ALBUM REVIEW: The Ongoing Concept – ‘Again’

Artwork for The Ongoing Concept’s ‘Again’ - a pile of video tapes in a hole in the ground

So can we just agree that Dance Gavin Dance are basically over now, yeah? Depending on who you ask (hi there), their awful music should’ve ensured that long ago, but with the way they’ve been ‘handling’ the situation they’re currently in, if they never release another album again, it’ll be way too soon.

But fret not, wayward fans—it’s never too late to develop taste. Here’s The Ongoing Concept, a band whose mashing of post-hardcore, prog, metal, funk, blues and a slew of other genre odds and ends has the potential to be utterly wretched on paper, but really ends up anything but. To this day, 2015’s Handmade remains the pinnacle of this band’s deftness—hyperactive, addictive, hard-hitting in pretty much every swerve it makes, and supremely underrated. Basically, if Dance Gavin Dance learned focus and how not to act on every impulse they’ve ever had, they’d probably sound like this, i.e. far, far better.

Again, then, is something of an interesting release to come at this juncture. Arriving six years after its predecessor, it’s arguably the ideal reintroduction to The Ongoing Concept, built on references and callbacks to their past material. Simultaneously though, these are brand new songs, designed as sequels and continuations to those older songs while also standing on their own. It’s not something that any band has done that immediately springs to mind, at least not in the context of a re-recording or a rework; on top of that, Again definitely stands on its own outside of any of that. If anything, it probably works better in spite of that idea rather than because of it, seeing as The Ongoing Concept have taken to straightening themselves out and mowing back some of the wilder, more disparate genre experiments of their previous works. They’re exceptionally good at making the transition from juggernaut-riffed post-hardcore into ‘80s alt-pop sheen sound natural, and fixating on that for this album winds up a lot more streamlined and punchy.

Punch is not something that this album has in short supply either. The Every Time I Die-esque dredging of sludge that cranks up the guitar tone of Feel Again or Prisoner Again is a good start, but slicing through with a tactile groove and sense of tunefulness brings out the best in The Ongoing Concept. They aren’t mutually exclusive either; Failures & Fakes Again especially represents such a natural nexus in how its thinned-out guitars and programmed beat grow into this gargantuan rocker, able to balance out slickness with mix-filling volume and grit perfectly. Or take Unwanted Again, which is probably the closest to a band like nightlife in how much further its anchored in slinky neon lighting, but that only accentuates the gallop it just seems to naturally roll up.

In a rarity for albums like this, Again’s own maximalism seldom feels like a weight either. Outside of the sample-collage intro title track and the understated guitar and slide of the closer Falling Again, this is pretty much full-blast all the time, which is something that The Ongoing Concept can evidently handle. Maybe on a song like Saloon Again, the edges between searing hardcore and tippy-tappy blues noodling aren’t the cleanest, but elsewhere, the production and arrangement really leave nothing to complain about. Seldom does this feel like random, disconnected ideas rammed together for the hell of it; in what spans pretty much every element of creation, The Ongoing Concept know what they’re doing and stick the landing almost every time. If you can get past some of the more uncomfortable ceiling-scrapes found in Dawson Scholz’s highest vocal register, you’re pretty much golden through and through.

Even then, it’s not that big an issue. It fits with The Ongoing Concept’s theme of wild, shrieking unpredictability that, even when relatively toned down for this album, remains plastered across Again front and centre. ‘Accessible’ might be the wrong word in that case, but it’s probably a more digestible listen overall. It accomplishes this without every feel limited or held back either, a balance that, with the proliferation of spasmodic, uncomfortably unstructured mathcore acts still running around, shouldn’t need an explanation for why that’s so impressive. Just in general, The Ongoing Concept are a leagues-better version of that archetype in every way, and Again is no exception. There’s no need to settle for less when you could be getting this.

For fans of: Every Time I Die, Dance Gavin Dance, Don Broco

‘Again’ by The Ongoing Concept is released on 31st March on Solid State Records.

Words by Luke Nuttall

One thought

  1. MeWithoutYou has a sequel to a song off a prior album on pretty much all of their releases.

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