Despite having almost as many line-up changes as The Fall (which makes Ben Weinman The Dillinger Escape Plan’s very own Mark E Smith), The Dillinger Escape Plan have managed to retain their idiosyncrasies whilst always pushing forward. Having laid down the blueprint for mathcore on their influential debut album Calculating Infinity, it is to the band’s credit that they’ve never been afraid to explore new avenues.
Second album Miss Machine retained the mathcore riffing, and the stream of consciousness changes in direction, but with Dimitri Minakakis’ relentless bark replaced by Greg Puciato’s vocal nous, a commercial edge had begun to creep in. Swinging between the melodic and the violent, he’s seemingly followed Mike Patton‘s lead after the band collaborated with him on the stopgap EP Irony Is A Dead Scene. By the time Ire Works came around the band leapt forward in sound once again, and although there were plenty of moments of brutality, the likes of Black Bubblegum found the band dabbling with funk and pop.
This brings us to Option Paralysis, an album that for the first time in DEP’s history seems to tread water. Continual progression has always defined DEP’s releases, but the band seems to have found a state of equilibrium that suits them. It’s a good place for the band to have settled.
Farewell, Mona Lisa kicks the album off in typically bullish style. The complex precision guitar runs may have been cut back a little, but the concrete slab riffs thunder forth as Puciato spews lyrics over each sinewy guitar run. It’s not until the band has succeeded in stripping flesh from bone that they offer the temptation of a vocal harmony.
Gold Teeth On A Bum keeps things heavy but simplistic. Puciato apes the vocal delivery of Fugazi‘s Guy Picciotto before serving up a chorus swamped in canny melody. Pushing things further, Widower starts life as a piano jazz croon. The ivories tinkle mournfully as Puciato proves that he’s fast becoming one of the most talented metal vocalists and should probably now be considered an equal of Patton’s rather than an imitator. Eventually, things evolve into a frenzy of riffs that thunder towards an almost classical climax. If there were a song to show how far DEP has come over the years, this would be the one.
Parasitic Twins finds the band in Nine Inch Nails territory, DEP’s tours with NIN having rubbed off. Puciato assimilates Reznor’s style perfectly while the band creates a massive industrial landscape.
There’s still plenty of drumming heroics and impossibly complex guitar runs to be found on the likes of I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t (the equivalent of a Barbarian Stephen Hawking on amphetamines) or Good Neighbour (relentless punches to the temple in an array of interesting time signatures), but it’s when the band explore their more melodic nature – check out the piano interlude of I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t, for example – that they’re at their best.
Option Paralysis may be considered a side-step by some, but there are so many exuberant flourishes and cleverly thought out harmonies that it’s probably better to consider it a mind-boggling step over. The Dillinger Escape Plan isn’t out of tricks just yet.