ALBUM REVIEW: Dance Gavin Dance – Afterburner
Photo Credit: Lindsey Byrnes
When it comes to post-hardcore bands, you’d be hard pressed to find a band more consistent in their releases than Dance Gavin Dance. Ever since Tilian Pearson joined back in 2012, replacing Jonny Craig after his second stint as clean vocalist, the band have been consistently putting out great records. Now, after eight years of Pearson as vocalist, they have released their latest musical venture: Afterburner.
After announcing what would be their ninth studio release, the first single Prisoner gave us a glimpse of what to expect from the Afterburner sound: intricate guitar melodies, rapid-fire drum fills, rumbling bass, and the signature combination of Pearson’s soaring singing (and occasional high screams) and Jon Mess’ distorted vocals. Judging by this song alone, the other twelve songs which comprise this album should be just as good, right?
Well, yes, but actually no – here’s why.
The songs are, by all means, really great tracks. The band are on top of their form, in terms of both instrumentals and vocals, as this is arguably Tilian Pearson’s best vocal performance since his debut on Acceptance Speech. It’s just that a good amount of the songs on offer aren’t really that memorable, to the ears of this fan, at least. A fitting example is songs such as Three Wishes, Born to Fail, Parallels and Say Hi (which also feature some of Mess’ most bonkers vocals in DGD history), as well as Parody Catharsis and Into the Sunset – both of these songs feature lead guitarist and main composer Will Swan bust out some rap-style vocals, and the latter of the two also sees Johnny Franck of Bilmuri making a trap-style appearance. Again, the songs are by no means objectively “bad”, they just could have been a tad more memorable.
Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s focus on what works here.
With the exception of the aforementioned Three Wishes, the singles are among Afterburner’s shining moments. Lyrics Lie, aside from being a signature DGD track (but in the good way, of course), sees Pearson go back to his old Tides of Man roots, with a few high screams during the tag-team post-chorus with Mess. Calentamiento Global (Spanish for “Global Warming”) came completely out of left field – who’d have thought that Pearson could sing in Spanish and sound so believable? He actually nails most, if not all of the pronunciations – take it from someone who has had plenty of experience with the language. Oh, and to further drive The Mars Volta feel of the song home, drummer Matt Mingus busts out some latin drum beats.
Finally, Strawberry’s Wake: a new track added to their pre-existing “Strawberry Saga”, ends up being one of their more optimistic songs, with its calming clean guitar intro, and lyrics such as “I want you to matter to you, forget those backstabbers”.
Now for the other non-singles, as some would call them: One in a Million shines with its overall happy feeling and those ascending, layered vocals during the ending – “Hallelujah”, indeed! Night Sway gets a thumbs up for its headbang inducing opening and main guitar riff, as well as for bassist Tim Feerick’s increased presence. Saving the best out of these for last, it’s time we talk about Nothing Shameful: Andrew Wells (of Eidola) has returned for a sensitive vocal performance during the bridge, and boy, oh boy, does this track become 100x better than before! Also performing with the band on Evaporate, the closing song of previous album Artificial Selection, Wells’ performance and presence has, once again, left the fans wanting more and begging the band to make him a permanent members (he’s performed live with them from 2015 onwards, taking up rhythm guitar and backing vocal duties). One more thing that could have helped the album? Switching the closing track from Into The Sunset to Nothing Shameful. Dance Gavin Dance have always had great closers, a prime example being the aforementioned Evaporate, which fans still praise to this day. Sadly, though, Into the Sunset just isn’t that memorable of a closing song.
In the end, while far from being an objectively bad album, Afterburner ends up suffering from some less than memorable songs, which hinder this otherwise great, and quite experimental, ninth Dance Gavin Dance record. Let’s just hope the next one will head more into Mothership or Acceptance Speech 2.0 territory. Don’t worry lads, we’re sure most of these songs will kick up a storm live!
Standout Tracks: Prisoner, Lyrics Lie, Calentamiento Global, One in a Million, Night Sway, Nothing Shameful
For Fans Of: Bring Me The Horizon, Coheed and Cambria, Secret Band, Eidola, Royal Coda, Tilian
Written by: Florin Petrut