Dillinger Escape Plan, The – Option Paralysis

“If I know the Dillinger Escape Plan, this is gonna get real loud real soon” I thought as I pressed play on “Mona,” the opener of DEP’s newest CD Option Paralysis. Sure enough, after a couple overdriven chords strummed in ominous succession, the filtered screaming of Greg Puciato rang out over a fiery avalanche of distorted guitar riffs and snare like sandpaper scraping against steel. Listening to DEP takes some preparation time, especially if you’re not an audio-masochist. Not everybody is as equipped as the next guy at enduring the hacks and slashes of dissonant math-core. But once you’ve trained your ears to take the bullets of self-mutilation, there’s quite a lot of value to be found in this New Jersey band’s avant-garde music.

The band’s music can be audibly overwhelming at times, but since their pre-Calculating Infinity days of haphazard EPs they’ve managed to at least imbue the insanity with a sense of direction, sometimes even imbuing it with punk-rock hooks and choruses. Okay, maybe a lot of times. They’ve sure learned a lot from their collaborations with Mike Patton on their fantastic Irony is a Dead Scene EP, one that was comically eclectic, yet rich and entertaining. If you don’t believe me, then just take a listen to “Eyes;” Puciato’s falsetto is straight Patton. Unfortunately it seems like they’ve also picked up a few things from their tours with AFI and Coheed & Cambria; the obligatory pop segments they’ve been incorporating since Ire Works feel like cold sores that inevitably sprout from sharing your bed with a VD-laden whore.

Of course, Puciato and crew aren’t legends in math-core circles for no good reason. Their debut Calculating Infinity made typhoon-sized waves in the field with relentless avant-garde thrash passages. Their more recent Ire Works was an interesting blend between their classic ear-splitting sound with some curious punk experiments and head-turning Richard D. James worship via metal. In terms of eclecticism, they explore varied grounds in terms of both structure and sound, but without the back-breaking absence of restraint that plagues groups like Between the Buried and Me. Essentially, this group has turned a screeching cacophony to an art form.

Their critical flaw, and one that rears its ugly head more and more frequently after every release, is their commitment to jamming the obligatory punk passages in without discretion, like in the cases of “Crystal” and “Gold.” More often than not, it does little more than break the momentum they spend so much time building up with their Converge-esque thrash segments. Not to mention their lyrics have degenerated to little more than a series of painful clichés that would seem perfectly suited for a Michael Bay script. Cringe-worthy lines like “Don’t you try to be more than anything you were destined for/ Or anything worth fighting for” are enough to make one want to drop the effort of lyrical interpretation entirely.

If you can cast all these flaws aside, there’s still plenty of delicious metal to enjoy for both the hardened head-banger and the more experimental metal connoisseur. The snare on “Crystal” rings out inconsistently enough to get the head reeling in trying to comprehend its pattern, for example. The music is both challenging and potent throughout the album, though never really transcendentally so, as in something to really phone home about. Frankly, it’s a disappointment in a band rife with potential and creative ideas for them to be so consigned to barely missing a breakthrough yet again.

While some bands are hit-and-miss types, the Dillinger Escape Plan instead consistently hit the black ring around the bulls-eye. Even though it’s far from mediocre, Option Paralysis never really strikes home with any ear-catching hooks or innovation, nor does it contain much cohesion to really unite the effort. Add this record to DEP’s ever-growing list of “faux-puses.”

by Mason “Not a math major” McGough

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1 Comment

  1. New Review! Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis « Avery Island: Musical Opinions From Music Geeks said,

    […] The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis, by Mason McGough […]

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