By Jason Lefebvre
CALGARY – “It is hard to imagine that it has been 10 years, we are the old guys in the community now.”
So begins Mark Dillon of long-standing Calgary metal band Gales of Avalon. Dillon is a multi-faceted musician and artist; he’s also a driving force behind Vinland Radio and Extreme Metal Television.
“I just wanted to do something, and be a part of this amazing community. It is crazy how fast time has gone by.”
What started off as a one-man project has turned into one of the most creative projects to ever emerge from the Calgary metal community. James Neill and Jamie Gallo (both of melodic death metal band Misanthropy), convinced him to let them take part. They also roped in Dylan Hansen, who assisted with guitars and keyboards before releasing their self-titled EP Gales of Avalon (2008). The act played locally and embarked on a mini tour around British Columbia, eventually recruiting Pamela Porosky on keyboards and vocals, leaving Hansen to focus on guitar. Eventually Hansen departed, and in came David Hickli, a young talented shredder who was previously part of the live line-up of the epic progressive act Orphan Hammer.
Black Island (2011) was Gales first full-length and an ambitious concept album, telling the story of two men shipwrecked on a haunted island, struggling to survive. Musically, the record had black metal roots, starring guttural vocals, blazing guitars, hammering drums and melodic keyboards. This would be their only full-length with the instrument, as Porosky left the band not too long after. Deciding to remain as a quartet, Gales of Avalon decided on a new direction.
In 2013, Gales released the EP When the Ravens Return, their final recording with Hickli. Maintaining the dark feel, the EP featured more vocal experimentation, including clean vocals and harsh whispers. A varied tempo throughout embedded the recording with a more hypnotic feel.
Eventually, the band began recording their second full-length Hope (2017). Now a three piece, the trio took time off from playing live, focusing on perfecting the album in their very own studio dubbed CastleKill. As recording neared completion, they began the search for another guitarist, eventually bringing in Collin Wo.
“Collin has been a long time friend of all of us in the band. When Gales of Avalon first started, we shared a jam space with his band Sacred Ally, in one of the greasiest parts of Forest Lawn.
[Gallo] also played drums for him in Orphan Hammer. It didn’t feel like we were bringing someone completely new into the band, it felt like it fitted perfectly,” Dillon reflected.
In 2016, the band returned to the stage, playing more and more shows, feeding off each other’s creativity and the chemistry of their long friendships.
Dillon says, laughing, “[Neill] and [Gallo] have both known each other since childhood, growing up in Castlegar, B.C. I have known them for over 10 years now and we have all known Collin for about that long. We bicker and fight like an old married couple once in awhile, but everything seems to go pretty smoothly.”
The smoothness has translated into other, related projects. Earlier this year, Dillon and Neill sat down and wrote an audio drama entitled Hope, a companion to their album, telling the shared story of a man searching for his daughter in a plague ridden world.
“We wanted to right three concept albums, one based in the past, which is The Black Island, one set in the present day, which is Hope, and one that will be based in the future.”
He continues, “I was reading a lot of books and watching a lot of movies about plagues around the time of writing the album. We thought it would be a great idea to release an audio drama with the album as well. [Neill] and I both grew up listening to radio dramas and we wanted to bring that feeling back in this project.”
To bring the project to life, GOA brought in over 20 actors to help record the audio drama. Bolstered by help from friends, family, and figures of the local metal community, the project now includes voice talents from people like scene champion Nancy Barnes, promoter Kaje Annihilatrix, Train Bigger Monkey’s guitarist Alex Dobbins, guitarist and former radio DJ Ross Ferguson, Megawatt Mayhem’s Joshua Wood, and many more. The 32-minute story can be heard online at Gales’ Bandcamp page.
In addition to all of their current projects, GOA was recently approached by Neil Speers to record a music video for the song “Walk On.” It will feature the same concept as the radio drama, and will be released on November 14 online. Never to rest on their laurels, the band will also unveil the short horror movie Ghouls of Avalon at the CD release show in late November. It’s also a celebration of their tenth anniversary.
“It feels weird to think it has been 10 years, there has been so many highs, and more than a few lows, but we power through,” says Dillon.
“We are all good friends, like brothers, and we do it because we love the music.”
Gales of Avalon will celebrate the CD release for Hope November 25 at Vern’s (Calgary). They’ll be performing with Tides of Kharon, Nuclear Oath, Meggido and Fjell Thyngor.Calgary, Fjell Thyngor, Gales of Avalon, Meggid, Metal, Nuclear Oath, Tides of Kharon, Vern's