Photo by John Shearer
It’s rare to get more than one shot at a rock & roll career. So it took biggie-size balls for the five members of Abloom to walk away from established outfits (drummer Roy Mayorga, guitarist Mikey Doling and bassist Marcello Diaz were three-fourths of hard-touring metallers Soulfly, while vocalist Jasan Radford and guitarist Levon Sultanian were the nucleus of eclectic rockers OneSideZero) and start over.
Abloom’s motivation was elementary yet increasingly rare — music: a thirst for artistic realization that their previous situations couldn’t slake. Their paths had crossed on the road, and they were mutual fans, but it wasn’t until rock impresario Nic Adler brought Doling and Radford together that the germ of a band was born. Sultanian soon followed, as did Mayorga and original bassist John “Tumor” Fahenstock (who’d been Doling’s bandmate in the much-revered metallic punk outfit Snot, and left Abloom in September to concentrate on his LoPro project). When the five convened at a rehearsal space, the results were instantly breathtaking. “When we got there, Tumor, Mikey and Roy were already going off on this insane riff, which turned out to be ‘Nothing Left To Do,’” recalls Sultanian. “Within half an hour it became a song, and we still play
What they had concocted was an adventurous and often epic outpouring: a mongrel melding of Iron Maiden’s harmonized guitars, Journey’s sense of scale, System of a Down’s Caucasus exotica, and Radford’s timeless, rich ’n’ warm bellow. “It’s going so heavy when we’re writing,” Doling enthuses, “we’ll go five or six hours, we won’t even stop to take a leak!”
Though they immediately appreciated their collective chemistry, the band (then called Mothra) was strictly a side project while its members continued to pay the bills with their existing acts. It was the intervention of System of a Down bassist and longtime friend Shavo Odadjian that tipped their commitment Abloom’s way.
“I was impressed off my ass!” Odadjian beams, the slang incongruous with his Old World Armenian-American accent. “I saw the chemistry, and I was like, ‘Please keep on doing this! This has got to be the main project, and the rest should be side projects.” Soon Odadjian was co-manager and then executive producer of the band, feverishly involved at every level.
Though Odadjian’s a contemporary of Abloom’s, his shaven head and bizarre braided beard lend him a sagely air, and he comfortably commands attention during business discussions. He co-produced Abloom’s two-song demo, which opens with the galloping 6/8 bombast of the flagship “What You Came For.” Initially it sounds like dated D&D metal, but within 30 seconds it somersaults into a panoramic, sorrowful verse breezed with Eastern echoes, gradually galvanizing into a Herculean chorus epiphany, Radford’s textured roar pulsating with purpose and sentiment. Odadjian’s input is obvious on “After That Quiet,” where the verses’ second-skin vocal harmonies fly too close to SOAD’s sun for comfort.
Live, Abloom are endearingly unpretentious yet jaw-droppingly adept. Doling, Radford and Diaz radiate audience connection, while Sultanian is content in his element, guitar strapped high, choosing craft over chaos. Their live diamond is Mayorga, a compact Tommy Lee whose drumming — aside from its shuddering articulation and velocity — is so visual that Radford’s careful not to block the audience’s line of sight. Abloom’s Roxy show in April was heavingly full, with a palpable air of “next big thing” permeating an exultant performance.
Though record labels are circling, Abloom aren’t salivating to sign. They’re content to build a grassroots following through touring, street teams and word of mouth before unleashing a full album, possibly on Odadjian’s new Allyo Music imprint, at the end of the year. There are already whispers dubbing Abloom “the next Guns N’ Roses,” yet while they share the punkish energy and honesty of vintage GN’R, their musical statement is incomparably kaleidoscopic, embroidered and ambitious. Abloom have appeared at the toughest of times in the music industry and may become another deserved-better footnote because of it, yet they can sleep at night knowing they chose art over adulation, purity over security.