It’s high time John Gallo got the recognition he deserves. Generally unknown outside a few underground blogs and forums, Gallo is an unsung legend of doom metal — the single most interesting songwriter playing doom today. Over the past two decades he’s toiled away with a handful of bands in Rochester, NY — usually playing guitar, sometimes singing, occasionally playing everything himself. In that time he’s amassed a staggering body of work, mostly deeply obscure, cult-by-design, traditional doom records with a psychedelic shine. Within that narrow sub-subgenre Gallo is constantly testing boundaries, following his muse to strange extrapolations of sound, never sacrificing the unique voice of his guitar playing.
I won’t cover everything he’s done, as there’s just too much, but here’s a highlight reel: Start with the organ-drenched atmospheric doom of Orodruin (responsible for one excellent LP, 2003’s Epicurean Mass); then there’s the crusty proto-black/doom hybrid of Crucifist (even if its sole 2009 album Demon-Haunted World is mostly remembered as one of Brutal Truth/Nuclear Assault bassist Dan Lilker’s countless side projects); the dragon-slaying, dungeon-trawling heavy metal of Elfspell (which released a hilarious but great demo in January); and then there’s Gallo’s outstanding, idiosyncratic solo record, released as John Gallow (the superfluous “w” adding some spookiness to his given name), which came out in 2014 and should have raised his profile immensely if it hadn’t somehow slipped through the cracks. That record, on which Gallo played everything himself, was nearly perfect — even if his guitar and keyboard skills far outstripped his drumming. Enter Blizaro, originally formed as a solo project predating the John Gallow material by several years (though both projects did seem to coexist; Gallo jumps from persona to persona and back), but eventually fleshed out with an excellent rhythm section to play ’70s-sounding trad doom paired with vintage synthesizers to evoke the feel of Italian horror and giallo soundtracks. It’s easily his most satisfying, inventive, and awesome project yet. Blizaro’s 2010 debut LP City Of The Living Nightmare was a perfect marriage of riffs and atmosphere, aptly described in the press kit as the crossroads of Goblin, Witchfinder General, and Pentagram; the 2013 compilation Strange Doorways pulled together over two and a half hours hours (seriously) of even weirder experiments to equally great effect. Now, in 2016, Blizaro is back with their second album, Cornucopia Della Morte, and to my ear it’s the best thing Gallo has touched.
I know, I know, that’s a lot to unpack. I don’t expect anyone to keep it all straight without help from Metal Archives. Focus on the track at hand instead: “Daughter Of The Scarab” starts with the mother of all horror motifs you’ve never heard (but instantly recognize), and Gallo knows exactly how to ride it for all it’s worth. Lyrics about “candles burning in the night” and “time running backwards” flit by as the song lurches from the full-on crush of DOOM — raise your fist and bring it down like a hammer for the full effect — to moments of melodic rest, subdued pockets of church organs and garish synths bubbling to the surface to keep things interesting. As a modern listener, it’s easy to underestimate the level of craft on display here; Gallo draws a lot of inspiration from the legendary Italian experimental doom genius/lunatic Paul Chain (the new Blizaro LP features a cover of Chain’s “Voyage To Hell”), though Gallo manages to capture that same atmosphere and filter it through much more accomplished instrumentation. I could rave about this thing forever, but you should just hear it for yourself — at maximum volume.
Cornucopia Della Morte is out 4/15 via I, Voidhanger.