The lineup of the Sacramento, Calif. post-hardcore band has changed so many times it’s been difficult to keep up with who’s still part of the group.
When vocalist Jonny Craig left the group in 2007 and Jon Mess, the scream vocalist, left in 2008, DGD’s sound was slightly altered.
The band’s third album, Happiness, featured fewer screaming vocals and sounded more like experimental rock than pure post-hardcore music.
After the departure of singer Kurt Travis and guitarist Zac Garren, Mess and Eric Lodge, a former bassist, rejoined.
Craig had initially been turned away when he asked to rejoin in 2007, but he was welcomed back to the band in 2010.
The reunion of the original members, minus Sean O’ Sullivan, called for a sequel to Downtown Battle Mountain, DGD’s 2007 full-length release.
Its latest, Downtown Battle Mountain II, unites the sounds of some of the band’s previous albums.
“Spooks,” the opening track, is classic DGD. It begins with a clear-cut guitar melody, and Craig’s vocals float along with it.
Suddenly it jumps into a more aggressive mode and Mess’ distressed screams take the song in a completely different direction.
Fortunately, his technique isn’t overwhelming.
He is screaming, but not to the point where it is the type of high-pitched screeching or deep growling commonly heard from other hardcore bands.
The screaming sounds hectic, yet Mess also show control over his voice.
There are moments when the average listener might ask if Mess is actually saying anything or just making loud noises, but only a few.
Craig’s style is very different. When Craig’s heard singing alone, he could almost be mistaken for an R&B singer, not a member of a hardcore band.
He has a smooth, soulful tone, which is especially evident in the song “Blue Dream.”
Mess and Craig do a great job of balancing their vocal harmonies. Their yin-and-yang essences complement each other, providing a nice texture for the arrangements.
Downtown Battle Mountain II does have rapid movement and the traditional gut-wrenching metal chords, but also contains a refreshing grooviness.
The guitar riffs played by Will Swan display his diverse musicality and knowledge of various genres and techniques.
In “Blue Dream” and “Privilously Poncheesied,” Swan, bassist Eric Lodge and drummer Matt Mingus even slip in a few bars of dance-worthy funk.
There is no doubt Swan, who has been in DGD since day one, is a skilled guitarist.
The volume level of his guitar on Downtown II is almost at the same level as Craig and Mess’ vocals, as if his guitar is a third vocalist.
Usually, that could get annoying or overbearing, but the tone and intricacy of his riffs are too interesting to ignore.
When Craig is belting out harmonies and Mess is screaming in the background, it’s nice to sit back and listen to Swan take over for a bit.
There is no denying DGD’s ability to shape a very distinct sound that dabbles in metal and R&B.
It is unfortunate the drama surrounding the band has in a way overshadowed its music. But Downtown II is far from disappointing and deserves to be given a chance. Hopefully this energy will keep up as the band tours the United States and Europe this spring, including a performance in this summer’s Warped Tour.