Funny old things, supergroups. As with many things in life, the whole doesn’t always equate to the sum of the parts. Which means that for every Led Zeppelin there’s a Chickenfoot, a Zwan and an Angels & Airwaves.
At least Gone Is Gone were aware that the stakes were high from the get-go when Queens Of The Stone Age guitarist Troy van Leeuwen hooked up with At The Drive-in drummer Tony Hajjar and Mastodon bass player Troy Sanders to help flesh out a studio project started by Hajjar and soundtrack whizz Mike Zarin.
“We were three dudes from pretty well-respected rock bands, so there’s a sense of: ‘Well it better be good!’” Van Leeuwen recalls of the band’s live debut earlier this year. “We felt the weight of expectation. But the reaction was incredible, even though we were playing fifty minutes of music no one had ever heard before.”
They played that debut gig in LA after just a week of rehearsal, yet the band have been in gestation for a good four years, having started life when Hajjar and Zarin – who have for a long time composed video-game music and film trailers – needed an extra guitar to flesh out some of the pieces they’d come up with.
“The more we worked on it, the more it felt like a band,” says Van Leeuwen. “At first we didn’t even know it was going to have vocals, but then it seemed to demand it.”
On Gone Is Gone’s debut album, Echolocation, Zarin and Hajjar’s talent for creating dystopian soundscapes for games such as Splinter Cell: Blacklist is well in evidence before Troy Sanders even steps up to the mic, just as it was on their well-received self-titled debut EP released last summer. Then on stirringly portentous doom rock such as the album’s title track, the Mastodon man’s curiously charismatic blend of macho soulfulness and yearning uncertainty brings it all to life like a surround-sound movie, helped in no small part by Van Leeuwen’s canyon-shaker of a guitar riff. It’s all helped by a sense of foreboding, unease and alarm creeping through the record. The perilous state of the world in the 21st century immediately springs to mind – and that’s no accident.
“There’s definitely a sense of impending doom we’re all going to have to face,” Van Leeuwin says. “It’s not directly about it, but stuff like Brexit and Trump and crazy shit that’s going on around the world, it all adds to the idea that things are spiralling out of control.
“You can try to express the inexpressible through music, if not words, so the theme of the album is definitely about heading straight into conflict and chaos, and learning how to deal with it as you’re going through it.”
For fans of…
Troy Sanders’s voice, added to some heavy rhythm’n’gloom, will always throw up a Mastodon-shaped shadow. But you can also detect strokes of dark synth-pop and QOTSA and ATDI’s angular musical motifs, meaning Gone Is Gone have succeeded in a rare trick for a supergroup: having a sound that is very much their own.