My brain over-complicates just about everything. At times—and in fact most of the time—it feels like thoughts are running through my head too fast and loose for me to make sense of any one of them. As a result it’s utter cacophony making even the simplest decisions, such as what to eat for breakfast in the morning. Medication helps. Music helps too, keeping the most unruly parts of my mind occupied so I can focus on whatever task I have in front of me. Stoner metal and psychedelic rock in particular are highly effective, what with the trippy atmosphere and plodding riffs. Gone Cosmic, a four-piece from Calgary, Alberta, are poised to drop their debut, titled Sideways in Time, filled with such atmosphere and riffs. Will it be enough to assuage my overactive grey matter?
The short answer is yes. Gone Cosmic inevitably call to mind a sizable swath of influences, but perhaps the strongest sources of inspiration come from Pink Floyd and Orange Goblin, with a little bit of Demon Lung thrown in for good measure. The instrumentation would find a home in many a biker bar, the vocals dripping molten brass and the atmosphere warm. Sideways in Time is also a relatively tight record, wrapping eight tracks in a cozy 46 minutes. Additionally, the band smartly laced together this collection of songs with dynamic shifts in pacing, ambiance and tone, effectively differentiating Gone Cosmic from the horde of stoner-rock outfits extant.
Stoner rock often finds itself made or broken by vocals. Sideways in Time belongs in the former camp, as songstress Abbie Thurgood is the shining star of this record. Imagine, if you will, the unhinged intensity of Emily Armstong (Dead Sara) joining forces with the dark tones of Demon Lung‘s Shanda Fredrick. Add a hearty slab of soul from powerhouse singers like Adele and finish things off with—stay with me, here—the sultry sex appeal of Fergie. Yep. That just happened. But I maintain these characteristics all coalesce into one of the most dynamic vocalists to grace the modern stoner-rock stage, and Abbie puts down stellar performances across the board with confidence and passion (especially on “Deadlock,” “Faded Release,” and “My Design”).
A tight instrumental section backs those sweet vocals, comprised of Devin “Darty” Purdy on guitars, Brett Whittingham on bass, and Marcello Castronuovo on the skins. There are no fancy noodles or unnecessary wanking going on around here. No sir, these guys show incredible restraint, keeping things simple and letting the songs speak for themselves. There are no shortage of riffs, to which opener “Dazed” will happily attest, and the musicians do one hell of a job balancing that fine line between psychedelics and bodacious verve on cuts like “Siren” and “Turbulent.”
This being a debut, I would expect a few flaws, and lo and behold there are. The vocals are potent and compelling, that much is true. But the mix places them too aggressively forward. Dial them back and I think the sound would have been more balanced, because everything else breathes nicely and gives a lot of life to the record. Elsewhere, some trimming in the introductory portions of a couple of songs (looking at you, “Misfit Wasted”) could have helped Gone Cosmic make this already impressive debut that much more impactful. Lastly, I find myself concerned about the memorability of the material. Sideways in Time is one hell of an album to behold—and in a way, that’s probably all that really matters—but I can’t help but notice how much I forget in the space between spins.
Like I said before, my brain likes to make things more complicated than they ever needed to be. Perhaps that is why I like stoner rock and metal so much; it provides a much-needed reprieve from the chaos of my own mind and allows me to drift awash in nebulae of fuzz and groove. And boy is Sideways in Time groovy. Save for a couple of flaws, Gone Cosmic brought forth a solid debut worth getting excited about. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.