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April 13, 2012 - Jim Price
Nearly two decades ago, the name perhaps most synonymous with the central Pennsylvania heavy metal music scene – Todd Giornesto – stepped away from that scene.
Brandishing a feral vocal howl and go-for-broke demeanor, Giornesto built popularity and credibility in the 1980s and early 1990s through a succession of bands. He first surfaced in the early 1980s as frontman of dark-toned Huntingdon County-based metal rockers Black Angel. In 1985, Giornesto moved on to front the more glam-geared Slammer, whose colorful live show quickly became a favorite on area stages, and whose music garnered nighttime local radio airplay on WFBG-AM’s “Top 9 at 9” and “All Night Album Rock” programs. But increasingly enamored with the burgeoning thrash/speed metal movement, Giornesto departed Slammer by 1987 to try his own hand at the aggressive side of the metal genre. The initial result was his self-named band, Giornesto, which went through several incarnations before morphing into Chilling Vision by the end of the decade. Giornesto issued a 1988 cassette EP called “Virgin Eater,” and toured throughout the state, sharing the stage with national heavy metal powerhouses like Exodus and M.O.D. But Giornesto relocated to New York City in 1989, where he fronted Beyond Reason. Beyond Reason also recorded an EP, and chased the grail of signing with a record label.
But by 1993, the musical tides had changed, and grunge and alternative displaced heavy metal as the prominent flavors in rock music. Disenchanted with where the music scene was headed, Giornesto decided to leave music and pursue other interests.
“When I walked away from music, the whole scene just sucked,” Giornesto said during a recent interview on Rocky 104.9’s “Homegrown Rocker” program. “I've just been riding my motorcycle, working and living.”
But according to Giornesto, the itch was still there through the years, and it was just the matter of the music climate aligning itself, and the right personnel making themselves available.
Last year, Giornesto gathered up members of his musical ‘family’ – cohorts from his past band projects – to assemble a new mach edition of Giornesto. He reunited with his former guitarist from the Slammer days, Matt Socoski. A guitarist from one of the original Giornesto lineups, Ray Moretti, became a guitarist in the new edition of the group. And for his rhythm section, Giornesto recruited the former drummer and bassist from Beyond Reason, John Grasso and Dave Kramer respectively. The group developed some songs and has issued a basement demo of new song material online, and they have been rehearsing diligently toward a return to the live stage.
That return will happen this Saturday night, April 14, at Pellegrine’s in Altoona as part of the 8th annual Jeff Wallack Memorial Show. Giornesto will be one of seven bands performing in memory of Wallack, a respected Altoona area guitarist who unexpectedly passed away on April 2, 2005. Proceeds from the concert will benefit the Jeff Wallack Music Scholarship Fund, set up to help aspiring music students with their educational pursuits. The show will begin at 8 p.m., and feature performances from the new mach edition of Giornesto, Half Tempted, NailDriver and As U Fall Away; as well as reunion performances by past Altoona band favorites Pulse, Shattered China and I.O.U. Advance tickets are $5 and can be purchased at Pellegrine’s and Music Emporium; admission at the door is $8. For more information about the concert, call (814) 931-3369.
A photographic trip through Todd Giornesto's previous career: Here is Giornesto performing with Slammer at Cisco's in Altoona, June 1986.