Released: 2016, Rise Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
What began as video game/movie trailer theme-making partnership of multi-instrumentalist Mike Zarin and drummer Tony Hajjar – a member of the recently resurrected At The Drive-In – has blossomed into something of an alt-metal supergroup. After first recruiting guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age, A Perfect Circle, Failure) and writing a batch of tunes, the now-trio hooked up with Mastodon bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders (also of another supergroup, Killer Be Killed) to flesh out the material for what has become Gone Is Gone's self-titled debut EP.
The eight tracks worth of music – six full songs and two short segues - which clocks in at about a half-hour bear many of the hallmarks of Hajjar, Van Leeuwen and Sanders' primary acts, without sounding too much like any of them. The angular, off-kilter rhythms of At The Drive-In, the ethereal guitars and sonic sprawl of Queens and A Perfect Circle (which Van Leeuwen no longer is a part of) and the turbulence and trippiness of Mastodon are all there, but as part of a greater whole. The net result, however, ends up being equal parts compelling and somewhat frustrating.
The EP gets off to a promisingly noisy start with the crunch and caterwaul of “Violescent” propelled by Sanders' throbbing bass lines and assertive vocals and Van Leeuwen's shrill riffs and and ringing solos, but never quite maintains its momentum. “Starlight” offers more squalling guitar, but lacks the heft and rumble of the opener, especially as Sanders' singing takes on more of a hypnotic air. The song's singular, sleep-walking pace doesn't help.
“Stolen From Me” has moments of rhythmic friskiness and lively choruses, but a lot of quiet/wasted space in between – which is saying something, since it's just over three minutes long. “One Divided,” though, is tense, jagged and brooding and eventually goes off on a bit of a shit-fit that I only wish there had been more of.
“Praying From The Danger” threatens more of the same out the outset with its thudding bottom end, but quickly grows moody and atmospheric and ends up sounding more like a U2 song from the pervasive minimalist shimmer of Van Leeuwen's guitar. “This Chapter” closes the EP with a western-tinged somberness that slowly builds to a rightfully clangorous crescendo. Again, though, it left me wanted more of that sort of thing elsewhere.
Gone Is Gone certainly has its moments. But its surprisingly tentative execution holds it back and turns what could have been something special into something rather ordinary – as is often the case with these supergroup-like efforts - which is shame. Apparently there is a full album in the works from these guys. Perhaps as they grow more familiar with each other, Gone Is Gone will loosen up a bit and really go for it – like their “real job” bands so often do.