PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.


The Dillinger Escape Plan: Option Paralysis

The fourth album by the extreme innovators sounds more comfortable than cutting-edge.

The Dillinger Escape Plan

Option Paralysis

Label: Season of Mist
US Release Date: 2010-03-23
UK Release Date: 2010-03-22
Artist Website

When the Dillinger Escape Plan abruptly left their longtime home Relapse Records and signed a deal with Europe-based label Season of Mist in May of 2009, it caught many off-guard, but it was impossible to ignore the new partnership's enormous potential. After all, on one side you have one of the most daring, innovative acts in extreme music today, coming off three consecutive landmark full-length albums: 1999's Calculating Infinity, 2004's Miss Machine, and 2007's Ire Works. On the other is a cutting-edge record label with very good worldwide distribution that boasts an impressive roster of diverse yet equally adventurous bands, including Cynic, Drudkh, Rotting Christ, the Gathering, and Psykup. It's a perfect match, and with the guarantee that Dillinger would be given as much creative freedom as any band could wish to have, fans had every right to be optimistic about album number four.

Two and a half years after the crazed eclecticism and tension-filled Ire Works we get the interestingly titled Option Paralysis, so named after one of the many clever neologisms coined by Douglas Coupland in his great novel Generation X, meaning, "The tendency, when given unlimited choices, to make none." Interesting, because hearing this album, it's astounding just how safe it feels compared to anything they've done before. Arriving in the wake of the groundbreaking mathcore of Calculating Infinity, the melodic experiments of Miss Machine (and the preceding EP Irony Is a Dead Scene), and the audacity of Ire Works, Option Paralysis isn't the sound of a band continuing to try to forge new territory, so much as simply refining the sound and style they had spent the better part of the last decade creating.

For a band that relies so heavily on that aforementioned tension on record, and projects it live better than anyone, the new album feels downright comfortable at times. All of the experimentation that made Ire Works so thrilling and polarizing (the demented pop of "Black Bubblegum", the horn-driven "Milk Lizard", the electronic touches of "Sick on Sunday", the proggy "Horse Hunter") have been set aside. Instead they simply focus more on the give and take between the abrasive skronk of guitarist/founding member Ben Weinman and the ever-improving range and discipline of vocalist Greg Puciato. As a result of exploring their music in a much subtler fashion than they ever have in the past, Option Paralysis does have a strong whiff of predictability to it.

For the first time, we can sense what's going to happen in most tracks well in advance: taut, hyper-technical riffs and cadences, intensely screamed verses, and the eventual soaring melodic chorus delivered at half-speed. Thankfully, Dillinger is terrific at that Jekyll-and-Hyde formula. Six years after the daring "Unretrofied" turned heads on Miss Machine, the band pulls it off now with the confidence of seasoned pros. "Gold Teeth on a Bum" is in full Mr. Bungle mode, creeping along eerily as Puciato leads the chorus in his typically Mike Patton-esque croon. "Endless Endings" expertly alternates between ferocious intricacy and cleverly-timed melodies. The album's best track, "Farewell, Mona Lisa", is one of Dillinger's finest compositions to date. The entire band tinkers with dynamics and meshes their trademark reined-in chaos with Puciato's understated moments so well that it feels effortless.

Elsewhere, we get the usual short, two minute bursts of mathcore ("Good Neighbor", "Crystal Morning"), very well executed but certainly nothing we haven't heard many times before. The moody "Widower" is a well-timed breather, a lengthy piano-driven composition that puts Puciato front and center. The trip-hop beat, keyboards, and clattering atmospherics of the album's final track "Parasitic Twins" comes perilously close to nicking Nine Inch Nails in too obvious a fashion.

Although it doesn't pack any real surprises, this album marks a fascinating turning point for the band. Option Paralysis is a very good album, by no means a failure, but because the band had set the bar so high for themselves with their previous three albums, it still feels like a slight step below. Unlike the turmoil and stress that fueled Ire Works, unquestionably one of the best metal albums of the last 10 years, the Dillinger Escape Plan is in a much happier mindset now, which has resulted in a confident, expertly crafted new record. Still, as much as we all want to be happy, the last thing this band needs to be is complacent, and we can only hope that the undeniable edge that Dillinger has possessed for so long isn't starting to dull.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.





Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.


Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".


John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.


The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.


Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.


In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.


Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.


Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.


'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.


The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.


The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.


'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.


1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.


'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.


The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Mary Halvorson Creates Cacophony to Aestheticize on 'Artlessly Falling'

Mary Halvorson's Artlessly Falling is a challenging album with tracks comprised of improvisational fragments more than based on compositional theory. Halvorson uses the various elements to aestheticize the confusing world around her.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.