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Orodruin's Mike Puleo: "In some way, I think Doom Metal is like the Blues. It may sound pessimistic, but after hearing it, I hope that the listener will be uplifted by it."

Interview with John Gallo & Mike Puleo from Orodruin
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 16 October 2019, 10:30 PM

It has been said before, yet it is always right to mention it time and time again, timing is everything, it is key, no matter the cost or how much time it takes to reach it. Being absent for nearly sixteen years didn't stop the American Doom Metal band, Orodruin, to go forward and produce a sophomore album, and they did it under their own guidance and rule. Steinmetal had a chat with John Gallo and Mike Puleo, two of the band's veterans, about the feel to come back, the new album, whether its songwriting and musical development, and more…  

Hello John, it is wonderful having you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing mate?

John: Thank you, it’s good to be here for this. Doing good!

Usually when I address bands that it has been a while since their last release, I would say it is about time, yet in your case, I think that phrase has more of a magnitude than usual, as it has been sixteen years since your debut album. So I guess that the burning question is, what reasons led to this wide gap between albums? Though you did have an EP back in 2012

We intended to release a second album for many years but due to various personal setbacks between all of us we have finally found the right time to strike!

Your sophomore album, “Ruins Of Eternity”, is about to hit the streets. I guess that after such a long period of time, the excitement levels are beyond recognition, would you say? After you listened to the final version of the album, were you satisfied or rather thought there were a few tweaks here and there that could have been made?

John: It’s overwhelming and exciting indeed, we have been working on this recording for over a year and a half and it’s a relief to see it finally finished!  I wouldn’t change a thing, we’re completely satisfied!

Along with the album’s making you guys signed with Cruz Del Sur Music, which is obviously a rightful home for “Ruins Of Eternity” in particular, and Orodruin as a Doom Metal band in general. What can you tell about the signing? Was it a mutual interest by both parties to join forces? What do you think of the label’s work upon promoting “Ruins Of Eternity”?

John: Yes, Enrico is an awesome person to work with and when we first were introduced by Tom Phillips (While Heaven Wept and PR for Cruz Del Sur), our long time brother in the doom metal scene, it was a natural transition for us to take. We are proud to be on the label and he is flawless with promoting the album.

Recently you parted ways with your drummer, Mike Waske, which have been with the band since early years, and also took part in the debut album. What caused his departure from the band? Haven’t you considered recruiting a new drummer, even a session member for the drums recording of “Ruins Of Eternity”, since Mike Puleo handled the skins for this one?

John: Yes, he had been with us for a long time and helped a lot in the band development in those days.  He decided he was not into doing it anymore. At the moment we have Kevin Latchaw from Argus filling in and playing on the Hammer of Doom Fest as well as some other upcoming dates. As for the recording “Ruins of Eternity”. We had only a month or so to prepare before going into the studio after Waske left so it was only logical Puleo handle those duties at such short notice.

Let’s dive into the between the lines of “Ruins Of Eternity”. Please describe the philosophical themes that are laying around on the album. Is there a leading theme that drags all the others along with it throughout the release?

John: Every song on the album was written independent of one another. So, I didn’t intend to have one particular theme throughout. Some songs were written from a very personal perspective while others tell a story.

In your opinion, what is the message that is slowly unraveled to the listener on “Ruins Of Eternity”? Just from the title of the album, I sense deep pessimism about what the future holds

Mike: In some way, I think doom metal is like the blues. It may sound pessimistic, but after hearing it, I hope that the listener will be uplifted by it. As dark as some of the lyrics are, I actually strived for an underlying message of hope throughout the record.

In contrast to a variety of bands in your spectrum that went modern in their music, Orodruin follows the vintage kind of 70s proto-Metal, which is based on early Black Sabbath, UFO, and even a slight Boston, fused together nicely with later stages of Doom Metal crafted in the mid-80s. Looking around you, what still captivates you in this nostalgic music pattern, other than mainly being a fan? What kind of magic is in store within the riffs and the bewitching atmosphere that maintains your impulse to continue writing in a similar vein?

John:  Writing riffs that feel powerful and Iommi influenced is the key. Adding a certain melody or feeling that feels epic and expresses us emotionally is what we strive for.

“Epicurean Mass” is a well-regarded statement of Doom Metal, an inspirational record. I have the feeling that like any other band that produces a sophomore, that it has to be a level up. Therefore, what changed on “Ruins Of Eternity” that makes it musically standout in comparison to the debut? In your view, is there a way to go forward musically other than to blink towards other subgenres of Metal?

