By: Geoff Topley

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Released on July 8, 2016 via Rise Records

In days of old, I would read a magazine to learn about a new band, these days I catch glimpses of new music via social media for the most part. That’s how I knew about Gone Is Gone, a “new” band made of members of Mastodon (Troy Sanders), At the Drive-In (Tony Hajjar), Queens of the Stone Age (Troy Van Leeuwen) and umm… a multi-instrumentalist chap called Mike Zarin. Every “supergroup” has to have one random person included, right? In between their regular jobs (some more busy than others), they have managed to put together this EP (or mini-album) also entitled Gone Is Gone.

So I’m a fan of each of the bands that collectively make up Gone Is Gone. After approximately 30 seconds of the video clip to ‘Starlight’ that accompanied the announcement of their arrival, I was on board and keen to hear more. In the promo video, the striking silhouetted figures of the band merge so well with the haunting ambient keys and submarine tones of the main hook-line. Erupting into a gigantic chorus, ‘Starlight’ is as melodic as the recent Mastodon output and the iconic last ATDI album. The absolute highlight of the EP, the track ends with majestic fury as guitars duel with off- kilter melodies.

Those of you familiar with Mastodon will know about Troy Sander’s two vocal techniques, one is a guttural howl and the other is a throaty growl, which is “clean” by comparison. It’s the latter that he employs here, some may find it less appealing, but I like the notion of this metallic figurehead choosing to make music that has crossover appeal. Fans of older Mastodon probably aren’t all in agreement with this and prefer to indulge in Leviathan rather than Once More ‘Round the Sun (I’m the opposite). Opener ‘Violescent’ features some choppy riffs and bowel quaking bass, the quirky timing and twisted chorus a nod to ATDI. It’s a decent enough track but not necessarily the sum of the parts of the personnel making up the band. What I do notice and enjoy with this band is how the constituent members’ style can be distinctly observed. The drumming throughout is excellent with Tony Hajjar pulling off his trademark fusion of bluster and refinery for the lighter moments. On ‘Stolen from Me’, the superb drumming propels the track with stabbing guitars and an insistent and hooky chorus. Sanders indulges himself a little with the heavier vocal style and pulls off some bass string bending heroics.

Troy Van Leeuwen gets to flex some muscle on ‘Praying from the Danger’ with piercing off-kilter guitar lines and taut riffs. Aside from the memorable chorus the track mostly forgets about melody in favour of creating a more menacing soundscape. The minimalist verse of ‘One Divided’ is built on a bedrock of tumbling drums and striking guitars, before seguing into a heavier staccato riffed chorus. For me, Sanders has a limited range when confined to this particular vocal style and it can grate a little causing the songs to drag when other vocalists could maybe carry them further.

Across the eight tracks there are unfortunately moments of throwaway abandon, in particular the two interludes, ‘Character’ and ‘Recede and Enter’. Both feature electronic ambience and atmospherics with spoken word. The former has some additional guitars that come across as an afterthought. But the EP ends on the slow and moody ‘This Chapter’ featuring some moody atmospherics (a blueprint for Gone is Gone if you hadn’t already noticed) and a climactic brooding chorus. Van Leeuwen’s guitars are pulsating at the end creating a blizzard of tumultuous sounds.

All in all, Gone is Gone isn’t maybe entirely essential and it might be the only release they get round to doing, but as a fan of Mastodon, ATDI and (less so) QOTSA, I welcome the EP and enjoyed it, though not as much as I possibly could have, based on the anticipation. My expectations were seriously raised by the brilliant ‘Starlight’ which is a definite highlight. Here’s hoping they do get round to adding to this as there’s certainly promise and potential in these seasoned veterans.

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