June 4, 2018 Dance Gavin Dance – Artificial Selection (Album Review)
Prepare to have your minds blown! Here to present a case for musical Darwinism (survival of the fittest, fools) at its finest, Dance Gavin Dance present Artificial Selection on Friday, June 8, 2018, thanks to Rise Records.
Hailing from Sacramento, California, Dance Gavin Dance (DGD) formed in 2005. What has followed has been 13 years of musical mayhem and line-up changes galore. Despite this, the boys have gone on to release some seven full-length albums – ranging from 2007’s Downtown Battle Mountain to 2016’s Mothership. Highly beloved by a legion of dedicated fans, Dance Gavin Dance are determined road dogs who have shared stages with the truly eclectic likes of A Day To Remember, Emarosa, Memphis May Fire, The White Noise, CHON, and, most recently, Underoath. They are, of course, Warped Tour veterans. (Didn’t you see CypticRock’s 2017 Warped Tour coverage?)
With their eighth full-length studio offering, Artificial Selection, Dance Gavin Dance – “Clean” Vocalist Tilian Pearson, “Dirty” Vocalist Jon Mess, Guitarist Will Swan, Bassist Tim Feerick, and Drummer Matt Mingus – present nearly an hour of new music. Their unique, amalgamated sound – which falls somewhere along the lines of Post-Hardcore meets Prog Rock – is fully present and accounted for throughout the album’s 14 tracks. Produced by longtime collaborator Kris Crummett (Sleeping With Sirens, Issues), Artificial Selection features guest appearances from the likes of former bandmates Kurt Travis and Zachary Garren, Eidola’s Andrew Wells (who is also the touring Rhythm Guitarist for DGD), Martin Bianchini of Secret Band (a DGD side project), and Guitarist Louie Baltazar.
Artificial Selection opens with glittering guitars that begin the intro into “Son of Robot” – a continuation of the band’s “Robot with Human Hair” series began on their debut 2006 EP, Whatever I Say Is Royal Ocean – which explodes into Mess’ urgent, bitter growls before dipping into Pearson’s angel-sweet harmonies. Here, meandering sonic valleys provided by Swan weave a kind of spell that is an electric earworm. Meanwhile, second offering and first single/video “Midnight Crusade” is one of those tracks that feels immediately familiar with its confessional lyrics and sauropod references.
Throughout the entirety of the collection, the harder Mess unleashes vocal hell, the more candy-sweet Pearson appears, as on the perfect sonic dichotomy of “Suspended in This Disaster.” Second single/video “Care” sets a ‘kinder, gentler’ mood that appreciates the ability to transcend apathy and pine for a lost love, even if looking back can really hit you in the feels (“I never wanted to be singing about you again”). Here, Pearson’s confessions sit alongside Mess’ grit, weaving the perfect representation of what Dance Gavin Dance are all about and promising massive things for the band.
Vocal effects fuzz the lines of the atmospheric “Count Bassy,” a promise that ‘empathy is overrated’ which subsequently presents one truly killer, blurry bridge from Mess. Of course, being on top is a lonely affair, and DGD pay homage to transparency with “Flash” before “The Rattler” explodes with a Mess assault and some killer bass-lines from Feerick. Next, the glittering, meandering movements of “Shelf Life” feature former bandmate Kurt Travis, who plays off Pearson’s melodic vocals perfectly, all while Swan and Feerick go insanely funk-tastic underneath it all. This funk carries over into the dream-like state of “Slouch,” the underachiever’s anthem, a rocking assault from Mess that is countered by those delicious melodies championed by Pearson.
There is an almost triumphant flag-waving of derelict behavior in “Story of My Bros,” an admission of loser-hood that embraces Punk and goes for prideful profanity. While this description may sound harsh, please do not misunderstand: the track is much like the entirety of the collection: sheer DGD brilliance. Meanwhile, you can bang your head to “Hair Song,” a punctuated desire to leave woe behind, while there is a shining quality to the generally upbeat sonics of “Gospel Burnout” that belie the track’s moody-gloomy advice (“Do yourself a favor, die young”) and proclamation that sociopaths make good friends. This all amounts to an ire-filled warning that swallowing the lies preached to the masses will only lead to misery, you sheep!
Amping it back up to vicious, “Bloodsucker” goes full-throttle with Mess at the helm on the verses before Pearson steps in to bring melodic choruses and admonish predictability and rabid consumerism. Ultimately, sometimes it requires a good slap to snap out of the trance, and the nearly 5-minute “Evaporate” delivers just this, with another bandmate, Touring Rhythm Guitarist Andrew Wells (of Eidola), tossing out some killer vocal contributions. Dishing out references to former DGD works and utilizing Wells’ stellar vocals, talk about knowing how to tap your own resources! It is, as such, that Artificial Selection goes out, guns-blazing.
Love them or hate them, it is not everyday that a band name checks dinosaurs and Jazz pianists within the same collection, all while running the gamut across sounds and influences and authoring a jam session that holds its tattooed arms open wide for stoners and the intelligentsia alike. Call them Post-Hardcore Math Rock, Experimental Rock, or simply Dance Gavin Dance, but do not miss this unique band who are doing a little something more than your average, completely recycled 2018 rockers. For these reasons, CrypticRock give Dance Gavin Dance’s Artificial Selection 4.5 of 5 stars.