Review Summary: Phoned in
I miss the days when most of the conversation revolving Dance Gavin Dance was about their tumultuous lineup. While some fans whined when their favorite vocalist left, there was always a sense of excitement when they brought the next one in. The band, Swan especially, had proven themselves to be great songwriters even during their most unpredictable moments and a new vocalist meant a slight stylistic shift. What would likely hamper the creative process of most bands actually worked in their favor, as they released one fun post-hardcore album after another. However, this has not been the case for a long while, and now for the second time in a row I am here saying that Artificial Selection
is just another Dance Gavin Dance album. Well mostly, as it also happens to be their weakest effort by a a long shot.
On the surface, Artificial Selection
does have a lot in common with Mothership
. You could take any track here and place it on the latter album and it would not sound the least bit out of place. The band has found a winning formula; their time with Tillian has given them the most success they have ever had, so it is easy to see why them would follow down this path. Unfortunately, this makes Artificial Selection
feel uninspired in a few places. Without any massive creative changes the main problems this album faces is the songwriting itself. This is the most uninspired the band has sounded all career. Very little of the album seems to stand out, even Swan’s guitar playing, which has always been a bright spot. It is evident that Artificial Selection
is the safest thing the band could have produced, as they now have their own defined sound.
None of this is helped by the fact that it is a very much Tillian-centric album. There were signs on Mothership
that their heavier and cleaner moments clashed in a very unnatural way, but it’s a major problem on Artificial Selection
. The track “Evaporate” kick off with a blood pumping intro featuring Mess doing his usual thing, with a great instrumental backing him, it’s legitimately great while it lasts. But the problem is that it just ends. The band immediately switches to a clean section fronted by Tillian out of nowhere in the most jarring fashion. The heavy intro lasts about 15 seconds and has absolutely no bearing on the rest of the song. They could have copied and pasted it onto any other track and it would make just as much sense. In fact, many of the heavy moments are like this - just there just for the sake of it. It sounds like the band wrote the song with Tillian and then thought, “Oh yeah Jon has to have a part too”, so they shoehorned in a heavy section. Even the album’s “heavy track”, “The Rattler”, is very tame compared to some of the band’s craziest moments. The moments where Jon appears are great while they last, but do not seem nearly as fleshed out as anything else here.
Apart from some of the heavier moments, most of the pleasure derived from Artificial Selection
would likely come from the hooks, and some of them are pretty good (“Midnight Crusade”). The band does put on a great show instrumentally at some points: there’s not nearly as many highlights as previous albums, but there’s definitely moments worth commending. The verses of Suspended in “This Disaster” has some fun guitar noodling, and “Count Bassy” has an incredibly catchy vocal melody from Tillian. This coupled with Swan’s guitar towards the beginning of the track makes for one of the most memorable sections Artificial Selection
has to offer.
Other than those few isolated moments, most of Artificial Selection
sounds tired and phoned in. At this point you already know if you like Tillian and the band or not. If you’ve grown weary of this seemingly permanent version of Dance Gavin Dance then Artificial Selection
is something you can avoid. However, if you enjoy Tillian’s vocals, and would not mind an album dominated by him, then you’d likely enjoy this.