Post-hardcore colossus Dance Gavin Dance are back with their sixth album in seven years. “Acceptance Speech,” released by Rise Records, is comprised of eleven intricate and searing tracks marked by Dance Gavin Dance’s signature sound. It has been a highly anticipated album, to say the least, what with the sizable and loyal fan base the band has acquired over the years through their nonstop touring, festival appearances and Warped Tour performances, music videos, and well over a hundred-thousand records sold. Surely that is the kind of tireless and persistent work ethic that can see band from obscure to popular. Be that as it may, the only inconsistency surrounding this band is its frequent lineup changes, which to some degree affects their overall sound.
Despite Dance Gavin Dance’s rising status in the post-hardcore scene I must confess to having no knowledge of their existence prior to this release. So it probably comes as no surprise that I didn’t know what to expect when I received my promotional copy of “Acceptance Speech.” At first, admittedly, I didn’t know what to make of it, as the first song Jesus H. Macy began with some frantic and heavy screamo and ended sounding somewhat like Coheed and Cambria, particularly in the vocals department. Now, I have always been a fan of dueling vocalists, but the contrast between the two vocal types in Dance Gavin Dance is huge. Jon Mess unleashes intense throat-blistering screams, while Tilian Pearson conjures forth his soaring high-registered vocals, which carry an uncanny similarity to those of Claudio Sanchez. Yet they both fit into the band’s jigsaw sound in ways which complement it quite well.
As far as the lyrics are concerned, there is definitely a good deal more substance to them than many of the lyrics from other such bands. At times they are strangely poetic, while at other times they are achingly personal. Then there are moments when they are completely abstract and left to the listener’s interpretation, which to an extent proves artistically satisfying and thought-provoking. And the vocal deliveries are such that the lyrics are expressed in a manner befitting the music they attend—intense and expressive, shifting and blooming, aggressive and beautiful. Dueling in duality, these two forces of nature, and if anything they make the overall sound all the better for it.
The music by Dance Gavin Dance, however, is something else entirely. For the most part, it is a diverse sound running the gamut from post-hardcore, screamo and metalcore to rap-core, electro-thrash and progressive heavy, with funk and soul undertones, all tied into one big ball of wonderful noise. One can say what one wants about this band, but it cannot be denied that they are exceedingly talented musicians. Complex riffs, punctuating chords, and scorching leads are accompanied by hard-hitting and mathematically precise drumming, very capable auxiliary low-end, the utilization of an effects array, various samplings, and of course the two sets of very different vocals.
Sound-wise, there simply isn’t a place in the middle for Dance Gavin Dance; instead, they work at each end of the spectrum, inexplicably reconciling musical contraries to create something fairly unique and positively mad. When one places such polar opposites side by side, usually they repel one another; that is not so in this particular case, however. And it would seem that this band is determined to push it to the limit, in their way. Somehow they make such a seemingly impossible undertaking work in their favor. A thing they made happen in part because of their insane musical prowess and sound-crafting ingenuity. To be sure, Dance Gavin Dance’s music is a sensory overload of sound, but not necessarily in bad way. And while I am not able to fully appreciate every aspect of their sound, it is an indisputably interesting one, and certainly more than just a little worthwhile.
It stands to reason that such a creative band would give its songs equally creative names. Other than the title song, Acceptance Speech—incidentally, one of the more standout tracks on the album—there are such interestingly named songs as The Robot with Human Hair pt. 4, Strawberry Swisher pt. 3, Honey Revenge, Death of the Robot with Human Hair, and Turn Off the Lights, I’m Watching Back to the Future part II. Such song titles are on par with the cryptically bizarre names of Mike Patton’s songs, both as a solo artist and vocalist in other projects.
Personally, I can’t help but consider Dance Gavin Dance’s music excessively polished and overly flawless in execution, a sound that is geared more for the mainstream than the underground. As with most artistic mediums, most music is better for its sloppiness and imperfections, for its organic qualities over its mechanical ones. Evolution of sound should never entail losing the humanity of the endeavor, which, to a degree, seems the case with Dance Gavin Dance’s “Acceptance Speech,” almost as if a computer systematically constructed the songs and split them out as so much processed data. Only the intensity of the vocals keep it firmly anchored to the human world. Still, there are more good points than bad to be made regarding the new Dance Gavin Dance songs. And that makes it a rather difficult album to rate.
If “Acceptance Speech” by Dance Gavin Dance sounds like something you would be into, you can get a copy from Rise Records, iTunes, and online distros, as well as at the merch table at the band’s shows.
For fans of: From Autumn to Ashes, The Used, Between the Buried and Me, The Dillinger Escape Plan, The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower, Coheed and Cambria, etc.