The past decade has served to deliver a torrent of new-wave tech bands, but amidst this contemporary slalom, 2015 saw the emergence of something a little different: the inception of US-based outfit Good Tiger. Self-proclaimed as ‘Some kind of rock’, this is an act that immediately elected to nestle themselves somewhere in between the newly evolving sub-categories of tech and djent, pairing this tastefully with a basis of traditional rock. More importantly, they were able to emerge as an entirely fresh and exciting outfit, whilst simultaneously being the reincarnation of beloved and recently expired prog-metal act The Safety Fire. This immediately appeared to be priceless combination; comprised of two former The Safety Fire members, in addition to scene veterans Elliot Coleman, Morgan Sinclair and Alex Rüdinger, the band were able to express themselves on a fresh canvas, whilst capitalizing on the scene’s reverence for their former identity, allowing their debut attempt to truly flourish. Three years down the line, and Good Tiger are ready to go again; the pre-release campaign is well underway for second full-length effort We Will All Be Gone, and it’s safe to say that expectations are high.
One thing bugged me about this record right off the bat. Despite We Will All Be Gone being the product of a three-year break, opting for a longer, broader, and more expressive body of work is not a strategy that Good Tiger have adopted. The record stands at just over half an hour in run-time, and just three minutes longer than its predecessor. It’s fairly plain to see that this is a subjective gripe and something that will vary from person to person. However, I still very much believe that this group of musicians are consummately capable with their instruments, and so a more substantial attempt would have added an extra edge of satisfaction right from the off.
On a lighter note, it’s clear from the beginning that certain aspects of the Good Tiger trope haven’t at all faded into the ether over the past three years. This is proven without hesitation on the opening track and lead single “The Devil Thinks I’m Sinking”, with the angelic, trademark warble of Elliot Coleman‘s vocals making its presence known right away, and setting a somewhat familiar tone. In fact, this is a theme that persists throughout the record, with the welcomed presence of catchy vocal hooks and choruses dominating the main body of the songs, and establishing itself as the album’s most pronounced element. The chorus sections in “Blueshift” and “Salt Of The Earth” act as the most apt examples of this.
As pleasing as this is, and as much as it has almost become a Good Tiger trademark, this vocal focus is a double-edged sword. As the album progresses, it becomes clear how vocal-centric the writing is. A Head Full Of Moonlight stood as a shimmering display of the entire band’s musical capabilities, and unfortunately this new record doesn’t convey this kind of tasteful balance. This lack of balance carries into the album’s instrumental performances, with drummer Alex Rudinger seeming uncharacteristically subdued, and the guitars having no real technical presence, save for a handful of welcome math-rock riffs. The production furthers this vocal focus, with the instrumental feeling as though it’s been forced into the backdrop with no real character or punch, and Elliot’s vocals very much taking center-stage in the mix.
A lot of my comments, rather than being condemnatory of the new material, are more comparative with the old material. But, this is important; as I’ve already said, this is an act that only have one prior release, and gained the majority of their fans with it. Thus, this record’s greatest flaw is abandoning its predecessor and watering the band’s sound down into something that presents itself as fairly unremarkable math-rock. Now, this isn’t to say that there’s nothing positive going on here; what this record does, it does well, but the key issue is that it simply does not do enough.
Make of this what you will. If you like rock, or math-rock, or what you hear on We Will All Be Gone, then that’s great. Unfortunately, in reviewing this record, I’ve had to adopt the role of someone who fell in love with this band after their first attempt, and is therefore underwhelmed by the second. If nothing else, the release of this record has clarified the Good Tiger evolutionary pattern: from The Safety Fire, to a fairly unique incarnation, and eventually slumping into a meat-and-drink rock band. Such a shame as it may be, the tiger’s tail now sits very much between its legs.
Notable Tracks: “The Devil Thinks I’m Sinking”; “Blueshift”; “Salt Of The Earth”
FFO: Dance Gavin Dance, Circa Survive, The Color Morale