Album four from the mathcore innovators is another singular success.
Mike Diver 2010
The past paints New Jersey’s The Dillinger Escape Plan as an impenetrable force of everything-against-nature, a combo whose combustive riffs were characterised solely by their mind-melting complexities. The past is both right and not: while the group, in their earliest incarnation (they’ve been through their share of members), essentially defined mathcore, a metal strand focusing on detailed dissonance, as their albums have passed the music has significantly evolved.
Album two, 2004’s Miss Machine, was the first introduction to a Dillinger with a taste for melody, and Option Paralysis – album four, after 2007’s acclaimed Ire Works – is another long-player where accessibility isn’t entirely absent. Like its immediate forebear there are sounds that hark back to the band’s debut, 1999's Calculating Infinity; but just as with Miss Machine, this effort never bypasses a cracking chorus for the sake of spinning the senses. Those with penchants for more perfunctory riffs may still come away puzzled by the band’s amazing following, despite what could be (again) seen as concessions incorporated to lure beginners to the cause. But the hardcore are going to be blown away all over again.
Farewell, Mona Lisa introduces ears to the Dillinger of the present: it’s the kind of glorious cacophony that emerges so very rarely, one that seems to encapsulate in five minutes everything achieved by its makers to date. It’s a song of several movements, vocalist Greg Puciato switching between a Mike Patton-style croon to an eye-popping scream, while frenetically-fingered lead guitarist Ben Weinman – the sole remaining founder member – delivers the kind of six-string master class befitting a band long-celebrated for their inspired, innovative arrangements.
From the opener, onwards, the assault (pleasingly) rarely relents. Good Neighbor’s dramatic motifs recall all-action cues from James Horner’s Aliens score, and Chinese Whispers finds Puciato on imperially adversarial lyrical form: “Everything that you cling to will not last.” One can hear the line as a middle-finger rebuke to the persistent few who bemoan Dillinger’s melodic tangents, likewise the barrage of put-downs that pepper Gold Teeth on a Bum; but such assessments are the indulgence of the individual, only the author certain of true informing factors. Widower is a break in the bombast, the closest this band will ever come to an unexpectedly tender, lovelorn ballad.
The title might be an acknowledgment of the temptation to repeat a winning formula, but Option Paralysis stretches its makers’ imaginations and abilities superbly. Consider it another singular success.