ALBUM: Dance Gavin Dance – Downtown Battle Mountain II

Release Date: March 8th, 2011
Label: Rise Records
Website: None available


After the turmoil that’s surrounded Dance Gavin Dance in recent months, it was always going to be interesting to see how their newest album ‘Downtown Battle Mountain II’ was going to turn out. Most Dance Gavin Dance extremists will say that anything is bound to be better than ‘Happiness’, their last album that resulted in many fans writing them off, but ‘Happiness’ did draw many other fans to the band. Screaming vocals weren’t used as much and there was an overall more experimental rock feel to the album, rather than the post-hardcore style which the band are renowned for.

This, however, has changed with ‘Downtown Battle Mountain II’. The band are returning to the sound that they first gained recognition from, and thankfully, it’s a good thing. It kicks off with ‘Spooks’: a probing, interesting track that has trademark Dance Gavin Dance guitars (intricate, melodic, technical yet easy on the ear), and shows the listener what the album is about early on as the clean and harsh vocals are used almost at the start and throughout the song. What makes this song stand out, however, is that halfway through rapping is used and in a post-hardcore song of such velocity, it shouldn’t work but it does. Only a band like Dance Gavin Dance would dare try such a thing and this shows how confident they are at what they do.

Other tracks that stand out from the rest includes ‘Thug City’; a mix-up of Jonny Craig‘s evocative vocals with the harsh vocals of Jon Mess alongside dissonant, soaring guitars. The bass is a highlight on this track. It drives the song, but then goes on a different path and is given free reign throughout. The start of the song is impressive too, with an announcer-type voice proclaiming “Haha / Dance Gavin Dance, baby / Downtown Battle Mountain II” before Mess‘s screaming starts the song.

‘Blue Dream’ is a showcase of Craig and Mess‘s vocal styles. Craig croons and shows his excellent range and takes his haunting, beautiful style to the limit. Mess, meanwhile, shows his frantic, fast-paced screams to liven the song up at times when it can become solely eclipsed by Jonny Craig. It has a jazz-like guitar which drifts into a riff that has tinges of pop, but would easily be classed as post-hardcore. The lyrics are evocative: “Let’s starts it over as I comb back and forth / Through the causes of my mistakes / Well you said it over and over / Don’t come back, don’t come around my kids / Well I’m already in, in your home”.

Album closer, ‘Purple Reign’, again shows Craig’s excellent vocal abilities as he carries this song. The guitars are strummed, the drumming is well-paced and builds up the song but then it is all stripped away and the guitars are elaborate and intricate. Mess‘s harsh vocals are kept to a minimum, and are primarily used in the background as Craig takes centre stage.

Even though this is a step forward for the band, some of the tracks are a tad samey. Perhaps if the band had used more of the experimental rock that they are renowned for, they would have had their best material to date. But as it is, it’s not a bad investment, but they have still got some way to go before they reach their potential that’s waiting patiently to be released.

Written by Rhys Milsom