scene in Austin, TX with his bands Assalant and Awake, including as an opening act for the likes of Holy Soldier and Vengeance Rising as part of the powerful movement in Christian hard rock and metal which erupted during that time period. In addition to his musician roles (drums/bass/vocals) he later moved on to Nashville to work as a producer and subsequently developed his own record label (Mijaces Records), on which he has recently (January 19th) released his 5th studio album Indigenous. [For those interested in a more in-depth synopsis of Mike’s career, visit botellomusic.com.]


At just over 60 minutes in duration, Indigenous is a comprehensive musical and spiritual journey – one which requires many listens to fully grasp and appreciate. Not only is Botello’s music complex and thought-provoking, but it is quite diverse as well – spanning many decades of influences in the hard rock/metal and progressive genres.

Mike contributes vocals, drums, percussion, bass and keyboards/programming, and so this is a solo project in the sense that you have a talented multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer laying it all out in a very professional manner. And while he does employ the help of Tony Smith and Jason Barrett on guitars, this “solo” approach is both daunting and risky because it renders the artist quite vulnerable to scrutiny. Ultimately, the music speaks for itself – Indigenous is both an enjoyable, creative musical ride and a provocative, inspiring spiritual experience.

We are Indigenous…

The journey begins with “Chasing the Dragon” where an ethereal narration expounding upon the reality of “life” is followed by a percussive tom interplay which heralds something grand and rhythmic to follow. This opening track is a mixture of Botello’s vocal exhortations, heavy guitar riffs and explosive drumming, the song setting the tone for the album both lyrically and musically.

“I’m Down” is the first of two songs here which feature Mike Soliz (Assalant, Militia) on vocals. This slow-paced, bass guitar driven groove rocker serves as a nice single and has a more accessible melody.

One of the great things about a natural drummer’s solo record is that you are going to hear a lot of drum fills and embellishments. “Rhythmic Inception” is exactly what it sounds like – a full-on drum solo, a chance for Botello to showcase his talents. I love the bright tones that resonate from the toms. In fact, the drum and cymbal tones on this album, not surprisingly, sound fantastic! In contrast to much of what you hear in metal these days, the drums actually sound like drums!

One of the best songs on the album would be “The Nihilist.” A reference point here might be the late era Rush sound – a solid mix of progressive chops but with a focus on melody and a concise delivery. There is a Spanish flare to the acoustical guitar intro, then after a cynical laugh, the full groove kicks in. Botello, whose voice sounds a bit like Geddy Lee at times, persuasively presents the case against the unbeliever –

“Succumb to apathy/Leading to sociopathy? Spending eternity wondering/You nihilistic man!!!”

As is the fashion with most of the tracks on Indigenous, the drum rhythms are tight, precise and full of innovative flares. I love the shred guitar solo/drum solo tandem just before the final ride out – nice touch.

In contrast, and in tribute to all those early Rush one-album side songs, “Euphellum” is an 8-minute instrumental prelude track to the 4-part “Americaust” which follows. Fans of progressive rock bombast will enjoy this concept song about a survivor of a nuclear assault on U.S. soil. [Note: The lyrics, as well as additional narrative, are not included in the 4-page CD insert but can be found on the botellomusic.com website.]

Time is for Mankind

“Heed the Warning” is well-placed as a follow up song to “Americaust” and serves as an exhortation to “be ready” for what is to come.

“The time has now come for you to choose – Life, or death under siege”

Up to this point I’ve alluded to a few guitar solos by Tony Smith but haven’t really said much otherwise about his contributions. Along with co-writing a few of the songs on here his Alex Lifeson-like solos add a huge level of credibility to the music in general. Specifically, his solo on this song shines!

“Prosody” is another study in rhythmic patterns – aka drum solo – this one nearly two minutes in duration. Spot on. What can I say, you can never have too many drum solos!

Transitioning styles once again, “Sunday Faces” has a fuzzy, down-tuned mid-90’s groove rock vibe with riveting lyrics.

“Secret Identity” once again features Soliz on vocals. This upbeat rocker similarly has a more accessible melodic sensibility akin to “I’m Down,” this time exhorting the listener to be honest about our struggles/addictions and warning of the dangers of escapism or of living in a false “painless” reality.

For those who can’t get enough instrumental rock, “In the Midst of Chaos” is yet another soloistic track which features the fantastic guitars of Tony Smith soaring over strong drum and bass guitar grooves. I would also add, that from a mixing and production standpoint, this track serves as a great reference point for how good this album sounds. The acoustical “Serenity” follows, essentially an interlude between “Chaos” and the final two tracks.

“Evanescent” is a deep track, one of the best here without a doubt. Really the final two songs stand out both lyrically and musically as extremely well-crafted tunes. They are both somewhat trippy/hypnotic songs with a 70’s vibe. “Evanescent” builds throughout with intensity and tension culminating during the final moments of the track, and then “The Remnant” comes to the rescue – a triumphant/encouraging rock of a song describing, so perfectly, the resolute comfort and stance we are called to:

As I stumble through tribulation

Set my compass to revelation

In Jesus name my faith proclaim


This oath I take my soul at stake


Time has come now for deviation

As I disavow indoctrination

Let my thoughts turn to all Creation

Pray you come to Jubilation

Take all actions to realization

The Spanish guitar solo paints a beautiful musical picture of encouragement amidst the bleak backdrop of much of the end-times descriptive which has proceeded. The outro narrative features the continuation of the lyrical theme presented in the introduction – reflecting on the role of “time” in the eternal scheme.

The Beginning and the End

It is evident from repeated listens to this recording over the past 6 weeks that a tremendous amount of work, time and thought went into the production of Indigenous. The music is well-constructed and the recording, mix and production quality first rate. My only criticism would be in the vocal department, where at times Mike sounds strained and where at times the vocal phrasings feel a bit awkward, but fortunately it doesn’t distract from the larger picture significantly.

In conclusion and in coming full circle … ultimately, the music speaks for itself – Indigenous is both an enjoyable, creative musical ride and a provocative, inspiring spiritual experience. Fans of well-crafted, edgy rock in general should give this a listen, and those of you who enjoy progressive rock/metal with conceptual lyrical themes, specifically, will want to check this out.


For those interested in learning more about Mike Botello, click HERE to read the full-length interview conducted by Doug Van Pelt late last year.

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