John Gallow - Violet Dreams
I, Voidhanger Records
Improvised Traditional Doom Metal
14 songs (63' 2")
Release year: 2014
I, Voidhanger Records
Reviewed by Andy
Surprise of the month

Former Orodruin guitarist John Gallo has turned out a new solo project under a doomier version of his name: John Gallow. The debut album, Violet Dreams, is mostly-improvised traditional doom metal with the same offbeat charm as Black Hole's Land of Mystery, and shares a lot of the same surreal weirdness and beauty. Paul Chain Violet Theatre's improv space-doom is undoubtedly a huge influence on it as well; Gallo's been a doom devotee for a long time and pays homage to many of his predecessors. However, this album speaks with its own voice, and such a voice that not a song falls flat.

Said songs are rather messy, often sounding a lot like Gallo just jammed until he got something he liked and recorded that. The thing is, though...they're a delightful mess. On Entrance to the Unknown, the beat changes at random times, the riffs don't repeat much, but it still works against all odds because of the mammoth guitar riffs and Sabbath-style blues soloing. Dark Traveller is faster and choppier, with Gallo singing in a high, thin voice that channels a certain gentleman with a last name of Osbourne on the verses, while Ancient Tears is a synth instrumental that sounds like it comes straight out of an 80s horror movie soundtrack. The weird guitar solos, often off key from the main riffs, spatter over the tracks in a demented flood of chunky, palm-muted goodness -- that is, when the guitar isn't pressed into service to provide screaming counterpoints to the rhythm, such as in Maelstrom of Consciousness or Purple Room. To add to the "cheap horror movie" atmosphere, Gallo wavers up and down his mostly high vocal range in a voice like a frightened ghost, though he dips down into more of a Marcolin-style vibrato on the last song, Beam of Light, a favorite of mine -- ending in the falsetto wail of the aforementioned ghost being exorcised.

In some ways, this is more traditional even than the followers of Black Sabbath in the 80s; it's often forgotten that Black Sabbath inherited a lot from the psychedelic rock acts of the late 60s, and wistful little keyboard/guitar instrumentals like Part Ways or Lavendeth can't help but remind one of some of those early heavy rock acts. But this album has such a variety of sounds to its tracks that any old-time doom fan will probably be sucked in sooner or later; witness the sheer chugging power of Wall of Doom compared to the slow, dragging delivery of Passer-By, a song that gives stoner doom a run for its money in the slow-but-massive-riff department.

Simply put, I consider Violet Dreams to be a real masterpiece. It's traditional but quirky, technical but still obviously a labor of love by a doom metal luminary. I picked this up on a whim from our promo list and ended up playing it all week, and I suspect anyone with an interest in early doom will end up doing the same.

Killing Songs :
Entrance to the Unknown, Dark Traveller, Part Ways, Beam of Light
Andy quoted 93 / 100
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