They’ve come a long way in three years
The Dillinger Escape Plan (DEP, henceforth) are one of those bands that I always think I like a lot more than I actually do. When taken in small doses - a few choice songs from an album at a time for example - they excite and captivate me but, at an album level, the band’s spastic contortions tend to leave me with a feeling of dissatisfaction due to the incredibly similar nature of their tracks. 2007’s Ire Works went a long way to remedy that situation for me with its clear attempt to branch out and add some variety to the music with the end result being that these less typical songs (Black Bubblegum, Mouth of Ghosts, Dead as History etc) were the tracks that I enjoyed the most and, three years later, are the only ones that still continue to resonate with me on a meaningful level. With this new found experimentation in mind, I was very interested and, dare I say, excited to hear what DEP had in store for their fourth full length album, Option Paralysis.
Those hoping to see DEP make any kind of return to their Calculating Infinity days may well find themselves in for some disappointment with this latest opus as it shares much more in common with Ire Works than anything prior, though, in saying that, it is also fair to say that Option Paralysis is like a culmination of everything the band has ever done with its blending of the spastic and mindboggling with the more accessible, catchy and even poppy moments the band has gradually been incorporating into their sound over the years.
Album opener, ‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’ (that shifts between several distinct styles in its three movements), serves as a fine example of what to expect from the album at large by encapsulating every mood and approach that the band will employ for the remaining 35 odd minutes of its duration. Not only that however - ‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’, also showcases something from the band that has been somewhat lacking over their past three albums - a sense of the epic and grandiose with only three of the album’s ten tracks clocking in at under four minutes. Now ordinarily a four minute song would hardly qualify for the status of epic but it most certainly does when it comes to DEP.
There is a painstaking attention to detail in the craftsmanship of the songs on offer that surpasses anything the band has been able to achieve to date which makes for a more satisfying and, arguably, enduring experience (though time will have to be the judge of that last assertion). Take songs like ‘Gold Teeth on a Bum’ with its incredibly catchy chorus, the aforementioned ‘Farewell, Mona Lisa’ with its shifting yet somehow cohesive mixture of styles, the transition from beautiful piano ballad into suitably Dillinger styled territory on ‘Widower’ or the dreamy oddness of album closer ‘Parasitic Twins’ to see just how far the band has come.
Though there is a mixture of disparate styles throughout the album it doesn’t seem to matter that much because belying the mish-mash of ideas is a real musical maturity that resonates more loudly than I ever could’ve imagined. Greg Puciato has taken some massive strides and is now the complete package with his ability to scream his lungs out but also hold a respectable tune while newly recruited drummer Billy Rymer was an excellent choice for the band with his excellent accuracy and dexterity. The rest of the band sound just as good as they ever did - if not better - and gel together impeccably. It’s tight, it’s outlandish, and it’s DEP just as you’d want and expect them to be.
While DEP’s more pronounced musical split personality could be of some concern, perhaps the best approach is to just sit back and let the band do whatever it is they want to do without thinking too much about the hows or the whys because, for reasons I can’t seem to effectively articulate, this is a band that continues to not just warrant your attention, but also demand it. This has never been truer than right now with Option Paralysis once again throwing down the gauntlet and re-confirming DEP’s position at the top of the heap by being their best and most mature release so far.
(Season of Mist/Riot! Entertainment)