BALERO (One Planet Short Of The Sun / After The End) CD

Receiving two BALERO albums at the same time, I felt sophisticated enough to break boundaries and do some brand-new and very special, so watch out, here comes – for the first time - the two-albums-in-one review of BALEROs 2006 EP 'One Planet Short Of The Sun' and the succeeding release 'After The End'. They are an instrumental outfit, consisting of Shawn Lopuhowsky on guitar and Jim Comitz on bass. Mike Dombek played drums on OPSOTS and was replaced in 2008 by Jay Comitz, who recorded the full-length album 'After The End' with the band and is the current man behind the kit. But let’s start with the older EP first. After a mellow intro, the lively 'Captain' kicks in, reminding me of SOLARIZED or a fast-paced KYUSS. The guitars are fuzzy and down-tuned, the bass is thick and warm and the drumming comes cymbal-heavy with a driving groove.

Unfortunately the riffs are not that memorable, so I did not notice until the second half of the next song 'Bonzai', that it is already a new song. In comes a guitar solo and a break to offer some variety from the up-beat stoner riffing, but it takes until the first minute into the third song 'Inertia' to get a really catchy riff that sticks to your head and makes the song stand above the others. The intro of 'The Mangler' reminds me a bit of KARMA TO BURN (you’ve seen that comin’, right?), but also the song reveals the problems I have with completely instrumental music, especially in the stoner rock vain. Too many riffs and grooves sound similar, there are only a few breaks or melodies to make the songs distinguishable from each other. Don’t get me wrong, BALERO have a nice sound, warm and fuzzy as it should be, they play very well and on a high energy level, but they miss that tiny thing to get me really hooked. Sorry to say, but that record won’t become more than a nice back-ground play for me, while sipping some beers in the sun.

The influences of BALERO may have not changed since their EP 'One Planet Short Of The Sun', but the lineup did. Jay Comitz (brother of bass player Jim, I guess) is now the guy on the drums for their 2010 release 'After The End'. Soundwise still knee-deep in the desert sands with fuzzy guitars and pummeling bass, they have become much more interesting and versatile. Fast-paced, simple stoner riffing is still the backbone of their music, but there are now more solos, effects and breaks to keep you listening. Also great drumming by Jay Comitz, whose style I like better, more heavy, not as hectic, with some nice rhythmic variations. 'Mountain Ride' weaves mellow and distorted riffs into each other, so they roll effortlessly and unstoppable like a landslide.

The heat of Sky Valley era KYUSS shines through the whole album, especially in 'Sunshocked', while the both relaxed and urgent atmosphere of 'Journeys' takes you on exactly what the title suggests, before 'Warpath' uses the change of distortion levels and rhythms to great effect and Shawn Lopuhowsky launches great bluesy solos from his guitar. He never overdoes it with those, but from time to time he sets a little mark, which only supports the songs. 'Let It Go' ends the album with the obvious little acoustic number, but it is nonetheless a nice way to finish this record. BALERO have really evolved with this album, mellow parts interact nicely with heavy riffing, tasteful melodies and chord changes have found their way into their music. They always had a great sound, but now the songs got the catchy feel that I was missing on their older stuff. Great step forward in comparison to the EP and I’m curious what will come next, as they are in search of a singer at the moment. Let’s stay excited!

(Steve Albino)