From the opening moments of Echolocation until its grim close, Gone Is Gone’s latest output is stronger than its debut EP. The sound evolved fast: While both releases combine post-hardcore and metal in a radio-friendly way, Echolocation reveals a band that’s fought hard to discover its own sound, even if that sound is still best described as an amalgam of simple-but-heavy rock.
The band fires best not when it sounds like a combination of its parts, but when the musicians let loose and do things that wouldn’t fit into their other projects. The first 30 seconds of “Pawns” are straight out of a nightmare, an insane drum solo with bass serving as a melodic counterpoint to the scratchiness of Troy Van Leeuwen’s guitar. None of it would fit a description of At The Drive-In, Queens Of The Stone Age, or Mastodon, and it all comes together cleanly and crisply despite its hectic chaos. The blues-rock play of “Slow Awakening” into the blood-pumping “Fast Awakening” is a great one-two punch: It starts off like Southern-fried metal and evolves into a modern, hardcore “Highway Star.”
Too often, Gone Is Gone betrays these fresh moments. The guitar often mirrors Van Leeuwen’s playing in Queens (it’d be impossible to avoid hearing Josh Homme’s influence on “Gift”). The bass playing, or at least the bone-crunching tone, from Troy Sanders matches some of the sounds heard on Mastodon records (and his voice is hard to separate from that project). When Gone Is Gone chooses to break form—even when it’s soft, like on “Resolve”—it’s great. But when the band members just combine their individual tendencies, Echolocation feels watered down.
Unfortunately, about half of the album’s 12 tracks could be described as comfortable, safe songwriting without the exploration that makes the band shine. Gone Is Gone will more than satisfy anyone who needs a good headbang; hopefully by its next release, the band will trim the fat and only show the leaner, more distinct parts of itself.