Mastodon are no stranger to side projects. Hell, guitarist/vocalist Brent Hinds has released two in the last year alone, with his new Legend of the Seagullmen album due in September. Brann Dailor released Arcadea, also on this years’ top 25 list, and Bill Kelliher doesn’t need your goddamn validation!
Gone is Gone is the amalgamation of Mastodon bassist/vocalist Troy Sanders, guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen of Queens of the Stone Age, drummer Tony Hajjar of At the Drive-In and multi-instrumentalist Mike Zarin.
On paper, it shouldn’t work. Vastly different backgrounds and styles more often than not create a cacophony rather than a tranquility. But because Echolocation is very much the latter, is a testament to just how talented and multi-faceted the musicians involved really are.
Opening track “Sentient” serves almost as an Isis-esque prelude to the album to come. “Gift” follows and is much more indicative of Echolocation’s groove-laden style, invoking whispers of Alice In Chains and Deftones. “Slow Awakening” is possibly Sanders’ finest vocal performance to date - sounding like an even more ominous Peter Steele. These touchstones are merely to give you an idea of what to expect. The thing is, once the listener tries to hold on that idea of familiarity, they realize they’re grasping at smoke and are left with something much more tangible and wholly unique.
What’s interesting is the journey each member takes with every passing tune. Where they each start at the beginning of a song, is not where they end up by thelat note. Take “Pawns” for example. It starts out very clearly with Sanders and Hajjar in the drivers’ seat, but by the time it fades out, it’s clearly Van Leeuwen driving the bus and we were none the wiser.
Van Leeuwen is really the beautiful surprise in all of this. His guitar work has become so synonymous with the QOTSA sound, you forget how heterogeneous his talent really is. Van Leeuwen also earns the distinction of this reviewers’ 2017 Top 25 hat-trick award - making appearances on Echolocation, Chelsea Wolfe’s Hiss Spun and Queens of the Stone Age’s Villains.