2007's Ire Works was met with great critical acclaim, but mixed reactions from fans. Many argued that the heavy experimentation, particularly the pop elements, came at the sacrifice of the Dillinger Escape Plan's core sound. Others pointed to Gil Sharone, who replaced longtime (and founding) drummer Chris Pennie. Sharone, while unquestionably talented, did not inject quite as much intensity into the songs, and was more keeping up with the band than contributing. However, the New Jersey mathcore pioneers' latest, Option Paralysis, immediately towers over its predecessor, and even stands up to their seminal masterpiece Miss Machine.
Released as a download back in January, Farewell Mona Lisa not only sounded better than much of Ire Works, but recalled Miss Machine in its masterful combination of both brutality and melodicism. Guitarist Ben Weinman, the group's sole remaining founding member, leads the attack along with new drummer Billy Rymer and vocalist Greg Puciato's powerful shouting. The nearly two minute long assault is classic Dillinger, until the track takes a dramatic break and adopts a brooding, progressing approach that brings it to a dramatic close. Fittingly, it opens Option Paralysis, and Good Neighbor picks right up where the song leaves off, exploding with incredible intensity, but a finesse and diversity that the band first took to with Machine. Some of the pop experimentation from the last album is put into better practice here, with a very, very loose inclusion of a traditional song structure, for example. The whole approach is handled better here, really - where half of Ire Works failed to infuse a pop sensibility into the band's sound without losing any of their trademark intensity, Gold Teeth on a Bum succeeds with flying colors in a mere five minutes. It recalls Unretrofied, their first foray into pop, but easily stands on its own.
The musicianship is, of course, spectacular as always. Weinman and new guitarist Jeff Tuttle are in top form, and Rymer fits right in, recalling Pennie's fiercely technical approach. On Endless Ending in particular, Weinman and Tuttle shift effortlessly from crushing grindcore playing to funk stylings to virtuoso jazz soloing, while Rymer shows more intensity and technical prowess than Sharone ever did with Dillinger. Greg Puciato is an outstanding vocalist, and while he still seems to be in Mike Patton's shadow, as evidenced by his intro vocals on both Widower and Parasitic Twins, he is slowly but surely coming into his own.
Widower is another example of how well Dillinger tackles the failed experiments of Ire Works. The song is melodic while maintaining a jazzy structure, and the piano adds a great element to the song rather than feeling simply thrown in. Eventually the track begins to spiral out of control, with the type of controlled chaos that Dillinger do best. The entire second half, really, displays a heavy incorporation of melody into the band's highly technical attack, that again, tops the efforts made on the last record by leaps and bounds. Parasitic Twins closes things out beautifully, and though Puciato sounds a bit Mike Patton-ish here, the quality of his vocals are impossible to deny. His croons and falsettos are fantastic, and the sinister backing instrumentation could not be crafted better. Cleverly used loops, smooth jazzy piano, and traditional bluesy solos drive the song, all without doing away with the album's overall vibe.
It looked like the Dillinger Escape Plan had peaked with Miss Machine after the underwhelming Ire Works, but Option Paralysis might even be better. It sees a band collecting their past musical ideas and building upon them in a balanced fashion, moving forward and maturing splendidly. Their last album was a bit of a stumble, but they bounced back with what is perhaps their best album yet.