As much as it feels like I’m splitting hairs, Gold’s fourth album puts in a lot of metallic elements without going into “pure” heavy metal. There are hints of Katatonia-style goth metal brooding and even black metal tinges in the tremolo riffing, but it never goes all out in expressing these influences. I probably make it seem like the band is holding back or lacking heaviness, but an overall deathrock style ensures its intensity. The effect reminds me of Chelsea Wolfe’s recent trajectory, albeit executed in a much more aggressive fashion.
It feels like the instrumentation has beefed up considerably since 2017’s Optimist. While guitar patterns are rooted in the same Joy Division and Sonic Youth-isms as before, the tone is darker with a consistently threatening underbelly. There are moments on songs like “Taken by Storm” where it gives into more extreme tangents, but a lack of true grime keeps them from fully losing composure. The rhythm section further reinforces this power with steady but impactful beats and bass lines.
The vocals also carry the melodies quite nicely. Much like Chelsea Wolfe, the delivery is an exclusively clean alto meant to contrast the harsh noise supporting it, but it comes out more confident than one would initially expect. They never sound drowned out in the mix nor meek in tone, allowing for emotional fluctuation as it is needed. There’s beauty and even vulnerability to be found but never weakness.
These factors ultimately culminate in incredibly varied songwriting. While the more overt chugging on “He Is Not” feels somewhat out of place compared to everything after it, it starts things off in a powerfully mournful yet theatrical fashion. Other songs aim for more traditional post-punk styles as the title track aims for the sardonically upbeat while “Taken by Storm” and “Lack of Skill” put in more slow burns. I also find myself drawn to “Wide-Eyed,” where the clanging rhythms and creepy vocals remind me of Children of God-era Swans, as well as the chillingly low key “Killing at Least 13” and “Till Death Do Us Part.”
Overall, Why Aren’t You Laughing? is a powerful metallic goth album. The musicianship perfectly serves the dark atmosphere and the varied songwriting does justice to the various moods and influences behind it. It’s an emotionally vulnerable effort that I wouldn’t exactly call accessible, but it seems poised to appeal to listeners spanning broad demographics. Gold has done some cool stuff before but Why Aren’t You Laughing? could easily take them to the next level.
“He Is Not”
“Why Aren’t You Laughing?”
“Killing at Least 13”
“Till Death Do Us Part”