Gone Is Gone is a new supergroup featuring Troy Sanders (Mastodon, Killer Be Killed) on bass and lead vocals, Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age, ex-A Perfect Circle) on guitar, Tony Hajjar (At the Drive-In, Sparta) on drums and film/video game composer Mike Zarin on keyboards and programming. Considering the illustrious background of most members, their debut self-titled EP has been marked as one of the more hyped releases of 2016, as is often the case when such supergroups make an appearance. Have they lived up to the hype? Let’s find out.
When looking at band’s line-up and the presence of members from Mastodon and QOTSA, one immediate thought is that this is going to be a sludgy rocker of an album, with a few samples thrown in for added texture. That proves to be exactly the case on opener “Violescent”, one of the heaviest tracks on the record. Sanders’ bass is fuzzed out to the max and as thick as a tree trunk, while Van Leeuwen’s guitar playing has a strong QOTSA vibe to it, with hints of APC’s more experimental nature. Overall the track is a solid opener, though not particularly remarkable. Contrary to expectations, it also cannot be said to be representative of the EP’s sound as a whole.
Next up we have the fantastic “Starlight”, an undisputed high point for the record. It begins with an atmospheric intro, and during the verses the guitar only slightly accents Zarin’s electronics rather than looking to dominate the track. Hajjar’s tom-heavy style of playing lends the drums a really percussive feel, something we see time and time again throughout the record. Sanders’ vocals are the star of the show, demonstrating once again that his raspy, gritty voice is one of the best in the rock/metal landscape. The way the guitars and electronics layer and harmonise with one another during the verses and bridge is exceptional, with Zarin and Van Leeuwen forming a formidable partnership. The outro has a Nine Inch Nails-esque, noisy industrial quality to it which adds to the diversity of the record, with that connection reinforced by a couple of electronic interludes present throughout the record’s 30+ minute runtime.
Thus far we have had two tracks: a solid sludge rock opener, and an excellent ambient, almost post-rock follow up. The following song “Stolen From Me” looks to combine these two approaches, with the verses and chorus a pretty straight forward rock song, and the bridge featuring a slow, atmospheric build-up. And herein lies the crux of the problem with this record. It is trying to be two things at once, and it isn’t able to pull it off. The sludgy, rock-heavy passages rarely pass as anything above average, whilst the dreamier, post-rock style of music that they produce on tracks such as “Starlight”, “Praying From the Danger” and “This Chapter” sees them at their best and firing on all cylinders. We can only speculate as to whether the first aspect of their sound is driven by outside expectations or their respective comfort zones, but it would be really interesting to see them forsake that aspect of their sound. Gone Is Gone should embrace the role of Zarin, whose fitting interludes and well-crafted ambience bring the best out of them, and come back with an atmospheric post-rock album capable of hitting year-end lists, and bringing something a little new to the mainstream.