Review Summary: "I cook the nuggets in the oven, and they taste so good."
There has been a long growing void due to the last three Dance Gavin Dance albums that only grows further apparent the more this album devours me. Tilian brought the security to the band's financial future, but Mess has been tied down below deck barely able to influence the vessel. Matt and Will likewise have fallen into comfortable patterns, yet despite their recent creative stagnancy, they’re all still ridiculously talented musicians. The last Secret Band release proved that the band had the chops for hardcore, but what they’ve given us this time defies genres in the most refreshing sort of way. Diving from mathcore to post-hardcore to alt-rock to hardcore to really… anything they can think of, the crew splatters a canvas with a disturbingly cohesive coat of paint despite how violently every member is veering for dissonance. It all comes together in a creative blend of mastery that leaves the rest of the heavy scene looking dryer than a corpse in the Sahara.
Now, it wouldn’t be Secret Band without Mess’ absurdist gibberish, but despite its usual rhythmic and tonal wit there is a sense of clarity this time around on tracks like No One I Know or Do It Again. I’m unsure whether I’ve begun to develop Dementia or if Jon has begun to make sense while providing some of his most playfully quotable lyrics yet. His voice has grown dramatically as well, and he’s effectively able to scream and sing simultaneously in such ways that put the vast majority of other harsh vocalists to shame. Surprisingly, there’s even a brief bit of clean vocals which effortlessly fit where they ought to.
The instrumentation is hard to classify, but it’s refreshing to see both Matt and Will given the true opportunity to experiment. The first Secret Band release was far more reminiscent of Dance Gavin Dance’s usual groovy sound, just a bit harder, but here they dive around a whole spectrum of speeds and genres in a meaty package that’s decisively more interesting than recent DGD outputs or even most of the -cores in general. Snippets of chaotic math-influence, crushing hardcore, grooving post-hardcore, and even alternative rock riffing finds it way into the mix at surprising yet organic moments. And by no surprise, the production is as balanced and clean as anything Will Swan has been with involved with.
It seems as if both of the Secret Band albums reflect their covers well. The first LP was an experiment in hardcore, and despite how carefree and vicious it was, there were occasionally glimmers of a messy underbelly that didn’t quite know what it wanted to be. This time around the vision has been realized in a much deeper blend that’s every bit as heavy, but infinitely more varied and cohesive. Mess and the gang are sailing on an oozing green ocean with a pirate ship built from absurdist fun, and that’s all that I could personally ask for from this side-project.