By Josh Herwitt //
In music circles, the term “supergroup” often gets thrown around when various members of established bands come together to form their own side project. The 90’s were a particularly fertile time for supergroups, with the Seattle grunge movement paving the way for offshoots like Mad Season and Temple of the Dog, which a little more than three months ago, reunited and toured for the first time ever to celebrate the 25-year anniversary of their self-titled debut LP. But as the digital age has taken the industry by storm over the past decade, supergroups have become fewer and farther between.
Gone Is Gone are one of those rare supergroups that have emerged in the post-millennium era, even if the quartet doesn’t boast the same sort of star power that Audioslave and Velvet Revolver had in the early 2000’s. Instead, it’s a collection of musicians who all complement each other’s playing quite well, fusing Mastodon vocalist/bassist Troy Sanders’ deep bellow with Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen’s atmospheric riffs, At the Drive-In drummer Tony Hajjar’s thunderous rhythms and composer Mike Zarin’s background scoring Hollywood films.
Sanders, Van Leeuwen, Hajjar and Zarin made their official live debut as Gone Is Gone less than 12 months ago. At the time, they had yet to release a single or any studio material, but that didn’t matter to the sold-out crowd at LA’s Dragonfly, the 400-person club along Santa Monica Blvd. that primarily books up-and-coming acts.
Since then, Gone Is Gone have unveiled their eponymous EP and most recently a full-length record by the name of Echolocation, which they dropped last Friday — the same day as their album release show at the diminutive Troubadour. And considering it was only the group’s second live performance, there was plenty of anticipation in the air. Gone Is Gone, after all, received their fair share of media attention in 2016, enough for fans of Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age and At the Drive-In to certainly take notice.
But no one, not even the band members themselves, know what the future holds for Gone Is Gone. With Mastodon, Queens and ATDI all expected to release new albums this year, finding the time to tour could prove to be difficult. And from what Sanders told us at the Troubadour, who knows if they’ll actually play another gig in 2017. The project, which was conceived out of the writing sessions that Zarin and Hajjar usually hold to compose video-game and movie-trailer themes for Zarin’s music production company, takes on a more cinematic feel than one might initially think based on the names involved. For Sanders, who is used to sharing vocal duties in Mastodon with Brann Dailor and Brent Hinds, it represented a “cool challenge” and “blind experiment” as he explained to Rolling Stone days before taking the stage in LA.
With floor space at the Troubadour tightening as the clock approached 10 p.m., Sanders, Van Leeuwen, Hajjar and Zarin stepped up to the plate and delivered a 14-song set of hard-hitting tunes over the next hour. There was the sludge-metal doom that often emanates from Sanders on Echolocation, Zarin’s versatility as a multi-instrumentalist, and of course, Hajjar’s kinetic drumming. But what was particularly cool to see was the space Van Leeuwen had to let loose, whether it was on his custom Fender Telecaster or a badass 12-string that he strapped on after a few songs. The LA native, who plays alongside Josh Homme in Queens of the Stone Age and assumed a similar role as the second guitarist in A Perfect Circle, showed that he is more than capable of shredding like a lead axeman should, putting his unique style and flair — Homme calls him “the best-dressed man in rock ‘n’ roll” and he’s probably right — on display without having to share the spotlight with anyone. It’s what makes Gone Is Gone different from what we usually see out of Sanders, Van Leeuwen and Hajjar in their respective bands, even if you can hear a little bit of Mastodon, Queens and ATDI shine through in the finished product. So, on this night, the foursome fittingly chose to close with the title track on its new LP, providing one last rush of blood to the head before it was time to leave. And then, just like that, Gone Is Gone were nowhere to be found.
Praying From the Danger
Stolen From Me