Ever wondered what it would sound like if you were to kidnap The Dillinger Escape Plan, Botch and Meshuggah, force-feed them PCP, and make them knife-fight in a cage for the lusty approval of Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic desert-dwellers? Well, wonder no more – The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravanganza have handily answered that very niche question with their third album, Danza III: The Series Of Unfortunate Events. Wielding 8-string guitars tuned to low E (that’s a full octave lower than standard six-string tuning, guitar trivia fans!), in the course of just under an hour the band provide a near-unrelenting cascade of punishingly off-kilter, devastatingly visceral technical metalcore that manages to combine insane-computer-guitar-skronk, unsettling dissonant atmospherics and teeth-rattlingly brutal breakdowns with nary a pause for breath.
That this album sounds as tight and focused as it does is an impressive feat, seeing as it’s both their first album with new drummer Mike Bradley (whose gnat’s-arsehole tight drumming underpins every tempo-shift, every lock-stepped breakdown, and every odd-time signature the band throws his way with frighteningly heavy-handed intensity and machine-like precision), and the first album recorded after guitarist Layne Meylain and bassist Mike Butler quit the band, leaving multi-instrumentalist Josh Travis to step up and perform both roles himself (the line-up picture we’re using for the header pic is out of date – couldn’t find any newer images). Under such circumstances, one could almost forgive a drop in quality, but Danza III is almost casually awesome – whether it’s the mid-tempo crunch and screaming, atmospheric leads in the mid-section of ‘The Lost & Damned’ being followed quickly by insanely fast tremolo picking, the precise ‘wee-woo’ pinch harmonics and screeching, malfunctioning-R2D2 technical lunacy of parts of ‘The Union’, or simply the way that the band can switch from Botch-like atmospherics to Meshuggah-on-steroids djent by way of breakdowns that would make Suicide Silence throw down their guitars and go work at Hot Topic, there’s no let-up on this album. Well, not unless you count the four-minute silence between the first part of album closer ’12-21-12′ (the date the Mayan calender apparently says the world will end) and the epic, 13-minute second part which opens with hardcore punk velocity and develops into the most drawn-out, atmospheric piece on the whole album, with vocalist Jesse Freeland repeatedly roaring ‘The truth is / We are all lost’ over a howling wind tunnel of distortion.
That relentlessness and clarity of intent may well put some listeners off Danza III – this is by no means easy listening. Even the more atmospheric moments are shot through with a skewed malevolence, and there’s hardly anything even close to what many would recognise as ‘melody’ throughout the album. This is an album designed to be as utterly, unashamedly, pulverisingly heavy as possible, from start to finish. The production helps in this regard – kick drums arrive with a forceful clout to the chest, while the grinding tones of the detuned 8-strings and the metallic sizzle of the bass make for a hugely effective battery of sound. The album does takes time to get into – at first listen, it all sounds like constant breakdowns strung together by ear-splittingly spazzy technical widdling – but give yourself over to the immensely cathartic physicality of the music first, and repeated listens reveal the intricacy buried beneath the bludgeon.
The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/tonydanzatapdanceextravaganza
Metal Blade Records’ Website: http://www.metalblade.com