When I was young I wanted to be an explorer, to traverse the dark places of earth and see things that no one else had ever seen. Unfortunately, I was a boy during the 1990s and early 2000s; a time of rising technological innovations the likes of GPS and satellite imaging. What’s the point of traveling to remote locations when you can simple go there in the comfort of your own home via Google earth? In short, I left my dream of exploration and adventure behind and delved into the seemingly bottomless mass of obscure metal instead.
Many years later, Shadow Kingdom Records sends me a piece of gold, a re-release of an utterly obscure and forgotten band from Italy with the enigmatic moniker: Run After To. Naturally I was intrigued. The band formed in 1983, released a demo entitled “Gjinn and Djinn” in 1985, a self-titled EP in 1988 and then, disappeared. After decades of neglect, these two recordings have been re-mastered and paired together for one hell of a listening experience.
But before I get ahead of myself with the accolades I must admit, I was not completely sold on Run After To. The first three songs, though better produced and containing a show of greater musicianship then the following six tracks, came across as cheesy. These three tracks make up the bands 1988 self-titled EP and sound less like the proto doom I was expecting and more like an 80’s soft metal band the likes of Metal Church, with the added embarrassment of some truly schlocky keyboard sections and vocals delivered with eyebrow raising half-heartedness.
To be fair, the Run After To EP is not all bad. In fact, there are some real standout performances, particularly in the bass lines which bring to mind the finessed noodlings of Geezer Butler and Martin Swaney. The opening track, “Who Cries for the Children” in particular has some spectacular riffing while the EP’s 12 minute closer “My Name is Man” has one hell of an extended solo. All in all however, I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the remaining six songs luckily I forged on.
Once “Gjinn and Djinn” kicked off with “Occultism” I was enthralled. Here was the music I was expecting: dark, heavy, and containing more riffs then you can shake a stick at. This is Proto Doom at its best containing the melodic edge of NWOBHM, whilst still dishing out punishingly heavy riffs. As far as its production value goes, “Gjinn and Djinn” is much rawer then “Run After To” but this does little to dampen its effect on the listener, in fact in some ways it enhances the experience.
To be honest, after listening to “Occultism” (a song Paul Chain covered in his 1984 Violet Theatre EP, Detaching from Satan), “Walking on the Rainbow” and the impossibly heavy “Visions” I am now convinced that the “Gjinn and Djinn” demo belongs next to the other standout recordings in a time when Doom Metal was just being born. This includes; Pentagram’s “Relentless” Witchfinder General’s “Death Penalty” and Candlemass’s “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus.”
After years of listening to strange and unheard of bands the genre of so-called “Pop Music” makes little sense to me now. How can radio friendly music that is heard everywhere across the globe challenge the listener? How can a person be satisfied in simply turning a knob on their radio and have instant music? “Run After To” is all but unknown, save for those looking for something truly obscure. It is satisfying knowing that bands like this exist and are just waiting to be discovered.
words by Brendan E. Butler