Sound — 8
Forming earlier this year, Gone Is Gone consist of Mastodon bassist and vocalist Troy Sanders, Queens Of The Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, multi-instrumental film score producer Mike Zarin, and At The Drive-In drummer Tony Hajjar. Noting the lineup, one is probably going to expect the music to sound very sludgy, psychedelic, and slightly proggy. And that would be a pretty fair assessment of the music on this EP, the supergroup's first official release. Much of the music on this EP release will fit right in with the expectations of fans of the indivudual bands each member comes from. From shades of Queens Of The Stone Age's sludgy riffage on "Violescent," Mastodon's psychedelic prog-metal on "This Chapter," and a delay-drenched experimental sound on "Starlight" that could have come from either At The Drive-In at their softest (think "Invalid Letter Dept.") or Mike Zarin's work on film trailers, there's enough to satiate fans of the band's individual members. And because of the similarities between the band members' works outside of this supergroup, the sounds blend together in a way that doesn't feel like a group trying to force together a bunch of disparate elements to make them work.
This doesn't make Gone Is Gone a perfect EP by any stretch though, as some of the tracks have a propensity to drag on a bit, and some of the attempts at "creating an atmosphere" really kind of wear a bit thin after several minutes into a song. At times, the band does feel a bit less than the sum of its parts. The songwriting is decent, but nothing totally groundbreaking. "Starlight" drags on a bit, but it's an excellent track and a good showcase of Troy's vocal talents that Mastodon fans may not be as aware of. A couple of the tracks are short interludes, "Character" and "Recede and Enter," and probably show off Mike Zarin's talents as a keyboardist and arranger best. "One Divided" has a really neat middle instrumental section about 2 minutes in, with some neat rhythmic tricks in store. "Praying From the Danger" is kind of like Mastodon trying shoegazey atmospheres. Closing out the album is "This Chapter," which is possibly my favourite track from the EP, being a bit more epic in scale, and feels a bit more "progressive" than the rest of the album.
While there are a few good moments, the songwriting and production on this record do suffer a bit from too much of a shoegaze-ish tendency to drown out a lot of the record with fuzz and reverb, and the tracks that use it a bit less, like "Violescent," tend to be the tracks my ears favour the most. But most of the record is pretty mired in distortion and reverb to the point that it can be a little exhausting to listen to, and a bit difficult to pick out individual elements. The actual playing on the record, which is not bad at all but probably not the most groundbreaking of things from each member, can be a little difficult to discern. Only Tony Hajjar's drum sound really seems to cut through the mix at all times, pounding away through each song. All criticisms aside, there's a lot to like on this EP, and if you're a fan of any of the artists in this group, you're probably going to enjoy it. I do enjoy some of the band's softer, more "epic" moments like "Starlight" and "This Chapter." There's a brief break in "Stolen From Me" just before the bridge comes in that's really well-placed. It's just three guitar notes, but it's a really great bit of breathing room that was needed on this record.
Lyrics — 7
As is the norm for these sort of dark, shoegaze-y atmospheric metal bands, much of the lyrical content is fairly dark and depressive, and sometimes even a bit confrontational. Sometimes, the lyrics come off as trying to be a bit deep ("Not all that bleeds is dying..."), but usually the lyrics are just your sort of typical depressing, dark fare, sort of like this bit from "Starlight": "Emptiness is here/No control losing all sight of hope/One thing that I see/My image is staring back at me." Nothing really special about the lyrics, to be perfectly honest. It feels a bit as if they're just kind of there for the sake of being there. The real meat of this record is the musicianship, anyway.
Those who are familiar with Troy Sanders' work in Mastodon will already know what to expect of his vocals here, though he does surprise us occasionally with an uncharacteristic tenderness, such as in the track "Starlight," and while his focus on this record is melodic singing, he still does bellow a couple of yells on "Stolen From Me" and still uses his powerful voice on tracks like "One Divided." There's even a bit of a sort of "demonic" low voice during the intro of "Praying From the Danger" that's really cool. Lyrical content aside, his voice is always one of the more positive aspects of this record. And he does consistently match the intensity of the music with his voice, making him an unlikely good fit for such a shoegaze-influenced band.
Overall Impression — 7
Of all the albums I've reviewed recently, Gone Is Gone's debut EP may have been one of the hardest to categorize. On the one hand, it's a pretty decent supergroup that has made a rather good debut EP. One that probably won't overshadow the successes of the members' various main projects, but won't put off fans. On the other, it's a tad rough around the edges and probably is a bit lacking in quality considering the hype and the respect that the individual members get for their main bodies of work. It should be noted that the band is working on a full-length album as well, and if this EP is only a mere taste of the band's work, then I'd be interested to hear the full-length LP.
This is an interesting record, and it doesn't easily compare to too many other bands out there. Aside from the obvious comparisons one could make to the main bands of each member, you may hear shades of Baroness and early Devin Townsend (but only a little bit). I have a feeling that this is an EP that could easily grow on me, as well. It flows well, the songs are not bad at all, the use of cinematic scoring does lend a bit to the epic feel of the EP, and all it really needs is a bit more focus on the musicianship, a bit more variety in the production style, and I think there would be a lot of potential for Gone Is Gone to create something magnificent.
So, while it's a 7/10, to steal a bit from Anthony Fantano's playbook, it's a pretty strong 7.