Written by: Izzy
Dance Gavin Dance are a band I only discovered in mid 2018, and the album they released that year, Artificial Selection, is; without exaggeration; one of my favourite albums of all time. I rarely talk about Dance Gavin Dance but I genuinely hold them up there with the likes of Deafheaven and Converge in terms of pure quality and how much I listen to them. Despite their long history and numerous lineup changes they have remained one of the most absurdly consistent bands I know, managing to pour out an amazing album every couple years like clockwork.
Now, if I’m not already getting called a poser by elitist metalheads, I’m about to get into hot water with elitist coreheads when I say I much prefer the Tilian era of DGD. I think his incredibly unique voice, coupled along with his spectacular range, has so much chemistry with Will Swan’s iconic guitar playing and Jon Mess’ gruff harshes that it really allowed the band to skyrocket after a small learning bump with Instant Gratification. Despite their guitarist being the namesake for “swancore,” the particular poppy and more clean-sung microgenre born out of post-hardcore and math rock, Tilian Pearson was the missing piece to truly forging the bands current unmistakable and unreplicable sound. Every current member’s talents gel together so perfectly, becoming a powerhouse quintet where I couldn’t imagine a single member being replaced. All this build up over their 15 year career has led us to Mothership, Artificial Selection, and now Afterburner, making up the best trio of albums the band has released to date.
So enough gushing and history, what do I actually think of Afterburner?
Well, for starters, I don’t think it’s better than Artificial Selection or Mothership, however it is still a phenomenal project that easily holds up to those two titans in nearly every aspect. Afterburner backtracks a little to a more Instant Gratification-esque sound (including the questionable rap verses), it’s much funkier, much more playful and fun, it doesn’t take itself quite as seriously and seems to just want to make you happy, to jump up and dance, and to sing along. DGD play around with a much broader sound palette and even singing in multiple different languages.
That doesn’t mean they’re shying away from more emotional and soft spoken moments; sometimes they combine them! Take “Strawberry’s Wake”, an upbeat danceable banger with somber lyrics about accepting your past mistakes and moving on. I can’t get enough of this song and it works perfectly as a showcase of everything amazing about DGD, everybody seems so in sync and just playing their instruments on the same wavelength, working as one cohesive unit to deliver fresh jams straight to your awaiting ear holes. This album also ends with a couple vocal features, Andrew Wells of Eidola providing his voice to “Nothing Shameful” is practically a dream come true as he’s easily my favourite modern post-hardcore vocalist outside of DGD, not to mention his feature is so moody and gorgeous, couldn’t be happier with how that worked out.
On the other hand, former Attack! Attack! vocalist/guitarist Johnny Franck under his new moniker Bilmuri sing-raps to the slow, trap-infused love ballad “Into The Sunset,” which is a much softer end contrasted to the harsh, heavy, and gut wrenching album closers on Mothership and Artificial Selection.
Frankly, I couldn’t care less about his feature, it’s drenched in reverb and doesn’t add anything to the song, it just feels like they put it there for the sake of a collab, whatever. This is the only song on the album I might skip on relistens just 'cuz it’s just pretty meh and the bad feature plus trap instrumentals don’t help.
The biggest, and really the only other complaints I have are that I wish Tilian did more with his vocals on this album, there aren’t really any of those pained harshes or explosive falsettos I’m used to from the last couple albums, Jon Mess dominates much more of this album than usual which isn’t bad, but would’ve worked slightly better if Tilian were a tad more adventurous. And secondly, as I previously mentioned, the closer tracks don’t have quite the impact of Mothership or Artificial Selection. Whether you consider “Say Hi” to be the ending song and the next two songs as bonus tracks, or “Into The Sunset” to be the actual closer, neither really has that heart crushing feeling found on “Man of The Year” or “Evaporate.” Both of these give off that feeling like they’re supposed to be the heart-tugging ending track, but just have a weaker punch that falls kinda limp.
These complaints are relatively minor, they’re far from enough to outshine the positives Afterburner puts forth, I am very content with this album and still consider it one of their best. If you don’t like Dance Gavin Dance, this album won’t win you over, but if you already love them like me you’ll find this album is another fantastic addition to their discography.
Dance Gavin Dance - Afterburner was released April 24th, 2020 from Rise Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!