Review Summary: If it wasn't sinful, I'd be calling this progressive metal album "wonderfully pop".
Good Tiger are a relatively new formation, having come into existence in 2015. Consisting of vocalist Elliot Coleman (ex-Tesseract, Zelliack), guitarists Derya Nagle and Jordan Ardiles (both ex-The Safety Fire), bassist Morgan Sinclair (previously a touring guitarist for Architects), and drummer Alex Rüdinger (ex-The Faceless), the group has been self-described as fitting into progressive metal.
But it seems almost unfair to pigeonhole the group into a genre. A Head Full of Moonlight, with its punchy production and succinct, accessible songs, does not appear to be concerned with following any specific norms. The album’s runtime is fairly short, at 35 minutes, and the majority of the 9 tracks end at the 3.5 to 4 minute mark. The band is not afraid to play around with different stylings: “Aspirations” features breathy, R&B-esque crooning, and the minimal “Understanding Silence” befits its name with only a solemn guitar accompaniment and clean vocals. Throughout the album you’ll find quiet, slower interludes that allow the listener to take necessary breaths. Overall, the album is defined by a fun, relentless drive, one that ranges from the dissonant, yet playful “Snake Oil” to the lyrical, syncopated “Aspirations”.
There is no way that I’d be able to analyse the rest of this album without touching on the unique, rather flamboyant quality of Elliot Coleman’s voice. For better or worse, Elliot’s presence is very prominent, and to put it simply, it will be polarising. No doubt, his voice is very elastic and powerful in nature; however, its unusually high tonality may come across as uncomfortably piercing to some. Regardless, the stark contrast between Elliot’s unexpectedly low and menacing harsh vocals and his predominating regular singing is one of the more intriguing aspects of A Head Full of Moonlight. At any rate, I do find the vocal harmonies to contribute positively to the memorability of songs. The juxtaposition of tortured cries against chanting on “I Paint What I See”, for instance, is quite a head-turner.
Thanks to Good Tiger’s penchant for concise and melodic hooks, each song is remarkably catchy. After listening to “Where Are The Birds”, “I thought I learned right from wrong” will be stuck in your head for the days to come. During choruses, Elliot’s characteristically domineering voice imbues the melody with particular volume, the guitars build up effortlessly and the stop-start drumming cascades with a flourish.
The lyrics, meanwhile, are nothing to write home about, though the surprisingly visceral depiction of alcoholism on “Enjoy the Rain” is one of the higher points. Yes, clever wordplay doesn’t abound, and the symbolism gets disjointed at times. "I would run/Through the darkest forest just to taste your skin" is unfortunately not terribly logical or appealing imagery for me. There are also a few too many songs about similarly chaotic relationships, presenting variations on the notion of tearing them apart and building them up. (This could just be my personal vendetta against love songs.) Nevertheless, there’s a certain blunt charm to lines such as “stop f**king with my town”, from “’67 Pontiac Firebird”, being passionately belted out.
A significant portion of Good Tiger’s enjoyability comes from the stellar, dynamic rhythm section. Alex Rüdinger is a percussive force to be reckoned with: “All Her Own Teeth” shows off quick, nimble drumming, “Latchkey Kids” demonstrates the efficacy of his fills in a slower setting, and the drum rolls in “Enjoy the Rain” display a sheer vigour. The first verse of “I Paint What I See” is where Morgan Sinclair’s bass is most visible (or should I say audible), and works as a testament to the solidity of his work. As for the guitarwork of Derya and Jordan, the riffs are soaring, resonant, though never overbearing; the richness of Elliot’s voice demands that the guitars often compliment, rather than take the spotlight. Nonetheless, they have their moments to shine, such as on the spirited solo during the last third of “Snake Oil”. During quieter sections, they tend to take on an almost reverberating air.
A Head Full Of Moonlight is an immensely likeable release, at least for those who do not find Elliot’s vocals intolerable. This energy-infused album is cohesive without being one-dimensional, accessible without being simplistic. I look forward to seeing how Good Tiger will evolve their idiosyncratic style in future releases.