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Ván (2012)
Rating: 5/10

Some bands are treacherously hard to classify. As an example, let’s consider Gold’s debut release, Interbellum. The Dutch band is built upon the sounds of previous The Devil’s Blood guitarist Thomas Sciarone, which is in itself a bit of an enigma.

Like Sciarone’s previous band, Gold falls somewhere between the best of 80s metal and 70s power pop. Imagine this – Cheap Trick is covering a Dio song, and brings up a throaty female rockabilly vocalist to sing. If any of you just had a “What the fuck?” moment, so did I, until I got sucked into the brilliance that is Gold.

Aside from Sciarone, Gold’s sound is formed by the vocals of Milena Eva, who provides strong melodies and rich harmonies. Eva’s melodies aren’t what you would expect on a hard rock album. Her delivery is part Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin) and part rockabilly queen Wanda Jackson. Moreover, she plays with timing in a way perhaps only before achieved by Morrissey and Doctor Emmett Brown (Back To The Future film series).

The opening salvo on Interbellum, ‘One Of Us’, finds Eva weaving words around a fairly standard hard rock rhythm in a way that traps the instrumentation in a web of syllables that at first sound like a struggle between opposing forces, then mesh into a bizarrely cohesive piece.

Gold continues through their debut full-length release in much the same way. The band lays down slabs of post-70s metal, with a tinge of 80s flair, and Eva acts as their Ann Wilson (Heart), changing the shape of what we expect out of a rock singer, and certainly not sticking to any of what the listener would commonly expect from a female vocalist.

‘Love, The Magician’ includes soaring harmonies and shifting vocal styles, ranging from a clean, sweet melody, to a thick, hard edged yowl. ‘Dreams’ and ‘Medicine Man’ owe more than a little to 70s-era Heart, even beyond the obvious likeness of a female lead vocal. Much like that iconic band’s music, these songs have a very heavy metal song structure, but the performance doesn’t quite get there. The guitars and drums seem slightly subdued, whether due to the impressively clean production, or just because that’s how the band sounds. Even the solo on ‘Dreams’ is an amazing bit of metal fireworks, held back by the low key guitar tone. Gold could scream with metal fury, but instead they plod the streets of rock.

A perfect example of the unique blend that is Gold can be found on the closing track, ‘Ruby’. The opening guitar riff sounds like something Dokken might have served up around 1980, but when the vocals kick in it becomes something entirely different. The punctuated palm muted guitars chug away as if building up to something that never really pays off. The listener is prepared for the song to break into a full metal racket, but at about half way through this seven-minute plus opus we are treated to a noisy dirge that doesn’t really go anywhere. It takes five and a half minutes for ‘Ruby’ to blossom into a 70s rock masterpiece, with muscular guitars over a pop rhythm that never reach their full potential.

Gold rides the line between brilliance and frustration. Most of these songs just need more aggressive production. If given teeth these could be monsters. Others are mystifying, and none of them fit into a convenient genre classification. However, Interbellum is not an album to be overlooked. The song structures are incredible, as are the lead guitar and vocals.

Gold shows promise on their debut, but they also show a band not sure who they are yet. When Gold do find their identity there is no doubt they will make their presence known in a big way.

Jim McDonald

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