For as much of a fanbase as they’ve cultivated, it’s difficult to work out what the appeal of Dance Gavin Dance is. Getting rid of human car crash Jonny Craig when they did worked in their favour, but otherwise, and no matter how novel it may be, their pairing of blisteringly intricate mathcore and Warped Tour-brand post-hardcore is just headache-inducing. It’s not as though there’s an inherent problem with either component on its own, but the juxtaposition of the two has rarely proven to be more than a loud, saccharine mess.
So credit where it’s due then – at least Artificial Selection can be listened to without needing ibuprofen on standby. Perhaps it’s a case of Stockholm syndrome, but this is definitely the most listenable Dance Gavin Dance album there’s been in a while, but it’d still be a stretch to call it all that good given that the only thing that’s changed is they’ve become a tad more conspicuous with their blending of styles. Even then, this feels like an album specifically for the fans above anyone else; the fact that former vocalist Kurt Travis returns to guest on Shelf Life stands as proof of that, with little of note to entice anyone new to cause. For any non-Dance Gavin Dance fans, Artificial Selection is hardly going to change anyone’s mind.
And that’s kind of a shame really, because that better blending shows flashes of melody that would go some way to improving their sound long term. Tailoring more of the instrumental style to fit around Tilian Pearson’s contributions is definitely a good start; his stark, piercing cleans have long been the best weapon in Dance Gavin Dance’s arsenal, and though a breathier, huskier delivery can feel more forced than would be ideal, but there’s no denying that he fits better on Midnight Crusade and Story Of My Bros when they’re given a greater sense of conventional melody. Even on the other hand with Jon Mess’ screams and the intricate mathcore spikes that back him up, they still work in a vacuum and the technical playing is as admirable and impressive as it gets.
But Dance Gavin Dance’s biggest issue has always been splicing these two sides together, and Artificial Selection doesn’t see that changing, even with its attempts at mitigating anything too grating. Whiplash transitions still appear in abundance, feeling both unavoidable and unlistenable, and while that might be something of a selling point to longtime fans, there’s nothing appealing about them when the only thing they achieve is highlighting how blaring and obnoxious it can be. It just feels slapdash overall, and for a band like Dance Gavin Dance who are eight albums deep at this point, there’s something so amateurish that’s prevailed time and time again, despite the predictably expensive production job. And with the unnecessary length with little to stand out and the proliferation of tracks like Count Bassy in the first half that drag by obscene amounts, there’s little reason for this album to exist.
And really, that can be extrapolated to Dance Gavin Dance as a whole, a band who have their hangers-on but have rarely felt as though they’re doing anything other than spinning their wheels and plying a sound that’s simply unworkable. On the bright side, Artificial Selection is at least a tentative step towards something that could yield a bit more success, but it’s bogged down by bad habits and barely anything worthwhile to gravitate towards besides the general feeling that it’s a bit better. That’s not worth much though, and Dance Gavin Dance remain treading water before they can actually move themselves.
For fans of: The Fall Of Troy, A Lot Like Birds, Protest The Hero
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Artificial Selection’ by Dance Gavin Dance is released on 8th June on Rise Records.