Sunday, July 13, 2014

…beyond the walls of doom: JOHN GALLOW – ‘Violet Dreams’

Surreal, cinematic atmospherics coupled with traditional doom riff wizardry and meandering leads are at the forefront of John Gallo’s (Blizaro, Orodruin) deceptively schizophrenic and reverentially titled solo debut ‘Violet Dreams’. As with the career spanning release of Blizaro’s excellent ‘Strange Doorways’ (review HERE), Italy’s I, Voidhanger Records are once again unleashing the digital and physical release. With a slight twist on his own name John Gallow’s ‘Violet Dreams’ sonically has more in common with ‘Strange Doorways’ opposed to ‘City of the Living Nightmare’ and stands even further from his seminal work with Orodruin.

While Gallo proudly wears his influences on his sleeve and would probably be the first person to volunteer his inspirations and influences those facts do not overshadow or diminish the overall effect of ‘Violet Dreams’ or his work with Blizaro. Even though there are a few contemporary bands such as Northwinds or Crowned in Earth who truly stand apart from the herd by incorporating progressive elements into their sound none of them are able to quite evoke the claustrophobic madness, unearthly soundscapes, and old-school doom atmospherics that Gallo manages to capture—a feat that he accomplishes without coming across as hackneyed or insincere. ‘Violet Dreams’ is nothing short of mesmerizing from start to finish.

Production-wise the album has an almost distant, monochromatic feel that is not too dissimilar from Candlemass’s ‘Epicus Doomicus Metallicus’, an album that also stands as a good point of reference (among many) for unravelling the mysteries of ‘Violet Dreams’, though ‘From the 13th Sun’ would not be too far from the mark either. ‘Violet Dreams’ opens with two of the heaviest tracks to be found on the album, “Entrance to the Unknown” and “Dark Traveller”. “Entrance to the Unknown” flat out smokes with a chunky groove, blistering leads, and ghostly moans before things start to get weird. Gallo effectively and tastefully matches riffs with well-placed keyboard flourishes for an overall disorienting vibe. Where “Entrance to the Unknown” ultimately takes the listener on a journey through surreal soundscapes the much shorter “Dark Traveller” goes almost exclusively for the jugular with its head-banging groove.

‘Violet Dreams’ is a twisted, spiraling trip through realms both familiar and obscure and “Purple Room” effortlessly delves into both. Not only does it stand as one of the most warped tracks of the album, but it also features some of the album’s catchiest basslines and spectral wails from the beyond. The emotive and unique “Turn Sides”, another album highlight, is punctuated by some truly excellent riffs that really shine on the latter half of the track before keyboards eventually rise and wash over the remainder of the tune bringing it to its conclusion. Despite all of the album’s inherent weirdness “Beam of Light”, the album closer, is stylistically the most anomalous of the entire collection. Doom, for the most part, takes a backseat in favor of simple, heart-rending guitar strums as Gallo assumes the role of a demented crooner for possibly the most interesting tune of the lot.

Fans of Blizaro, particularly of the ‘Strange Doorways’ collection, will find that ‘Violet Dreams’ offers the same unique re-envisioning of a multitude of influences filtered through what can only be called Gallo’s genius. While there are scores of bands mining the past for inspiration there are few who plumb the depths or farthest reaches as thoroughly and genuinely as Gallo seems to do. ‘Violet Dreams’ is not the heaviest album of the year, nor is it trying to be, but it will by year’s end undoubtedly stand as one of the most unique and labyrinthine albums to be released. Highly recommended for fans of doom, old school horror, and for those who like it when shit gets weird…

John Gallow Facebook

I, Voidhanger Records

I, Voidhanger Records Bandcamp

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