After four years of contemplation, songwriting, and demo work, American multi-genre, heavy rock band Gone Is Gone has released its eight track, eponymous debut EP.
Band founders Tony Hajjar (At The Drive In) and Mike Zarin (Sencit Music) decided in 2012 that they wanted to add vocals, flesh, and gristle to some movie trailer and videogame music they'd kept from past projects, so the pair invited Troy Sanders (Mastodon) and Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age, Sweethead, A Perfect Circle) onboard. The result is eight evocative, colorful soundscapes that cross and defy genre boundaries, ranging from ethereal and relaxing to freakishly heavy.
On paper, or by listening to the members' back catalogs, this should be a crushing, modern metal band. Never judge a book by it's cover, and don't pre-judge an album: even the metallic direction of the album's opener, "Violescent" is only a brief nod to those heavy roots. It's a radical change of pace for three-fourths of the band: Sanders is now a lightning rod, as sole lead vocalist and lyricist. Partners Hajjar and Zarin have foregone the Sencit synth orchestra, supplanting it with genuine guitars, bass guitar, and vocals. Only Van Leeuwen is immediately recognizable in both tone and intent - carrying chops and style honed before his Enemy days, sharpened in Sweethead, and carried to their fullest, yet subtlest, degree in Queens.
The band has emphasized that these are compositions, not just radio tunes. In it's ambition, it's art rock for a new generation. In it's delivery, it's atmospheric alt rock with some darker leanings. The songs share a modern, crisp, full, dynamic mix, not suffering technology's foibles whatsoever. From listening to these songs as they may have been originaly intended - as background, accent, and underscore accompaniments - rather then as songs on an album, they fall somewhere between vapid commercial jingles, background smooth jazz, theatrical backdrop or "canvas" music, and magnum opus symphonies.
The instrumentation seems to have been meticulously laid out, and has been worked to evoke legion atmospheres or moods. "Stolen From Me" is fairly melodic, and has touches of post-hardcore alongside it's simplistic, easygoing rock riffs and ethereal, relaxing bridge. Both backing vocals and guitar parts are nicely arranged, sometimes in multiple layers. "Starlight" is very space-rocky. Van Leeuwen's influence is strong here, and bands who share similar sonic elements include acts he's been involved with: Failure, A Perfect Circle, or even his newest, Sweethead. "Starlight" has a softer touch to the drums, a relaxed tempo, and relies heavily on synths for color and texture. "Character" is short, panoramic, ambient, and very mellow. Built using almost all synth, the guitar adds in some emphasis and color. "Recede and Enter" evokes slightly sinister ambience and a doomy, creep-out atmosphere. The song is fairly mellow, very cinematic, short, and almost entirely instrumental. Thumpy low notes and sinister synth elements add to the depth of the sonic shadows.
For a listener who gravitates towards heavier music, mid-tempo opener "Violescent" remains the clear album highlight. A riff and solo heavy rock or metal tune, it's replete with thick, beefy tone and delicious distortion. Van Leeuwen's tremolo-picked solo is pure metal goodness, dyed in the wool. As an opener, it does make the album fall prey to the trope of top-loading, where the heaviest material is showcased first. "Violescent" has a thoughtfully composed, polished, full song feel; the band seems to hit rare stride.
The atmospheric, orchestral, layered approach has worked exceedingly well for heavy metal bands, especially progressive 'epic' power metal, and some of the folk metal acts. Avantasia, earlier Cradle of Filth, and (Luca Turilli's) Rhapsody all harness the larger then life, ambitious, cinematic, 'live band and synth orchestra' approach, which varies in atmosphere from the darkest blacks, to the most upbeat, jovial, sunny days evoked. Industrial, post-metal bands like Nine Inch Nails and Rammstein have also experimented with fuller, lush, aggressive, bleaker atmospheres. Why the rock world has focused more on scoring operas, without leveraging this niche much is a mystery. Enter Gone Is Gone, a band ready to take on this budding subgenre.
On Gone Is Gone's debut, the textured sonic works share prodigious common ground with theatrical and videogame music. The vocals are what brings Gone Is Gone to life, from what could easily have become the ambient, heavy version of cocktail jazz one might hear at a party, or underscoring a BBC documentary, to center fore. Sanders told Billboard that he'd like to see the band's music featured alongside virtual reality artists, art, and travel television shows - other avenues besides bandmembers onstage. The band mentioned that it will release at least two more installments, including a disc of instrumentals. Fans interested in what they've heard here will surely want to remain attentive to when the band unleashes its next music.
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