The spray of trauma’s emotional bloodiness perpetuates its open-wounded post-traumatic state, appearing in gushes as triggered waves lead to bouts of hyper-sensitivity and numbed reservation. To live a cruel cliche and relive ones eye-widening, chest-hugging brutalization while wearing it so rawly on-sleeve threatens to define an entire existence. Catharsis is no cure it’d seem, that to wallow in a major and unwilling erasure of self is thrilling palliative care that only leads to derangement; Yet there is no romance, or fun, in health today and mental sickness has a way of bringing fruitful character to the dejected. Life’s trauma falls from the mouth of Rotterdam, Netherlands post-metallic gothic rock band Gold as if it were candid personal revelation warranting one hand on shoulder and the other palm-to-palm with the affected. The glazed stare resultant is telling symptom of the tunnel vision that violence and death create ahead of us, afflicted with that serious existential anxiety that’d set a body into constant disaffection. ‘Why Aren’t You Laughing?’ defies obstruction with fluid and willing modern rock-paced motion as Gold‘s dulcet treatment of the morose pushes and shoves away from perpetuated pain toward balance.
Whether they’d formed to capitalize on the surprisingly overcrowded occult rock market or to creep ahead of the post-punk influenced gothic rock vein yet to be fully tapped anew, Gold would form in 2011 with recognizable ambition and uncertain identity. A sort of tabula rasa after guitarist Thomas Sciarone left The Devil’s Blood, the release of Gold‘s debut full-length ‘Interbellum’ (2012) saw a warm, bluesy, welcoming, and entirely rote folkish rock record. Vocalist Milena Eva didn’t hit any particular stride until her lyrics were graced with more personal poetry as the focus of the bands music became increasingly dark with ‘No Image’ (2015), it was nonetheless an in-betweener in terms of style though songs like “Shapeless” would hint at their head-on direction on ‘Optimist’ (2017). If you’d consider ‘Optimist’ the bands personal breakthrough in perfecting their current avant-gothic rock/post-metal hybridization, I’d consider ‘Why Aren’t You Laughing?’ their breakthrough in terms of connecting that ‘Optimist’ sound with more earnest but equally clever songwriting. I appreciate the stages of development leading up to this first great peak of definition for Gold but this fourth album is several steps above anything they’ve done previous.
It’ll sound a bit absurd to say this in certain context but ‘Why Aren’t You Laughing?’ has a sort of post-black metal spirit applied to its modern post-rock leaning sound and this is made even heavier as Eva and crews songwriting leans more heavily towards depressive rock tones, a modernization of elements usually reserved for deathrock and gothic rock. You couldn’t pin any of those sub-genres onto Gold‘s coat but elements of each help to define their sound. Sólstafir found this balance on ‘Ótta’ back in 2011 and I’d suggest that Gold have hit ta similar crucial apex where their style and professional fidelity hit a vein that could sustain them for several releases. That it takes three guitarists to achieve Sciarone‘s beautifully layered vision is some testament to how considered his approach to Gold has become though, it is his collaboration with Eva and her beautifully layered and harmonized performances that avoid what roteness could result from any attempt at post-music gloom.
The singles here speak for themselves and the first five tracks here are generally flawless in showcasing the general leap in hooky songwriting since ‘Optimist’. “He Is Not” is poetic and compellingly dark as an entrance I was never sure where the tone of alienation was coming from but the imagery within the lyrics toys with assumption, yanking thoughts in a few directions. “Things I Wish I Never Knew” has much of that same shimmering post-punk moodiness but the subtle tremolo-picked post-rock aspect of their sound empowers the sort of ‘loss of innocence’ suggested by the lyrics, describing what appears to be a drowning witnessed as a youth. The thread is almost tortuously affecting as they progress towards “Wide-Eyed”, which feels like a missed opportunity to shift gears just slightly and while “Lack of Skill” provides that new gear the album flails into less inspiring atmospheric rock songs as the second half finishes. To have gone from “Lack of Skill” and finished the record with “Mounting Into Bitterness” would have kept things succinct and cleanly resonant but, the duo of “Truly, Truly Disappointing” and “Killing at Least 13” kill the pace of the experience. I understand that Side B might appeal as a different angle from Side A but with a full 51 minute length, it feels excessive to put four too-similar songs at the end of the album.
Although I still feel a connection with the first set of track on ‘Why Aren’t You Laughing?’ some of the mystique of the album did wear off as I wore it out in the span of about two months but at no point did I begin to detest or grow tired of Gold‘s fourth album. If anything I’d anxiously anticipated drafting my thoughts on the record because it meant I’d have to take this not-so-zen and very non-metal piece out of my daily rotation and feel as if I’d lost a bit of the reflection that it inspired during analysis. So, the value is there but at the end of the day I did end up regularly skipping about four of the eleven songs here. Moderately high recommendation. For preview the post-black/post-metal crowd should immediately lock into “Taken By Storm” but my money is on “Things I Wish I Never Knew” as it hit me right away.
Face down beside me. 4.0/5.0
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