Album Review: Dance Gavin Dance – Artificial Selection

By Marvin Dotiyal, Features Editor
[Rise; 2018]
Rating: 7.5/10

Key Tracks: “Son of Robot”, “Story of My Bros”, “Flash”

Leading the scene with an eclectic musical twist and awe-inspiring talent, no band has grasped and cultivated post-hardcore like Dance Gavin Dance. As a polarizing band marking three different “eras” for each vocalist change, 2016’s Mothership has finally cemented the band’s chemistry with vocalist Tilian Pearson. Picking up where they left off, the Sacramento quintet focuses on molding a well-rounded semblance in their eighth LP, honing their snazzy guitar licks and chaotic harmonies with a groove that is just as heavy and relevant as it was a decade ago.

Making headway effortlessly as well as bringing angular elements from their past, “Care” starts with a smooth riff that is surprisingly similar to “Uneasy Hearts Weigh the Most” from their 2008 self-titled, thanks to former guitarist Zachary Garren’s feature. Fusing genres at its finest, the track steers its way to jazz fusion sensibilities at the end. Additionally, earlier fans will ripple with excitement for “Shelf Life”, which features Kurt Travis, their second former vocalist. Travis’ feature is refreshing, but it’s rather disappointing at a second listen. The song doesn’t enable him to flaunt his strengths nor does it suit his vocals well.

Regardless, Dance Gavin Dance is on top of their game and is no stranger to experimentation. As always, guitarist Will Swan ignites the frets in “Hair Song” and packs the punch with pure dissonance in “The Rattler”. The bass also takes an undeniable lead in “Slouch”, driving the entire song in full throttle with gritty distortion.

Infectious hooks are a little harder to find compared to Mothership, but “Son of Robot” engages the listener immediately with its Zelda-inspired melody that breaks into a cacophonous waltz, with great emphasis on Matt Mingus’ explosive double bass drumming. Alongside, “Flash” revisits the vibrant catchiness from Instant Gratification, while “Story of My Bros” is their own spin on pop-punk.

From the first few seconds of “Midnight Crusade”, it’s noticeable that Pearson’s voice sounds raspier in this release. Whether it be a matter of production or a result of constant touring, it adds more than detract, especially in emotional tracks like “Gospel Burnout” or the band’s renowned, push-pull dynamic with Jon Mess’ ferocious screams. The lyrics are also quirkier than ever.

The band pays one last homage to their fans, closing the album with a sweet little throwback in “Evaporate”. Not only does it feature Andrew Wells of Eidola, but it also alludes and recycles lyrics from each full-length record except Downtown Battle Mountain II and Mothership. The album ends on a witty note, with an iconic hook from “Alex English”: “Well don’t it feel good? You got what you paid for.”

Artificial Selection attempts to cover all the bases to find the sweet spot for all fans, and it works well but not persistently. While it may accompany many tastes, some arbitrary sections that are “conceived” to be the complexity of their songwriting tend to produce awkward, halfhearted fillers in disguise. As a whole, however, this record inscribes the band’s aptitude in the stone, illustrating the progressive soundscape of what’s it like to be the masters of their own sound.

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