Review Summary: "Option Paralysis" is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It is the Will Hunting of the musical world--brilliant and complex, yet angry and dirty. A fitting way to usher in the new decade.
The Dillinger Escape Plan's fifth studio record is approximately five times better than their fourth, "Ire Works." "Option Paralysis" is nothing like "Calculating Infinity," and those who tell you so are likely just trying to tell you that they are “real” Dillinger fans and that they listen to "Calculating Infinity." What changed from Ire Works? Three things:
(1) Greg Puciato’s vocals. Immeasurably improved. "Option Paralysis" features Greg’s singing this time around, and it’s right on par. His screaming is moving from the unintelligible, yet forceful screaming on "Miss Machine" toward a more refined and confident style--but it still retains his trademark banshee-like flurries of passion. Puciato has really come into his own--king of like Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die did between "Gutter Phenomenon" and "The Big Dirty." The lyrics are also notably improved--in metal, a front man often has to capitalize on memorable lyrics. Most metal lyricists write great poetry, but a lot of it is lost in the whirlwind--not so on Option Paralysis, where Puciato showers us with instant-classic lyrics to scream back at him from the crowd.
(2) Songwriting and structuring. The album opens with the blistering “Farewell, Mona Lisa.” I saw Dillinger in Worcester, MA at the Palladium a few weeks ago and they finished with “Farewell”--it’s really telling when a band with so many brutal finishers decides to close with a song off their new album. Dillinger’s confident about this album in a way that they weren’t about "Ire Works." “Good Neighbor” is ostensibly the title track, as it deals most overtly with the theme of the title, option paralysis--“Suicide by way of information.” “Gold Teeth on a Bum” is a crushing roller coaster sing-a-long, and “Endless Endings” and “Crystal Morning” are probably the closest to original Dillinger as it gets on the album, showcasing Ben Weinman doing unspeakable things to his guitar. “Widower” highlights the band’s realization of the ineffectiveness of the interludes and intermissions from Ire Works--instead of giving us boring ambiance, they roll full-on ahead, blending piano and forceful guitar crescendos. “Room Full of Eyes” is the dark horse of the album, and contains probably the best example of a discernible apex of an album I’ve ever heard--“And why? ‘Cause we…REAP WHAT WE SOW.”
Like I said, that’s the apex. But often on a roller coaster the most enjoyable part is the free-fall after--which is why “Chinese Whispers” is the most interesting and most enjoyable track on the album and flows perfectly into “I Wouldn’t if You Didn’t,” with poignant breakdown-closing lyrics that tell the unpopular truth--“Suffering is not love.” The closing track, “Parasitic Twins,” is a likable-enough denouement, but could’ve been done better. It’s the only reason I didn’t give the album a five-star rating.
(3) Liam Wilson on bass. I’ve been resisting foul-mouthery til’ now, but I can’t help it--aren’t you ***ing tired of hearing the bass player totally mixed out? Great mixing on this record, and it’s only what Wilson deserves--his highlighted spots are gorgeous and he’s always present. Hearing bass in metal is ***ing refreshing. And Billy Rymer is somewhere between Chris Pennie and Gil Sharone--I really dig his style. Tight, but not technical. And with just as much groove as Sharone. You might wonder why I’ve left out mentioning Ben Weinman…but do I really need to? The guy just never ceases to amaze. He hit me in the back of the head when stage-diving in Worcester--it hurt like a sonofabitch, but I’d rank the occurrence in the top three events of my life (sad, but true.)
"Option Paralysis" is an album you can bring home to your parents. A freeloading cowboy, high on amphetamines, in a tuxedo from Goodwill. Go buy it right ***in’ now and let it sit on repeat.