Review Summary: Building upon the past.
Over the past few years, Dance Gavin Dance have solidified themselves as one of the most consistent acts in the post-hardcore scene, churning out numerous albums with top tier musicianship. With a ninth full length under their belt, it’s clear that Dance Gavin Dance show no signs of stopping as they continue to delve deeper into their well established sound, bringing forth a diverse array of beautiful, serene groove and abrasive, fierce progression in Afterburner
Gliding over the immersive landscape, Will Swan’s intricate guitar patterns fluidly move effortlessly among the tracks. Listeners are confronted with dynamic layerings as multiple guitar tracks lie seamlessly over each other, contrasting melody with dissonance; beauty with rage. The opposition between the strings swimming in atmospheric effects of “Into the Sunset” and the guitars waging war in “Born to Fail” coalesce into a climatic experience of bombardment and serenity. A variety of influence is blatantly prevalent, drawing inspiration from Latin-style patterns in the Spanish oriented “Calentamiento Globe” while enforcing the abrasive construct of sister band, Secret Band, within riffs in “Say Hi.” Working parallel to Swan’s mastery, Tim Feerick’s bass grooves amplify the deeply rooted presence contained within each song. Although frequently in line with Swan’s riffs and melodies, the bass work has its sporadic moments in the spotlight, engraving a deeper groove into the aura of Afterburner
. Whether sitting in cruise control, following suit of the six strings in tracks like “Nothing Shameful” or taking the forefront in “Strawberry’s Wake,” the basslines provide the listeners with an additional layer to dissect and fully appreciate. Providing the cohesion of the instrumentation lies the drum work from Matthew Mingus, gluing together all the variety of the album under one uniform performance. Stealthily progressing through a vast array of diverse styles, the drumming sets apart each individual track, injecting a refreshing sense of uniqueness into each moment as the album progresses. From the infectious groovy beats of “One in a Million” to the ferocious patterns of “Lyrics Lie,” Mingus ties the chemistry of the band together perfectly.
Injecting their impressive vocal performances, Tillian and Mess show off their versatility in mixing both the harsher screams and the melodic cleans. Tackling the higher register with ease, Tillian’s vocals soar over every chorus on the album, emphasizing the harmonies contained within the amalgamation of the foundational instrumentation. From the powerful chorus of “Prisoner” to the intriguing, atmospheric vocal phrasings in “Born to Fail,” Tillian utilizes his range to evoke a sense of power into the mix. What was once absent in previous releases becomes a primary perspective vocally as Tillian also manages to take on screams himself on tracks like “Lyrics Lie,” creating an even more diverse concoction in the vocal department. Starkly contrasting the melodies of Tillian lies Mess’ intense screams and shouts of nonsense. Consistently filling the heavier moments of the album with his raucous yells, Mess is at the top of his game, reminiscent of his efforts in Secret Band. Predominantly noticeable in the aggressive moments of “Say Hi” and the call-respond interaction in “Lyrics Lie,” his screams fulfill the desire for heaviness expected from listeners. Lyrically speaking, the album fails to hit the mark of an intentional portrayal of a story as the tracks jump back and forth between motifs and topics. From the revelation of a one-sided relationship of taking in “Nothing Shameful” to the irresistible attraction in “Three Wishes,” Afterburner
falls short in providing any storyline to the progression of the record. However, this “nonsense” allows for Mess’ true potential to shine as he belts out some of his most nonsensical lyricism since Downtown Battle Mountain II
. Screaming about ”multiple stab wounds”
and how he’s ”just a corny cracker,”
Mess’ absurd babbling adds a hint of letting go and letting the music take hold of the album.
With the experimentation in tracks like “Calentamiento Globe” and “Into the Sunset,” Dance Gavin Dance manages to venture out to various styles and influences to produce unique tracks to their catalog and provide a fresh experience for listeners. However, much of the remainder of the album relies on the tried-and-trusted formula of their previous releases, resorting to their comfortable groove of patterns and melodies. Regardless, Afterburner
holds true to the Dance Gavin Dance sound that has garnered critical acclaim and amounted to a massive fan base, adding yet another solid addition to their expansive catalog.