Artist: The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza
Release Date: October 17, 2007
Label: Black Market Activities
Lineup: Jessie Freeland, Brad Thompson, Layne Meylain, Mike Butler, Mason Crooks
#1 Billboard Single on this date: Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em “Crank That (Soulja Boy)”
#1 Billboard Album on this date: Rascal Flatts Still Feels Good
At first glance, while the band name alone and song titles may skew to the goofier side of metal (ex. “Mad Max Beyond Superdome” and “Nobody Eats BBQ Two Days in a Row”), don’t be fooled; Danza is all business.
I distinctly remember the first time I listened to this band. Rewind to the Spring of 2004, where myself and a few other metalheads were huddled around the public computer in our fraternity’s chapter room.
In those days (not to sound too old), there were a limited number of websites for music streaming, as YouTube was still another year away from launch.
Fuck, I’m getting old.
I don’t recall the exact site, but I do know that fellow writer Forrest Green brought it to my attention, and it became a daily stop from there on until it went defunct/YouTube consumed our free time.
After perusing through tracks from The Number 12 Looks Like You, early Mastodon, and the like, we came across Danza. Specifically, the track “Cliff Burton Surprise”. Being a long-time Metallica fan, I had to hear it.
What first gripped me about Danza was their rawness; their unrelenting intensity.
I was still a young, confused musician at the time, and I couldn’t quite make sense of the aural insanity.
A few years prior, I had a similar jarring experience (in the best way possible) when I listened to Meshuggah’s Chaosphere and The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Calculating Infinity. Around that time, I had just gotten my driver’s license and found it exceedingly difficult to drive and listen to these albums at the same time. Eventually, my 4/4 conditioned ears built up to this kind of sonic madness, which paved the way for me embrace crazier shit.
Danza seamlessly blended the unmatched heaviness and groove of Meshuggah, with the jazz-infused, controlled chaos of Dillinger. For me, it was a match made in heaven, and I was hooked.
If I could sum up Danza II in a few words, it would be RIFF ARMAGEDDON.
There is a significant jump in production from the band’s first album. While the rawness of Danza I gave the band a really cool, lo-fi, underground metal timbre, so many intricacies of their insane riffing were lost in the mix. Thankfully, Danza II pushed everything to the forefront, and launched the audience on an unforgettable metal odyssey.
While the band was formed in Louisiana, they developed their signature sound in the open sky countryside of Murfreesboro, TN. If you’re not familiar with the area, it seems like an unlikely environment for a band like Danza. This is mainly due to the area’s suburban sprawl combined with lush fields, bodies of water, and trails which make it a picturesque scene for enjoying the great outdoors.
Years ago, I was on tour with a doom metal band from Kansas. We were making our loop back from the East Coast, and cut through Tennessee. I remember passing the sign on the highway for Murfreesboro, and thought to myself, “Huh, so this is where Danza is from?”
In my mind, I built up Murfbura (as it’s pronounced by the locals) as a wondrous utopia for avant garde metal. Sadly, when I finally visited the town years later, I learned how truly delusional I was.
It’s ok, many great bands come from unlikely areas. I have a vague theory that being stuck in suburbia, out in the woods, etc. forces people to get creative and push boundaries, as they don’t have as many local distractions as you would find in bigger cities.
Metal finds a way.
To me, Danza II is one of those albums that consistently makes me question the legitimacy of my own musical endeavors, and pushes me to practice more. A lot more.
This is not a negative thing; quite the contrary. In all honesty, I feel the same way when I listen to Herbie Hancock, Allan Holdsworth, Shawn Lane, or any other top-tier talent. These players exist to show us the possibilities; to break down conventions and forge ahead into the often terrifying, yet thrilling, unknown.
But, there is a key thing to keep in mind: music is more than just theory and technicality, there’s a lot of heart and soul needed, too.
It is here where I feel Danza emerges as an outlier to the “mathcore” pack. In light of all of their musical acrobatics, syncopated frenzy, and ruthless riffing, they maintain a light-hearted sense of humor.
Don’t get it twisted; Danza is a serious band. They just happen to have members that don’t take themselves too seriously.
This whole album is exceptional, and there isn’t a weak song throughout. The “filler” tracks are part of a comedy skit that permeates the overall work, and serves as a short reprieve for the mind-melting bursts of intensity.
For me, the standout tracks are as follows, in no particular order:
Unquestionably, I find Danza II to be an enduring release, and an essential addition to any metal collection. It’s just too weird, too funny, too fucking heavy to ignore. Every time I hear it, I get fucking pumped up. This is not some chest-bumping machismo talking, it’s the real deal.
Buy Danza II: The Electric Boogaloo here.