John: A bit more refined than our first album. I think Mike’s singing and writing have gone to a whole new level as well as Nick and my own playing in terms of riffs and melody. Our abilities have matured but our inspiration stays simple and we approach it like we always have to write good songs that have to have great riffs that interweave in an epic way!

After all these years after “Epicurean Mass”, which lessons did you learn that were put into action on “Ruins Of Eternity”?

John:  We are a bit more aware of what we’re doing. I think in those days we just set out to play heavy riffs in a doom metal style but we were all young and it just sort happened without paying attention. Now we still approach it with wonder and excitement but a little closer attention to detail.

How would you describe the songwriting on “Ruins Of Eternity”? Which elements in the song arrangements were provided with substantial attention this time around? In overall, would you argue that Orodruin writing sessions are a group effort?

John: Overall yes, Mike writes all the lyrics.  For the music, Mike has some tunes where he may write an entire song and a couple of which Nick and I will add a riff or harmony throughout. I often like to add harmonies on top of some riffs. Sometimes Mike writes a certain lead or harmony for me to play as well. We often write together where we jam and piece all of our riffs as we go. "Forsaken", "Hell Frozen Over", "Grave Illusion", and "Man of Peace" were all done in this way.  The rest of the songs even though we have added some elements to some of the songs were primarily Mike’s musical genius. Sometimes Mike will write a riff in the style I play and it often sounds like one of my riffs! lol

 “Letter Of A Life’s Regret” is possibly the oldest track on the album, as it was written nearly fifteen years ago. I enjoyed the track, and I think that it somewhat shows a constant musical direction. However, I wonder why at least a single track out of your 2012’s EP, “In Doom”, didn’t get a chance to enter the new record? Any particular reason? Maybe you didn’t find the end result sufficient enough in level to become a part of the new release?

John:  It’s a great good song we wanted to capture in a legit release. We have a lot cool songs we wrote over the past 15 years but we are focusing more on the future and new material so those previous demo songs will probably never be re-recorded.

Which of the album’s tracks is your path towards deep thoughts? Like personal listening sessions with yourself, thinking forward, or plainly enjoying the hazy atmosphere around them? Please elaborate on your pick

Mike: The most introspective song on the album for me is "Grave Illusion".  In this song, I pose some questions about my relationship (or lack thereof), with those around me. It’s about the longing for connectedness and seeing beyond a narrow view of the world.

I have to admit that the sound of “Ruins Of Eternity” is haunting, truly vintage in its orientation. It is noticeable that the drums are fairly modern, though with an old kind of setup. Nonetheless, the guitars and bass, especially the guitars, are right down nostalgia. Who engineered the album? What is so compelling in this sound production, when the larger part of nowadays bands prefer the modern touch?

John: I’m not quite sure we were trying to make it a mission to sound vintage but we mainly listen to albums with older productions so maybe we often use those as a point of reference.  Nick and I worship Tony Iommi’s guitar tone and even though he has evolved over the years we still yearn for Iommi’s early tones whether it be Sabbath’s Self-titled, "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath", "Master of Reality" to "Technical Ecstasy" and "Heaven and Hell". Sometimes even the Tony Martin era stuff!

Will you be bringing the wrath of Orodruin to Europe anytime soon? Perhaps the summer old school festivals? Have you already started performing with the new songs?

John: Our first gig with the new arsenal is at the end of the month with Pentagram in Rochester, NY and our next will be Hammer of Doom in Germany! We have been preparing for the doom! We’d love to come back to Europe for a tour of sorts down the line!

Out of curiosity, when you listen to music, do you prefer an actual physical copy, whether CD or vinyl, or got in line with most of the music listeners, using Digitals? Please explain your pick

John: Big time, I’m still buying and listening to CDs and vinyl. The only time I’m listening to digital is sometimes on YouTube at work but for the car it’s only CDs and for home it’s only vinyl.  I need to have something with a package I can hold and read!

Another off topic. It is said that Metal music actually makes people better, a notion that is the opposite of what has been argued on Metalheads that drunkards, share no values and simply untamed. What do you think of that? Are we actually the good guys in the social story or rather society isn’t better enough for us?

John: It definitely takes me out of the darkness! Without the power of metal music, it’s hard to be myself.

Have you already started working on new material for the next Orodruin album? What is expected of the band in the coming years? I sure hope not a long pause

John:  Not yet, but we are looking forward to writing the next album!

John & Mike, thank you guys for your time and effort on this interview, I can’t thank you enough. All the best with promoting “Ruins Of Eternity”. Cheers.

John: No problem and thank you for the excellent questions!



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