Being invited to play at the Roadburn festival in the Netherlands is like a badge of honour for interesting and unusual bands. This certainly applies to GOLD, who play at the festival this year. I am familiar with their two previous albums “No Image” (2015) and “Optimist” (2017). Both of these darkwave albums are full of character and intrigue.
Everything smacks of attitude with this band. But this is not attitude for attitude’s sake. “He Is Not”, which opens the album, is a typically strong song but the delivery of singer Milena Eva and the penetrating instrumentals bring menace. Her voice sweetens on “Things I Wish I Never Knew” but the deep instrumental wall confirms our suspicion that this is a dark world indeed. The picture is one of contrast between the pure vocals and sinister backdrop. The songs are disarmingly simple, like indie pop, and are almost childlike in form. But no pop song would bear the lyric: “I wear my tears like jewellery, a little slice of melancholy”. I felt a more sinister assault on this album than the previous ones I’d heard. Yet GOLD has mastered the art of the flowing song, so while Milena haunts us with her vocals on “Please Tell Me You’re Not The Future”, the instrumentals are upbeat. And sometimes it’s the other way round. “Please Tell Me You’re Not The Future” ends frantically and despairingly.
The mood then swings between melancholy, a childlike state and fiery black metal as Milena and the band work their impressive magic on “Taken By Storm”. Milena is like that deathly musical doll in a toy shop for adults with dark thoughts and experiences. She now seems to be going off the rails on the heavy and funeral “Wide-Eyed”. It’s distorted, disturbed and highly effective. “Lack of Skill” is more conventional. To the accompaniment of expressive and forward-driving instrumentals, Milena tells a personal tale but as ever her pure voice is twisted with cynicism, regret and a chilling sharpness. “Truly, Truly Disappointed” has an almost black metal backdrop. The false childlike innocence of Milena’s voice cuts through the air like a sharp knife. We’re in the darkest of territories here. It doesn’t stop there, as “Killing At Least 13” reinforces the gloom and depression. I was pleased to get back to the more classic indie rumble of “Mounting Into Bitterness”. Forward driving, toe tapping and measured with nice tempo changes, this is a super song. For the finale, “Till Death Us Do Part” could only be a gloomy dirge, but Milena provides a misty quality with her sublime voice.
These are no ordinary songs. Gothic in their nature, metal and indie in style, “Why Aren’t You Laughing” answers its own question. This album over indulged in the gloom and misery too much for me, at the expense of the driving songs that are GOLD’s strength. I missed the dreaminess that characterised parts of previous albums, but having said all this, “Why Aren’t You Laughing” has great strengths and for sure has a magnetic personality.
(8/10 Andrew Doherty)