I have so many friends who love Dance Gavin Dance, which I always was able to appreciate and understand, but I could not sink my teeth into their material. Afterburner is the first album I had heard front to back. While it has some heavy hitters in the first half, and widely dispersed in the second half, it mostly runs together in a blend that cannot be distinguished from one song or another.
The heart starts to beat for the record with the pulsing instrumentation of Prisoner. It soon flips between heavy and melodic realms. The hard turns between hard-driving and a floating melody complement one another nicely.
Lyrics Lie is undoubtedly a lie in a good way as it starts off soothing, then next thing I know, I got a punch to the gut from screams and heavier instrumentals. The smooth, clean singing soon keeps up with the speed of the harsher vocals while bringing in some of the catchiest choruses I will hear all year.
Calentamiento Global really shines how awesome Matt Mingus is as a drummer as he takes charge of a majority of the track. Slowly everyone comes together for a homogenous sound. It layers in a hefty dose of a fun, catchy melody that does not stick in my head as much as Lyrics Lie, but it is still irresistible.
I have torn feelings on Three Wishes. The chemistry between the screaming and clean vocals mix so much better than Calentamiento Global, but it feels way too formulaic with its structure and overall sound. That said, it ends on a high note as it kicks up the power.
One in a Million brings in some pop influences that are happily welcomed to the mix. It manages to fit next to the heavy segments due to some stellar transitions from the group’s bass, guitar, and drum work. It all comes crashing together for one crazy conclusion, making this one of the best songs of the album.
Parody Catharsis comes in rather thin with a single guitar to follow behind the clean singing. It unexpectedly explodes and throws in plenty of other surprises throughout with its electric melody and headbanging moments.
On paper, Strawberry’s Wake follows everything that has been done right with the formulaic material found on Afterburner, but being seven songs in, I am starting to get pretty bored. It has the catchiness and melody but cannot stick the landing.
At least I got some caffeinated energy from Born To Fail. The cool and heat bang together then end up going into an intense descend that makes for a sweet highlight that makes up for some of the hiccups found before it.
Parallels is aggressively trying to beat out Lyrics Lie with its catchiness, to the point where the screams match the angelic singing. It manages to do this well by an impressive execution.
For the shortest track, Night Sway does not feel too condensed. It takes all that I know and puts it together in a nice, tight package. If it were to be any longer, then it would be too boring to handle.
The heaviest song is ironically one of the nicest titles, Say Hi. It surely says hi with some mean riffs and percussive power that can knock you on your ass. Even when the clean vocals get introduced after some aggressive screams, it does not let up off the pedal.
Nothing Shameful is quite shameful with its first collaborator on the album, Andrew Wells, who does not add anything to the song at all. The same goes for the actual band in this run of the mill filler track.
Thankfully we end on a high note in this weird hip-hop-inspired DGD sounding finale with Into The Sunset. Featuring ex-Attack Attack member Johnny Franck AKA Bilmuri, as he is in his side project that helped out the California based rockers. The chemistry is there, and the surprises do not let up throughout the album’s closer.
Afterburner has its problems, even with some strong songs have hiccups. The guitar work impresses early on but soon melds together, same with the vocal performances. Lyrically well written with some instrumental and vocal high points to make up for the lows.
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Image via Rise Records