Mastodon’s Troy Sanders teaming up with journeyman guitarist (best known for Queens of the Stone Age) Troy Van Leeuwen seems like a great idea before you even hear what it sounds like. Mastodon’s space cadet prog being reigned a bit by QOTSA’s pop sensibility has the chance of producing something eminently listenable. But Queens can be a bit spacey themselves, and Mastadon can get downright catchy when they want to, so it’s definitely a “chocolate in my peanut butter” situation. Add to that the agile, jazz influenced skinsmanship of At the Drive In’s Tony Hajjar and the synth input of his sometime collaborator, professional film trailer composer Mike Zarin, and you have that same cinematic alt metal flavor that 300/Watchmen composer Tyler Bates brought to Marilyn Manson’s critically acclaimed “The Pale Emperor”. They’ve christened this beast “Gone Is Gone”, and for all the brilliant cohesion in the cacophony they’ve created you’d never this was debut record from a disparate “super group”.
Van Leeuwen’s most famous gig might be QOTSA but his time in A Perfect Circle shines here as well, with a streak of mysterious melancholy running through both the lyrics and composition. Album opener and lead single “Violescent” kicks in with a Red fang-esque stoner stomp giving way to a soaring chorus powered by by Sanders’ signature rasping croon. “Stolen From Me” calls to mind underappreciated Queens deep cut “Hanging Tree” in its swirling nihilism. Post grunge grime cleverly mingles with huge pop hooks in a way that echoes current kings of thinking man’s hard rock, Baroness, but Zarin cuts through with “Recede and Enter” and “Character”, dissonant sound collages over spoken word epics that incorporate his deft day job setting the sonic template for sci-fi blockbusters like Inception and Iron Man 3.
The styles seem to clash until epic closer “This Chapter” melds them together into a head trip dirge that would seem appropriate for a post-apocalyptic desert hellscape like those of the upcoming Dark Tower adaptation or Westworld reboot. Zarin appears the odd man out here initially amongst 21st century garage rock, art punk and prog metal royalty, but the filmic picture painted by this woefully short collection of tracks reveals a collaborative spirit ripe for expansion and begging for more room to breathe, especially upon incredibly rewarding repeated listens. Gone Is Gone rises past the typical doldrums of the rock star vanity side project and into the unknown stratosphere of the beautifully odd.
Gone Is Gone is available now.