Review Summary: A solid debut from a promising band.
Dance Gavin Dance – Whatever I Say Is Royal Ocean
• Jonny Craig - Lead Vocals
• Jonathan Mess - Screamed Vocals
• Sean O'Sullivan - Guitar
• Will Swan - Guitar
• Eric Lodge - Bass Guitar
• Matt Mingus - Drums
It’s always interesting to go back to a band’s roots and see how they started. Post-Hardcore act Dance Gavin Dance has managed to maintain their sound throughout their discography but always tried out new things to keep the formula fresh on each record. Whatever I Say Is Royal Ocean is a raw EP with great songwriting and musicianship.
Songwriting and Musicianship aside, there are a few dynamics in Dance Gavin Dance that set them apart from the sea of hardcore groups. Most importantly, there is the inclusion of two lead vocalists: Jonny Craig, who does the clean vocals, and Jon Mess, who does the screaming/yelling vocals. Another positive note about this record is that the production and mix is fairly decent for a first EP.
Also, guitarists or even fans of guitar will enjoy this record even more then everyone else. This record is very guitar-based compared to most other (post)hardcore bands (although not as guitar-based as their later records). A good example of this would be “The Robot With Human Hair Pt. 1”. It has a lot of those signature DGD dual lead guitar lines that almost act as a precursor of what’s to come.
I do, however, have a few gripes about this record. My main issue with Whatever I Say Is Royal Ocean would be the Jonathan Mess’s screamed vocals. Jon has a very raspy scream and he sounds very angry a lot of the time. While the harsh vocals sometimes succeed in showing anger in some of the tracks, they more often than not hinder the mood of a song. An example of this would be “The Robot vs. Heroin Battle of Vietnam”. This song has one of the best vocal performances from Craig. Sadly, Mess’s screamed lyrics that accompany Craig’s lines are unnecessary and almost ruin the soft and brooding sections of the song.
Jon Mess isn’t all that terrible though. In “Burning down the Nicotine Armoire”, his screamed vocals in the intro really fit well with the song and make it sound really aggressive. The drumming in this song is also really good too. The beats drive the song and there are a lot of interesting fills and it makes good use of double kick beats without over doing them. It also has really good soft parts with interesting bass lines and ride cymbal rolls.
Another thing that bothers me about this record is the ambient intro of wind blowing sounds. It’s cool at first but it should only be about half as long as it drags on even though it’s a 48 second track. This means there is only six real tracks on the record.
Overall, this is a record I would recommend if you are already a fan of Dance Gavin Dance or similar bands. This is a great first record but I would suggest listening to Downtown Battle Mountain before this because it is more accessible/better for new listeners of this band. I just wish there was more material on this record. I managed to get a hold of the B-side track “Attack Of The Dashing Young And Bold”. It was one of my personal favorites and I’m surprised they decided to keep it off the record.
Overall Rating 3/5