Blizaro: “Strange Doorways” DCD

Perhaps better known for his role within Orodruin, the shape shifting Blizaro gradually appears to have become John Gallo’s primary creative outlet since 2006 even if he does periodically dip in and out of other aliases. This particular collection spans six years and compiles four DIY recordings that received very little circulation outside of the main man myself. Oddly enough, these demos, EPs or albums are presented in reverse chronological order with some exclusive bonus material at the end of each disc. Personally, I would have preferred to begin at the beginning and follow the journey from there. That aside, I was admittedly more anxious to explore the unfamiliar terrain of “The Old Wizard of Winter” and “Blak Majicians” that fell the year before and the year after “City of the Living Nightmare” and the self-titled split with Wooden Stake respectfully.
So standing in the near present of 2012, “Blak Majicians” opens with a “Sacrifice” that is Blizaro through and through. With broad brush strokes he reaffirms his love for old Italian horror soundtracks, vintage Heavy Metal and Doom. This epitomises his alchemical gift to transform nightmarish visions into a haunting display of virtuosity across organs, lead guitar and twisted vocals. “Burial Grounds” has a strong gravitational pull and it is equally difficult to resist the solitary synths of “Lifestream” and the evocative sweeping guitars of “Projections” that recall a gloriously instrumental Cirith Ungol. However, throughout this sketchbook, some of the songs and some of the movements within them gel better than others. Ironically enough, it is often the cruder metallic parts that seem to either jar or leave me craving the Orodruin that promised so much ten years ago before they slipped into obscurity. Take the truly inspired lead break at the opening of “Slaves of Chaos” and the subsequent demented vocals with the rolling double kick and barbaric crunch in between or the way the songs merges with the Black Metal explosion of “Towers of Mystery” to the extent that they appear inseparable. For me, these harsher elements spoil the delicate flavour and flow. Whether or not it is a brush stroke too far or one at odds with my palette is unclear. Perhaps a little of both.
Recorded three years earlier, “The Old Wizard of Winter” is much more coherent altogether albeit with no guitars, bass or drums. Composed on an organ and Moog against a backdrop of sound effects the atmosphere shifts from festive to creepy then outright spacey. Is that a figure hunched over the keys in a dilapidated castle? A snow-covered church with the wind howling outside? A fantastical foray into Middle Earth? Or each one morphing into the other and back again? Quirky and quaint, it may make the ideal soundtrack to a good book by the fire.
Returning to the “Blue Tape” was nothing short of a revelation. From the very “Entrance” onwards, it is a delight to behold this forgotten treasure again. “Sphere 1 (The Mirror)” could be Orodruin with a ’70s Hard Rock swagger. “Sphere 2 (Shifting to Trapezoidal Vessel)” is loaded with Goblin atmospherics and the finale is so damned classy. “Sphere 3 (Simulation)” reminds of the first movement in the series of spheres before striking out in a totally different direction. But it is the monumental “X Spheres 4 & 4B” that really make a deep impression with the pounding rhythms courtesy of Earl of Void, borderline phonetics and a succession of inspired lead breaks from Gallo before ultimately melting into the eerie acoustic guitar and whistled lament by Peter Vicar. If that was not already enough, “The End Commence (Beyond Protocol, No Return)” is an unsettling lead-weight funeral mass. The bells toll solemnly. A solitary monk beseeches the heavens for safe passage of a loved one’s soul. Was the “Blue Tape” simply envisaged as the counterpart of the red cassette of “Horror Rock” or a blue cord forever cut, I wonder…
“Horror Rock” indeed! This is where it all began, and eight years on, it still stands proudly in Canon Gallo. The synths of “Sea of Darkness” scream classic horror. Shifting from those haunting passages through his signature guitar tones and the fucking lead breaks (argh!) this visionary shines. Epic. Mammoth. Otherworldly. What follows thereafter is a series of cinematic experiments. “It’s In the Lighthouse” is an incredible moody guitar platter, “The Opening Death” flurries left and right whilst the aptly named “Solar Drone” is so phased and distorted it is almost hallucinogenic.
Without attempting to attach further meaning to the skew of supplementary pieces, some of which are again patchier than others, my advice would be to embrace the encyclopaedic whole as it was intended. Focus on the historical chapters in turn. Allow them time and space to breathe, to be absorbed and then move on or return when ready. The approach remains true for me even today many months after I pushed open these “Strange Doorways”. With our resident alchemist’s expansive laboratory notes, further commentary from John Brenner, archive photographs and befitting bespoke artwork re-imagining each episode the endeavour has to be applauded. By no means perfect, here lies John Gallo, warts and all. It has been one hell of a journey so far. What do you think?

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