Live Review: Dance Gavin Dance, Veil of Maya & Thousand Below - O2 Islington Academy, London 09/03/2018
Dance Gavin Dance are a band that inhabit so many genres, from pop to metal via jazz and funk, that it just doesn’t work on paper. In execution though, it works a charm and that was in full evidence in a sold out O2 Islington Academy. They were joined by metal legends Veil Of Maya, a band famed for combining technicality, brutality and melody into one neat package. These bands are both similar enough to justify this co-headline tour, but there are enough sonic differences to make for an engaging and diverse night of metal.
Kicking off the night are Californian post hardcore crew Thousand Below, who are performing on UK shores for the very first time. They combine clean ambient passages and hard hitting, technical riffs into a mesmerizing cocktail, and deliver their powerful songs with enthusiastic stage presence. Drawing heavily from last year’s debut album ‘The Love You Let Too Close’, there are some sing along moments from certain members of the crowd who were already familiar with Thousand Below’s songs, and these demonstrated that the band could be enormous once their album reaches the ears of a wider audience. I went into this performance completely unfamiliar with them, but will definitely be checking out their album, and catching them next time they’re in the UK!
Next up were technical metal heavyweights Veil Of Maya. Opening with latest single Whistleblower, taken from last year’s False Idol, Veil Of Maya make a dominating statement of intent. Flying out the gate with precise riffs, razor sharp leads and crushing grooves, Veil Of Maya are a technical tour-de-force, and the intensity of the four piece doesn’t let up throughout the whole set. Bassist Dan Hauser is a particularly enigmatic stage presence, headbanging and prowling the entirety of the stage, whilst nailing impressive six string bass runs. But there’s much more to Veil Of Maya than technicality for the sake of showing off, as the band employ their musical prowess to construct songs that stick in your head for days after hearing them, and it’s this knack for melody that really set’s Veil Of Maya apart from the wealth of other progressive metal bands. This is particularly noticeable in closing track, and set highlight Mikasa, which prompted a huge sing along from the packed venue, as well as a tide of crowd surfers.
Veil Of Maya may not be particularly unique in their core sound, but they are definitely unique in the execution of their brand of melodic tech. Similarly to Thousand Below I wasn’t familiar with too much of Veil Of Maya’s material, but they were such a great live band, in terms of both sound and performance, that I was won over by them almost instantly.
The atmosphere was electric as the crowd eagerly awaited the appearance of Dance Gavin Dance, a band who garners an impressive level of devotion from fans, thanks to their truly unique sound. Opening with the one two punch of Chucky vs. The Giant Tortoise and Summertime Gladness, both taken from most recent album Mothership, Dance Gavin Dance announce their arrival in style. Not many bands can inspire disco dancing and a circle pit in the same performance, but Dance Gavin Dance are not just any band, and they possess an uncanny ability to effortlessly combine different elements and sounds and somehow make the whole thing sound cohesive. This was a truly crowd pleasing setlist, leaning heavily on singles released throughout their almost fifteen year history, and this meant there were constant sing along’s and crowd interactions aplenty. Both vocalists sound just as good live as on record, with clean vocalist Tilian Pearson delivering some mind blowing highs, which would definitely have the potential to become grating if not handled correctly. The same praise can be applied to all members of the band. The guitars are rarely overly distorted, making the whole sound crystal clear, even with time signature changes and tapped passages flying past at a million miles an hour. Drummer Matt Mingus holds the whole thing together capably, with rock solid drumming throughout.
In the hands of 99% of other bands this performance would be a train wreck, but Dance Gavin Dance have the technical and compositional knowledge to completely nail this insane concoction. Highlights include Summertime Gladness, Young Robot and my personal favourite Strawberry Swisher Part 3 (that chorus is too damn catchy).
Overall this was a very solid gig, with each band bringing something unique to the table. Thousand Below are a young band showing great potential, and it is almost impossible to choose who I preferred more out of Veil Of Maya or Dance Gavin Dance. I guess I will just have to see them both again to help make up my mind!
Words and Photography by Lauren Harris