Style: Hard Rock
Release Date: 28 Jun 2019
Sites: Facebook | Official Website | YouTube
Gone Rogue are too contemporary in sound to really count as another New Wave of Classic Rock band, as their influences are clearly more from the nineties and noughties than the seventies or eighties. I'm sure there are a whole lot of comparisons to be made, but my years of listening to KUPD in the car mid-last decade to keep the kids happy blur together. They would catch them all.
The first I recognised was on the opener, Shadows, because there's a lot of Audioslave in it, not only because of the clear but grunge-tinged vocals of Oddgeir Søvik but because of patient backing from a band which feels slower than it is even when it raises the pace. There's some System of a Down on Out of Time, a nod to hardcore on Curtain Call and some Nickelback crooning on Bound. At this point, we're merely four songs in and a cynic would start to wonder if Gone Rogue planned to mimic their way through a list of their favourite bands.
I think that's unfair because none of these songs, except perhaps Shadows, are only reminiscent of one band's style. These boys from Norway take their collection of influences, combine them and transform them into something of their own. This isn't their first album, that being 2013's Home, but I have to wonder what it sounds like because the maturity of the songwriting here is notable. It's thoughtful and patient and careful, but it doesn't forget the emotion needed to make it work.
Just check out a song like Onyx to see why. It's almost the longest song on the album, but it still falls short of five minutes so it's hardly an epic. It is, however, a beautifully constructed piece of music, driven by Anders Henriksen's prominent but minimalist bass and Ole Christian Gridset's drums, which are intricate without ever becoming impossible. They build with Søvik like a Tool song but, just as its getting going, it slows down for pensive guitars and the rest of the band rejoin slowly but emphatically.
Trials and Errors is another example. It has a Tool vibe during the verses too, as it shimmies with minimalist bass and complex rhythms, over which a confident Søvik holds court. It flirts with prog though during sections in which it almost feels like we're being bathed by cymbals. This album isn't ever as heavy as it is at the start of Trials and Errors but the song gets very soft too. The journey there and back is a good one.
I liked the second half more than the first, not because it features better songs but because those songs flow better. The first half often feels like a set of singles, decent ones but ones that come from different times, whereas the second half feels like a coherent side of an album. Grasping Straws sets it into motion and Onyx makes us realise it. In Hindsight and Two Souls play along well, the latter setting things up nicely for Trials and Errors to wrap it all up with style.
I've come to dislike a lot of the big names of the noughties, partly because they were so ruthlessly commercial and partly because I got bludgeoned with their most famous songs and got really tired of them. However, there were a number of less famous bands that never broke into the massively restricted playlists of the ClearChannel stations and so never tweaked our last nerves, instead lying safely in obscurity until we find them again.
Gone Rogue are not one such band because they didn't get together until 2003 and didn't release anything until the Essence of Absence EP in 2010, but it feels like they're kin to those maybe soon-to-be rediscovered bands for more than one reason. They're really good at what they do and, discovering that a decade on makes us wonder about who didn't tell us about them. It feels like someone will, at some point, and we'll get upset with them for not doing so sooner.
Oh, and the history page on their website is absolutely joyous. Go read it and improve your mood.