At first glance, "Option Paralysis" seems like a highly inappropriate title to describe the constantly evolving output of THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN. But once you're faced with the cumulative power and vision of guitarist Ben Weinman, vocalist Greg Puciato, bassist Liam Wilson, guitarist Jeff Tuttle and new drummer Billy Rymer, you'll wonder-right after you pick yourself up off the floor-why more bands don't achieve similar force-of-nature status.
"The title 'Option Paralysis' represents being in a situation where you have so many choices you can't decide, and end up being frozen," says founding member Weinman about the mindset permeating the band's fourth full-length album. "Back in the early days when I started to discover music, go to shows and find out about new bands, there were 'filters' from various circumstances - geography, economic status, etc - which deeply affected how a band sounded and what they stood for. Now, everyone is going through the same filter-namely computers and the internet-and everyone has the same circumstances: Everybody's seeing the same thing for the first time at the very same time, simultaneously all over the world. That very system is negatively affecting art and has created a situation where everything is influencing itself and art is not based on struggle, personal scarcity or unique and personal inspiration. This cultural revolutions is a big part of what determines our mission. We're not listening to any of the bands around us for some kind of input as to what we should sound like. At this point, we're using our own accomplishments as a measurement of what we need to do next."
From their early days in the late-'90s as short-haired Rutgers, New Jersey, college students delivering hyper-complex thrash to audiences of boorish long-haired surly metalheads, to performing with NINE INCH NAILS on the pioneering electronic band's farewell shows, the DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN have merely one prerogative: to go forward in ALL directions simultaneously. Their groundbreaking 1999 debut full-length, "Calculating Infinity", is inarguably the essential technical-metal talisman for the 21st century, melding hardcore's blinding rage with a musical vision that made most progressive-rock bands sound positively lazy by comparison. "Irony Is A Dead Scene", the band's 2002 collaboration with Mike Patton, maintained their patented extremity while exploring electronic textures. The 2004 follow-up, "Miss Machine", (the first record to showcase frontman, Puciato) was a distillation of the band's work thus far, while including jaw-dropping flirtations with mainstream metal ("Unretrofied") that further enforced DILLINGER's desire-and ability-to take their music wherever the hell they wanted. 2007's "Ire Works" had the band finding inspiration from underground glitch and breakcore electronica, as well as indigenous music genres, in a world seemingly overrun with metalcore bores and screamo trend-hoppers. THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN's unerring sweat equity has consistently found resonance with listeners on both sides of the stages the band trod upon.
"Option Paralysis" marks the beginning of another trajectory in the DEP mythology. After aligning themselves with the renowned Relapse label for most of their career, the band entered into a deal with the French label SEASON OF MIST to put out "Option Paralysis", tagging their new PARTY SMASHER INC label. "We signed a pretty traditional record deal with them for one record," explains Weinman. "What's exciting is that Michael [Berberian, SOM label founder] is a really big music fan and has a great understanding of how we operate. He was totally aware of the possibilities and limitations of working with a band like us-he's not expecting pop hits-and he's been extremely enthusiastic to dive right in and make it work for everyone."
Produced by Steve Evetts, Dillinger's new music is positively abundant with possibilities. Drummer Billy Rymer, whom Weinman describes as "young and hungry," now occupies the engine room that powers the band. Frontman, Puciato has always had a knack with a bellow that could make reciting a grocery list seem like an exhortation to open the mouth of Hell. But feeling some of the lyrics on "Option Paralysis", you can't positively determine if the singer is handing down indictments ("Farewell, Mona Lisa") or feeling emotionally wounded. "This record is concept driven but there is still a very emotional and personal aspect to his lyrics," says Weinman soberly. "He's going through transitional stages in his life right now." Nothing so eloquently supports that statement than the six and-a-half-minute "Widower", where the band are joined by veteran David Bowie keyboardist Mike Garson for an aural excursion that incorporates piano-trio jazz, tender balladry and anthemic power. While there's no shortage of DEP plasma-balls on "Option Paralysis" ("Room Full Of Eyes", "Good Neighbor"), the band keep things fresh with the math-rock/free-jazz convergence of "I Wouldn't If You Didn't," the electro-tweaked "Chinese Whispers" and the closing "Parasitic Twins". The latter track sports lead vocals courtesy of guitarist Tuttle, as well as Beach Boys-styled harmonies and a major-key Weinman solo that's more Clapton (ca. Derek And The Dominos) than calculus crush. Clearly, this is not your older brother's DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN. "We're just trying to make music we can be stimulated by," says Weinman about the assorted directions and sonic vistas on "Option Paralysis". "We consider ourselves songwriters, which is kind of odd when you consider the kind of band most would consider us."
As passionate about their craft as ever, DEP are looking to ramp up things even more in 2010, with a planet-beating touring campaign that includes basement shows, a stint on the main stage at this summer's Vans Warped Tour, a performance at the legendary Cochella festival, and various points in between. But after 12 years of deliberately challenging themselves, as well as the preconceived notions of critics and the strict genre-specific zealots of the world's underground music scenes, the big question remains: What is the mission of the DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN? It's a question Weinman addresses with equal parts melancholy, unwavering determination and humor. "I've been trying for a while to have someone explain that to me," he says, laughing. "Seriously, 'Option Paralysis' represents why we're here and why we're still making music. We started at a time when there wasn't all this access to the larger world. Our only goal was to make a small dent in the scene that we were in. The fact we've made it this far and that we're still relevant is really special to me. I feel that it is extremely important for bands like us to continue to represent the ethic and attitude that was present during a time that doesn't exist anymore."
"That," he says, pausing to smile. "And I have to pay my mortgage somehow..."