For those unfamiliar with the sound of four bearded guys in greasy leather hats banging on pawn shop guitars in smoky backwoods bars, Interbellum might be a revelation. Gold’s impersonation of an American minor league pop-metal band is astonishingly accurate.
From the solo minor-key guitar intro on “One of Us” to the standard carousel arrangement of vocals, then second guitar, then rhythm section; three verses to the chorus, solo, three verses, chorus and vamp out, all in suitably warm and cozy analog gauze, Gold summon historical perfection. Any song on Interbellum would fit nicely in a Time-Life “Best of the Seventies” infomercial CD.
Gold is a band with major league talent. Thomas Sciarone and Nick Polak run through the gamut of guitar melody, purposely avoiding memorable riffs whenever possible. Drummer Igor Wouters and bassist Harm Haverman are ever-so-slightly under-mixed as was the norm in the days before disco. They’re there, but just enough to smush into the monophonic space behind the vocals of Milena Eva, who dominates in the same way Grace Slick did on Jefferson Airplane albums.
Interbellum’s “Antebellum” rollicks along with a pleasant jukebox in the background musicality. Its mix is all over the place, vocals loud and then ducked and the drum rolls rich in decadent reverb slap-back, then pulled back under the splash cymbals while the vocals return in ear-searing fashion. “Antebellum” is one of the two or three semi-memorable tracks on the album if only for the obvious effort Gold puts into nailing the track.
“Love, The Magician” is Interbellum’s most successful track. A zillion songs before it have emoted the same sentiment about falling under the spell of that hypnotic someone, and Gold add nothing to the story, but the guitars get to struggle out of their strait-jackets and indulge in a bit of interplay as well as a tasteful backing line that gives the song actual texture.
After the plainly awful “Gone Under,” Interbellum takes a knee and tries to shake itself back to life. Gold roll out acoustic guitars to bolster the electric guitars. It’s a change at least. “Medicine Man” teeters between collapsing into a ‘70s Cher B-side and flying off into some form of wacky dissonant guitar workout. And yes, the rack toms get the Native American rhythm massage.
The Netherlander five-piece must be credited with a tight, authentic representation of all that was woeful about 1975 hard rock. Gold’s stated goal was to make an album that conjured up a golden era when bands made heavy music because they wrote heavy songs, not because they just make big ugly noises. It’s a place many bands need to rediscover. Gold has the right idea, but jumped off the tracks with Interbellum.
(released December 7, 2012 on Van Records)