The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis
For a few years now, discussion regarding The Dillinger Escape Plan has revolved around an opposition: the band's earlier mathcore vs. its later pop flirtations. Option Paralysis (Season of Mist, 2010) does away with this opposition.
It's a logical continuation of Miss Machine and Ire Works, the band's previous albums with Greg Puciato. Essentially a younger version of Mike Patton, he has a range, and the band is wise to utilize it. Sometimes such utilization has seemed gimmicky: "We can do a quasi-radio song because we can!" Just because one can doesn't mean one should. But Option Paralysis merges "can" with "should". Now songs weave together elements of both. The band is becoming more comfortable with its chameleonic singer and identity.
The result is a delicious middle ground between sound and song. That was the real tension between mathcore (sound) and pop (song). Option Paralysis opts for the best of both worlds, ricocheting between that familiar rat-a-tat attack and Puciato's crooning. Thus, it has no obvious Songs with a capital S like "Black Bubblegum". But it does have an album's worth of testing that border.
Many bands unintentionally test that border — the ones who almost know how to write songs. DEP already know how to do so. Not needing to prove that, they've focused instead on finding and being themselves.
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That identity is, to put it bluntly, darkness. It's not the cartoon version with skulls and pentagrams. It's subtler, more of an undercurrent. Surprisingly, this thread has existed since the band began. Innumerable lineup changes have managed to preserve this thread; Puciato and his singing have grafted new strands onto it. DEP albums with Puciato are really about deep listening. Their production detail is staggering. Like its full-length predecessors, Option Paralysis is a world to get lost in.
The nature of that world is slightly mysterious. Ask Dillinger Escape Plan fans what the band is "about" (beyond breaking stuff onstage), and I'm not sure that they could answer. The lyrics of Option Paralysis offer one hint. Every song is addressed to the second person: "you". The last major artist who did this? Nine Inch Nails — a huge influence on DEP, who've covered "Wish", appeared onstage with NIN, and whose synths recall the brassy grime of The Downward Spiral. Puciato and Trent Reznor have more than big muscles in common.
Puciato's heart isn't on his sleeve, though. He seems to address multiple "you"s, and perhaps his narrators are unreliable. Such uncertainty befits the no-man's land between song and sound that his bandmates traverse. Perhaps a more accurate term would be no-band's land. Thanks to the growth of a mathcore subgenre that DEP helped spawn, and increasingly modern production and mastering that have rounded off the band's edges, DEP are no longer extreme. They're in an interworld of their own.