GT took a risk by making their first album without any outside help.
The backstory behind the supergroup known as Good Tiger is worth noting. Comprised of current and former members of TesseracT (vocalist Elliot Coleman), The Safety Fire (guitarists Derya Nagle and Joaquin Ardiles), Architects (touring bassist Morgan Sinclair) and The Faceless (drummer Alex Rüdinger), the group recorded and self-released its debut LP, 2015’s A Head Full of Moonlight, out of its own pocket and then used Indiegogo to recoup the expenses.
The original goal was $16,000. It was met in less than 24 hours, and by the end of the campaign, the band had received nearly triple that. The result was an anxious and twitchy affair, anchored by Coleman’s soaring vocals, which are, admittedly, an acquired taste and land somewhere between Dave Palumbo and Tommy Giles. The rest of the band, meanwhile, sounds like if Protest the Hero had studied Siamese Dream instead of Calculating Infinity. A decidedly modern affair, largely informed by the angular, proggy spasms and big choruses of TSF, AHFoM was a promising effort that was defined as much by growing pains and a lack of specific direction as the music.
Its follow-up, We Will All Be Gone, is a far more cohesive work simply because it sounds like the product of a single unit rather than separate pieces glued together. Two decisions stand out in explaining this. First, the harsh vocals peppering their debut are gone, a smart choice given that they felt shoehorned in. Second, the songwriting this time around is more subdued. There’s still an air of paranoia and anxiety, but it’s more of an atmospheric nature. The band’s two extremes—volatile prog-rock and soothingly quiet passages, as on AHFoM’s “Aspirations”—didn’t fully cohere on their first record. By rounding off the edges and shortening the polarity, the band’s songwriting has become more focused and, paradoxically, more intense as a result. For example, instead of having a composition that violently fluctuates for effect, songs like bookenders “The Devil Thinks I’m Sinking” and “I’ll Finish This Book Later” start quietly and build to towering heights (à la “Latchkey Kids” from AHFoM) despite the relatively linear path. Elsewhere, “Blueshift” and “Grip Shoes” employ a fairly standard alt-rock structure to thrilling effect, thanks to stronger melodies and hook-ier choruses.
Of course, reining in a band’s sound, even to a small degree, leaves a hole to fill. Enter Rüdinger, who becomes the accidental star of WWABG. While he was mostly relegated to a groove-holding role on AHFoM, his tastefully busy drumming steps to the forefront of much of this record, and serves as a welcome change of pace from his tech-death background. “Blueshift” rides a beat built upon a smart interplay between ride cymbal and bass drum, “Just Shy” floats over a careful tumble during the verses and the short interlude loop “Cherry Lemon” lends him some space for jazzy self-indulgence without being pretentious.
Rüdinger’s fluid playing throughout aptly matches the recurring theme of water in Coleman’s lyrics. Whether he’s using it as a metaphor for maintaining rationality (“Try to keep your/ Head above the water”) or for losing it (“I’ve never been a religious man/ But I’m slipping under drowning/ In your eyes”), Coleman leans on this idea (perhaps a bit too much) while discussing his somewhat bleak worldview. Multiple times he makes mention of the difficulty of toleration and the resulting apathy towards it: “I just don’t have the stomach/ To swallow what I think is hopeless/ In a few years we’ll be laughing/ Take a few years to view the world” and “A choice to endure the weight/ Or swallow the sour taste/ Let’s move on/ Cut out my tongue.”
But apathy isn’t what defines Good Tiger. The band certainly could’ve taken the easy way out—that is, simply functioned as a repository for unused ideas—and opted not to. Instead the band, and We Will All Be Gone, sound and feel like its own thing. GT took a risk by making their first album without any outside help, and were rewarded with an offer from Metal Blade, who themselves took a risk on signing a non-metal band to a metal label. WWABG, too, is a reward, and one that’s worth checking out.