March 20, 2010

Album Review: "Option Paralysis" by The Dillinger Escape Plan

There are very few bands in metal that are more polarizing than The Dillinger Escape Plan, and fewer still that are more polarizing based solely on their sound. Fans of Dillinger hail them as one of the most innovative bands ever to grace metal, while detractors call them chaotic, reckless noise producers with no direction or focus. There is virtually no middle ground with this band – you either love them or you can't stand them. However, even within the band's own fans, there are rifts emerging. There are those who appreciate the band's reach into more diverse styles, as showcased on 2004's Miss Machine and 2007's Ire Works, and there are those who wish to see the pure, unadulterated mathcore sound of 1999's Calculating Infinity repeated. Dillinger's newest album, Option Paralysis, attempts to placate both groups with a mixture of mind-blowing technicality and avant-garde creativity.

The biggest concern about this album was how well new drummer Billy Rymer would perform in Dillinger's wildly fluidic, constantly changing style. Thankfully, it becomes clear from the opening moments of "Farewell, Mona Lisa" that Rymer is a perfect fit for the band. With blindingly fast double-bass work and effortless time changes, Rymer's skills are put to greatest effect on the parts of the album where speed and technicality are brought to the forefront. On slower, more ambient parts, Rymer still performs excellently, but the drums often get lost behind the other elements contributing to the sound in those areas. That is the overriding theme of Option Paralysis – fast sections capitalize on the band members' technical skill alone, while slow sections require additional parts and influences to be inserted to keep interest high. The most notable of these outside contributions is that of American pianist Mike Garson, whose résumé includes work with David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins, and many others.

The faster, heavier parts of Option Paralysis are where Dillinger really shines. From the nonstop tempo changes of "Good Neighbor" to the sweeping, dissonant solos of "Endless Endings", these songs are what draw new listeners in and show off the aggressive side of the band's songwriting core. The slower, avant-garde sections of the album are also mostly enjoyable, and undoubtedly these parts are what some Dillinger fans enjoy most about the band. The piano sections of "Widower" and "I Wouldn't If You Didn't" are the best of the bunch, beautifully written into the songs to fit their respective atmospheres. By contrast, though, "Room Full of Eyes" is hampered by the abrupt changes within the song, and "Parasitic Twins" feels completely out of place when compared with the rest of the album. However, in the end, there are more than enough well-placed and inventive avant-garde parts that make up for the forgettable and confusing avant-garde parts.

Overall, Option Paralysis should appeal to most fans of The Dillinger Escape Plan, and it's likely to bring some new fans into the fold as well. There is more than enough heaviness and technicality on this album to keep fans of Calculating Infinity satisfied. There is also plenty of progressive and experimental material to appease the Miss Machine and Ire Works enthusiasts. This new album is the band's statement that they can fit nearly any form of musical creativity under the umbrella of their sound and still make it sound interesting.

Score: 7 out of 10

Track Listing

1. Farewell, Mona Lisa
2. Good Neighbor
3. Gold Teeth on a Bum
4. Crystal Morning
5. Endless Endings
6. Widower
7. Room Full of Eyes
8. Chinese Whispers
9. I Wouldn't If You Didn't
10. Parasitic Twins

Album Personnel

Greg Puciato – Lead vocals
Ben Weinman – Guitar
Jeff Tuttle – Guitar, backing vocals
Liam Wilson – Bass guitar
Billy Rymer – Drums

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