Album review: GOLD – Optimist
Genre: Dark rock / post-rock / alternative metal
Release date: 24th February 2017
Record label: Ván
Despite the inherently positive connotations of their name, do not be fooled: Dutch six-piece GOLD are a dark, gloomy, gothic experience. Specialising in a doom-laden variant on post-modern rock, this is an act unleashing melancholic rumblings from the underground in a massive way, with two albums already to their name and a third – rather ironically entitled Optimist – on the way at the end of February.
The downbeat and emotionally heavy tone of this new, visceral record is established almost immediately with an opening track called “You Too Must Die”. Mid-paced and powerfully driven, the song channels the nihilism of doom rock acts like Paradise Lost but delivers it in a restrained, unhurried style, as the vocals of frontwoman Milena Eva glide naturally and flowingly over the deep, impactful guitar chords of Thomas Sciarone, Kamiel Top and Jaka Bolic. Meanwhile, bassist Tim Meijer and drummer Igor Wouters dictate a slow rhythm that lets the doom emanate, shaking its way out of any laptop, CD player or phone that is graced with this enigmatic music.
And through the doom and pessimism, Optimist’s defining quality is indeed the mystery that it brings with it. It has the emotional tone of Paradise Lost, sure, but add in musical similarities with such names as Tool, late ‘90s Anathema and even Lana Del Rey and you have one of the most deliciously post-modern rock records since Lateralus (2001).
And while the slower pace may be Optimist’s predominant forte, entries including “No Shadow”, which starkly opens with a pounding drum fill, and “Summer Thunder” have undeniably quicker rhythms, giving way to a more energetic edge at times without ever truly going overboard into real metal territory. No matter the pace, Eva’s singing is always high and dream-like (at times making for an intriguing contrast with the downtrodden musical compositions) and mainstay rock n’ roll stereotypes like guitar solos are never once utilised. It sacrifices generic loyalty in favour of artistic flow and honesty, a risky but always respectable move from underground acts.
As far as the rock spectrum goes, GOLD exists as the antithesis to the feel-good vitality of AC/DC and Airbourne, using the same tools to generate an experimental onslaught that, while not heavy or musically technical, is clean, clear-cut and powerful. Optimist worms its way into the ear, leaving listeners addicted to these intensely gothic tunes, which are destined to be blasted on repeat come the album’s release in February.
Final rating: Optimist gets 9 crying babies out of 10.
Optimist will be available physically and digitally via Ván Records on 24th February 2017.