Sound — 8
"Option Paralysis" is the fourth album by New Jersey mathcore/post-hardcore/technical metal/what you will'ers The Dillinger Escape Plan. This album sees their signature dynamic, complex, and chaotic style refined to a tightly focused point. Of all their albums this is the most straightforward (as far as DEP albums go). No abstract instrumentals or ambient soundscapes here, just plenty of the fury you know and love.
The album, like most Dillinger albums, has four loose categories of songs, to make a gross generalization. There are the winding, dynamic, enraged-then-contemplative-then-enraged-again epics. The most notable songs of this general breed here are "Farewell Mona Lisa," "Widower," and "Gold Teeth on a Bum." Then there are the "normal" songs, with verse/chorus/verse formats, clean singing, and only slightly demented time signatures. "Chinese Whispers" and "Parasitic Twins" are the two on display here. (There are always two, for one reason or another). Of course, there is the style the band is best known for, their balls out, chaotic, unrelenting fits of insanity. Those comprise most of the rest of the album. The archetype notably absent here, as previously mentioned, is the instrumental. These songs are often abstract, more soundscape than song. While nigh unthinkable for a DEP album, this absence keeps the energy at a high level from beginning to end.
The "best" track: "Good Neighbor," while short, at 2:30 in length, is the most focused and aggressive on the album. Blindingly fast melody passages, Greg Puciato screaming bloody murder, and even a refreshing turn toward good ol' hardcore punk are crammed in here, without ever losing its clarity or focus.
The "worst" track: While a good song in its own right, "Widower" comes at the wrong place at the wrong time. Immediately following the chaotic, violent close of "Endless Endings," it starts off with silence, then pianos and clean quiet singing, progressing into a ballad-ish sort of song. Needless to say, this brings the energy, which had been building up to that point, to a grinding halt. While it continually escalates in energy, it can't undo the somewhat clumsy transition it started off with. I must stress, however, that it is one of the albums better songs when listened to on its own.
Lyrics — 9
The lyrics are another aspect in which this band separates itself, although to a lesser degree. The lyrics are often abstract, dealing in emotions and personalities instead of actions and relationships. Some recurring themes are detachment and rebellion, a lack of control, and the other Dillinger signature, psychotic deconstructions of some unknown characters personality flaws.
In terms of vocals and delivery, Greg Puciato, lead vocalist and lyricist, brings his best, as always. His sometimes nasal clean singing is often compared to Mike Patton, and the comparison is apt. Another comparison that one could potentially make is to Trent Reznor, this time in the slightly deranged ramblings area of performance. The area where he is truly something else entirely though, is in his screams. Whereas most metal vocalists employ guttural growls and high pitched shrieks when screaming, Greg Puciato's style is one closer to that of a punk singer, if that punk singer were a demon from the eleventh circle of Hell. This mid-range screaming style nicely complements the bands sound, which is all in Standard E tuning. This also gives him much a much wider and more expressive range of emotions in his scream, which lends the lyrics more depth and meaning than some of them could have on their own. His versatile cleans and falsettos are also fantastic, and with the rapid changes in dynamics and mood so common here, he is able to keep up in a way most vocalists would not. His raw ability allows him to occupy the slowly disappearing space in metal where the vocalist is just as important as the rest of the band.
Overall Impression — 8
To sum everything up, "Option Paralysis" is a relatively short album that packs a hefty punch in its 10 tracks. All the things you love and/or hate about the band are here in spades, with the notable exception being the absence of any instrumentals or ambient songs. This allows the band to focus on making the insane more insane, and the epic more epic. The main weakness of this album is the fact that many of the more aggressive songs sometimes blur together and lack identity, and that the lack of experimental ambient tracks only make the slower songs seem all the more out of place.
Songs that stood out: "Good Neighbor," "Farewell Mona Lisa," "Chinese Whispers."