Review Summary: In 'This is the Warning,' Dead Letter Circus have released one of the most exciting debut albums to come from Australia in years, proving they are a band to watch in 2010.
There’s a sentence in Dead Letter Circus’ official bio that might just be the first accurate thing a band has ever written about themselves;
“Watching someone on their first listen to Brisbane alternative breakthroughs Dead Letter Circus searching to come up with a neat description is fascinating viewing... “It’s kind of like... no wait, it’s more of a... Wow, I have no idea what it is, but it’s different...”
It describes the band perfectly, with their delay soaked alternative rock drawing comparisons ranging from The Mars Volta to U2. For the last couple of years with the help of a brilliant EP, thousands of very loyal fans and more recently, a major label, DLC have become one of the more popular bands in Australian rock. Thus with the release of their debut album there is quite a large amount of expectation. Fans however, can rest easy, because the album is killer.
Epic is a word thrown around all too frequently in reference to bands in this genre, seemingly becoming just another genre name for bands with big vocals and spaced out songs. However, on This is the Warning
, Dead Letter Circus have actually achieved the definition of epic. Coming across as a combination of The Temper Trap, Karnivool and everything else in between, the band manage to maintain an air of experimentation while still being inherently catchy. That’s essentially where This is the Warning
succeeds as an album; it has a crossover appeal that will appease music fans in general. This is particularly true on songs such as the scintillating opener ‘Here We Divide’ and the insanely catchy ‘Big.’ Both are songs that are reasonably straightforward in terms of structure, but still manage to maintain interest over and over.
The band’s progression from their debut EP is apparent from the get go, both in song writing and musicianship. Throughout This is the Warning
there is a myriad of extra sounds and instruments. This is particularly true for some of the more experimental songs on the album, namely ‘The Drum’ and ‘The Design.’ Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, ‘The Drum’ may just be the best thing DLC has written. Featuring everything from industrial influences to Karnivool inspired heaviness, ‘The Drum’ shows that Dead Letter Circus is not a ‘one trick pony,’ but is in fact capable of experimenting and, funnily enough, excelling at it. ‘The Drum’ is quite a subdued track, giving vocalist Kim Benzie the perfect vessel to prove his worth (If the rest of the album hadn’t already done that for you). ‘Cage’ also sees the band head in a new direction. While still a straightforward song in terms of structure, it deviates from the traditional Dead Letter Circus sound in that it is largely industrial based, particularly in the chorus. This inclusion of new influences and instruments once again gives the band room to experiment, giving rise to a brilliant song.
Staying true to their roots, there are a couple of songs that hark back to Dead Letter Circus’ early days. Fuelled by Rob Maric and his guitar delay, ‘This Long Hour’ is essentially ‘The Mile’ on speed, featuring the best chorus that Dead Letter Circus have written so far. While first single ‘The Space on the Wall’ sees the band in rock anthem mode, with Stewart Hill’s bass propelling the song. Conversely, the title track and closer ditches the verse/chorus format all together, giving drummer Luke Williams a chance to show off, pounding his toms amidst Benzie’s consistently astounding vocals. Williams also proves his worth in ‘Walk’ with the jangling guitars and huge vocal bridge providing the perfect medium for him to experiment with his style, and doing so to perfection.
The only real negative is that a couple of the songs, namely ‘Reaction’ and ‘Next In Line’ are not completely new, having been around since early 2008. Funnily enough, while they were probably considered some of Dead Letter Circus’ best songs prior to the album’s release, they are the two weakest tracks on the album, if only for the fact that there is little deviation from the sound of their debut EP. This however, should not be a deterrent, as they are both great songs in their own right, they just lack the extra oomph and flesh that the rest of the album has.
By including a huge range of new influences and sounds, Dead Letter Circus have quashed fears that their sound was becoming stale and have instead created a superb and diverse debut album. With This is the Warning
under their belts it shouldn’t be long before everyone is on the DLC band wagon. You better jump on quickly.