Summary : This band has an absolute knack for creating music of great power without having to rely on reams of distortion.
It’s pretty much coincidence that the two arguably leading bands on the Australian alternative and progressive rock scene are releasing their long awaited and much anticipated albums literally within weeks of each other. Fans have waited over three and four years for the DEAD LETTER CIRCUS and KARNIVOOL albums respectively, and to get them virtually right on top of each other is absolute music to the ears of the growing legions of people in Australia and around the world who appreciate this scene we have here. It truly is unique and very special.
Comparisons will probably be inevitable, but this review will try to keep them to a minimum. Suffice it is to say that DLC are more about maintaining their signature sound (at this stage of their career anyway), and expanding and experimenting well within the confines of that signature sound. From their all time classic debut EP through to this, their second album, they have stayed very true to their direction, as opposed to KARNIVOOL, who have taken very sharp turns to the left with every new release after their original EP, way back in 2001.
Both approaches have their pros and pitfalls. It’s the age old quandary for bands, grow and expand extensively and risk alienating your existing fan base, or stay true to your original direction and risk becoming stale. At the end of the day, as long as what the band is producing is quality stuff, then that’s all that matters. And that’s what we have here. DLC are so far from ‘stale’, it’s not funny, whilst still producing an album that will please their existing fans no end. Quite the opposite in fact. There is an absolute vitality to this album that is refreshing and contagious.
This band has an absolute knack for creating music of great power without having to rely on reams of distortion. The power comes from the compositions themselves and the delivery of those compositions, from the bombastic pounding of Luke Williams’ drums right up to Kim Benzie’s soaring and impassioned vocals.
And it’s the songs themselves that are ultimately the hero of the day. While the debut was excellent, it had the occasional dry moment here and there. Not so here, each and every song is strong, meaningful and compelling, especially opener ‘The Cure’ and first single ‘Lodestar’. They maintain the momentum absolutely across the course of the 11 tracks on offer, whilst still displaying the patented Dead Letter dynamics that they are famous for.
It’s a streamlined effort too, with only two tracks clocking in at over five minutes, which is kinda rare in progressive music, which generally not known for its economy of expression. The majority of the tracks get in, make a very strong statement, and get out. And for this progressive band, it works a treat.
And like many progressive bands plying their trade today, there is a subtle but strong use of technology in use in the music of DLC, providing powerful enhancement to the organic instrumentation, but never dominating.
Lyrically, Benzie emotes words that speak of a deep seated dissatisfaction at the way the world is in this modern age, and cry out for change. Words about greed and the subjugation of the poor, about a population controlled through fear. Possibly best embodied in the line ‘Show me where the progress exists without the protest’. It’s strong, deep and meaningful stuff.
This is another Aussie album worthy of nation and worldwide attention. If you are reading this and are not, or only vaguely, aware of what’s happening here in Australia, turn your eyes, ears and attentions this way. A movement is happening here that should soon have the rest of the world standing up and taking notice, and DEAD LETTER CIRCUS are one of the bands leading the charge. ‘The Catalyst Fire’ is an absolute winner, get on it.