Dance Gavin Dance – ‘Afterburner’

By Dave Stewart

Dance Gavin Dance have become a real force to be reckoned with over the last few years.  Forming back in 2005, they were quickly picked up by Rise Records and released a slew of powerful and varied albums, quietly plagued by line up changes and complicated personal issues behind the scenes.

Things began looking up for them after recruiting the stunning abilities of former Tides Of Man vocalist Tilian Pearson in 2012 and they’ve been on a never-ending upwards trend ever since, releasing gem after gem as they develop their unique eclectic sound into a magnificent, towering, and eye-catching work of art. Pearson, along with fellow vocalist Jon Mess, guitarist Will Swan, bassist Tim Feerick, and drummer Matt Mingus, have unveiled their brand new record ‘Afterburner’ – a bright, bubbly, and ever so slightly bonkers addition to their ever-evolving catalogue.

This is a record that does exactly what you want it to do, packed tightly with everything Dance Gavin Dance do best. From the elating, spine-tingling chorus of lead single and album opener ‘Prisoner’ right the way through to the sun-soaked atmospheric closer ‘Into The Sunset’, it presents you with every feeling and sensation you could imagine. Happiness, sadness, excitement, anger, hilarity, frustration, amazement, confusion – it’s like a rollercoaster through the emotions, hurtling down the tracks at unbelievable speed with nobody to operate the brakes. That isn’t a problem, though. You won’t want it to stop.

If you want an infectious summer anthem to pair with the rising temperatures and sunny skies, head to ‘Three Wishes’ and let the upbeat vibes radiate through you. It’s so summery that Mess’s worryingly jolly screaming of “multiple stabwounds” won’t threaten the rays with any storm clouds whatsoever. ‘Parody Catharsis’ has the same kind of feel, opting for a faster, more chaotic pace to create a boozy outdoor festival anthem primed for crowd interaction. ‘Nothing Shameful’ feels a bit more hypnotic than sunny, boasting an almost dream-like melody that will transport you to otherworldly plains as the continuously changing landscape washes over you. There’s even a little guest vocal spot from their touring guitarist Andrew Wells and boy, are his vocals silky and truly goosebump-inducing.

There’s a fair amount of heaviness scattered through this album, and it all hits like a cannonball to the teeth. ‘Say Hi’ is one of their darkest and most brooding songs to date, opening with cascading walls of menacing distorted chords and powerful bellowing screams. It almost sounds like a Converge track in places, each band member operating at their most chaotic for its duration. ‘Born To Fail’ is another intimidating number, wallowing in the dark at first before allowing a gigantic chorus to transport it to brighter pastures. ‘Night Sway’ is a frantic and frenzied powerhouse that at first glance looks like it could be a lullaby, but in reality contains some of the most blistering guitar work the record has to offer – and one of the most unrelenting paces too.

If there’s anything this band are good at it’s variety, and ‘Afterburner’ has plenty of it. There’s the uplifting fun-fest of ‘Strawberry’s Wake’, complete with some very enthusiastic “HEY” chants from Mess, there’s shape-shifting groove-laden funk-a-thon of ‘Parallels’ spiced up with some urban influence – there’s even a fiesta in the form of ‘Calentamiento Global’, featuring some luscious Spanish flair from Pearson. This record is far from predictable, but it’s exactly what fans would expect from this band. A mixed bag, full to the brim of nothing but goodies. 

Imagine what it might be like to take every drug at once. It would likely overwhelm your senses, flooding your head with thoughts and feelings and colourful pictures from all angles, most likely ending in nightmares or a hospital trip. That’s what this record does, only you don’t need to take anything and you definitely won’t end up in a bad place – you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a good time.

Some tracks will have you dancing in circles belting out Pearson’s silky smooth melodies, some will have you reaching for the nearest breakables to launch at your walls, and some will have one of your eyes twitching as you try to process exactly what you’re hearing. Package them all together and the lasting effect is one that you’ll want to revisit over and over again, immersing yourself in their complex soundscapes as they demonstrate once again that they’re in their own league.

Simply put, there isn’t another band like Dance Gavin Dance. No one else is able to blend genre gymnastics with infectious pop-tinged sensibilities like they can, with every single new offering rewriting their own rule book to create something mind-bendingly brilliant. They churn out material at twice the pace of most bands and manage to retain a level of quality that a lot of them fail to reach. ‘Afterburner’ is no exception to this, thrusting thirteen tracks of solid gold straight down your ears – a prize that your brain will be more than happy to cash.

DAVE STEWART

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