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Dead Letter Circus - This Is the Warning CD (album) cover


Dead Letter Circus


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4 stars After the immediate impact of "Dead Letter Circus" EP in 2007, "This Is The Warning" was the most awaited debut album from the Australian alternative/progressive rock scene, which also includes bands like The Butterfly Effect and Karnivool. Apart from these bands, the sound of DLC in some points reminds of Dredg. The unique sound of the band is obvious upon first listen. The combination of skilfulness and great songwriting is evident once more and maybe this will be the big break for the band from Brisbane. The high-pitched voice of Kim Benzie, the melodic guitar of Rob Maric, the innovative bass playing of Stewart Hill and probably the band's trademark, the drumming of Luke Williams (also of Melodyssey) are in top form here. The characteristic of this album is that though it sounds like mainstream alternative rock (in a good sense), all songs include great orchestration and all have a unique progressive aspect. Also worth-mentioning is the magnificent album artwork by Tasmanian graphic artist Cameron Gray. If I have to state a weak point in this album, this would probably be the slightly weaker sound in the previously released singles "The Space On The Wall", "Reaction" and "Next In Line", but this really minor. I think that any person who really likes progressive music will definitelly enjoy this album. Favourite songs: "Here We Divide", "Big", "Space On The Wall".
Report this review (#299386)
Posted Thursday, September 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
Prog Sothoth
Prog Metal Team
3 stars A hardly typical representation of neo-prog, this band actually sounds more like Chevelle after a diet of Porcupine Tree, Muse and U2. An accessible yet interesting mix of rock band inspirations with an aspiration to bang out some serious anthemic songs.

I actually found the opening track to be the band at their best with its majestic delivery and powerful guitar sound and overall production values. Here We Divide has some progressive leanings I suppose, but certainly no more than, say, Tool or bands similar to that in a sense, although I enjoy this song more than many songs by a lot of these big name alternative rock (with some progginess) groups. There are some variances to the rest of the songs, but not by all that much, which causes me to lose interest towards the last couple of tracks. The Drum stands out as a song as it follows a more post-rock crescendo template than the verse chorus format of much of the rest of this album, and yes, the drummer goes into a frenzy at the tune's climax. I assume that's why they entitled the song as "The Drum", but I could be wrong. Other tracks flirt with nu-metal commercial appeal to some extent, with The Space on the Wall sounding akin to something Breaking Benjamin would proudly release. Cage has a bit of NIN meets Muse in it's design. It's pretty obvious the target audience for this band isn't your typical neo-prog music fan, nor was that their intention. This is modern arena style rock, but played well and with a talented high registered vocalist.

I can enjoy this sort of thing once in a while. The music has punch and a vast wall of sound vibe, and the lyrics don't grate so much even if they seem to be about nothing except "falling down" and "rising up". This effort is definitely geared more towards fans of alternative rock stylings than prog rock fans, so that should be the decision whether to check the band out or not.

Report this review (#556958)
Posted Tuesday, October 25, 2011 | Review Permalink
3 stars Dead Letter Circus is a Brisbane band and so this immediately peaks my interest. I love hearing local acts, and these guys are certainly one of the better ones going around.

For this album, "This Is The Warning", I particularly love the opening track, "Here We Divide." It has an immediately engaging resonance: a throbbing, delay driven tempo that pulls the listener in. It's really a great way to start the album.

"One Step" is another of the big singles and features some great vocal hooks by Kim Benzie. Once again the trilling, delay-laden guitar that is a feature of Dead Letter Circus' sound is prominent.

For the most part the songs on this album are a radio friendly 3 or 4 minutes long with standard compositions in 4/4 time signature. I'm not sure of the prog credentials for this album, I would more classify it as hard or alternative rock. But it's still very competently done and the songs are better than average in this genre.

"The Drum" is a track with a more unusual format, with lots of atmospherics and a killer climax as percussion and guitar come together.

It's a good rock album without a doubt, but probably not essential.

Report this review (#948868)
Posted Wednesday, April 24, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars The Search For Big

The problem that most people seem to have with Dead Letter Circus' 2010 debut full length album, This Is The Warning, is that it seems to contain twelve tracks that are more or less the same thing. They're all insanely energetic, they're all insanely catchy, they all have the same sort of riffing and layering technique, using lashings of delay and reverb on the guitar that just sort of meanders, playing notes and little lines of its own as opposed to chords and riffs. They all have stellar drum performances and dynamic bass and they all have Kim Benzie utilizing his fantastic range at the top of his lungs.

And you know, for the first few months, I was a part of that wagon. This album does repeat itself a hell of a lot. It's not as if the melodies or riffs are repeated, it's just that all of them are dished up and served in the same method, making them appear awfully similar. I still get slightly confused. I hear the intro guitar of 'Reaction', and I could just as easily break into singing 'The Space On The Wall' or 'Walk', until the drum beat comes in and reminds me which track it is. But honestly, 28 listens to this album later and a year of memories behind it, I don't care.

I think the simple fact that this is a repetitive album and yet I can play it 28 times and still not get bored of it shows how incredible it is. When trying to justify this album, I'll often say, 'maybe it's just completely my thing', and I'd be correct, but not only that, the album does it in such a flawless way. In fact, the only track that really breaks the mould, the slower ballad track 'The Design' is probably my least favourite here, as much as I can enjoy its chorus hook. Without the energy of the other tracks, it just doesn't rank.

This album had been a long time coming, and I guess you could use that as reasoning behind why it's so damn good, but more often than not highly hyped and delayed albums fail to bring the goods. Dead Letter Circus had released three tracks more than a year before the release of this, 'Next In Line' and 'Reaction' on the Next in Line EP, and 'The Space on the Wall' as a single, but even those aren't nearly the best songs on here, DLC choosing to drop two of the best tracks, 'Big' and 'Cage' just before its release, creating the biggest hype you could imagine. Those two tracks are masterpieces in their own right, so to shorten this review a bit, I've written about them here and here, but there is still a lot more to say about this record.

I've found this is also one of those records that reveals something new each time, maybe because everything being similar smudges it into a blur, so that you don't notice the flourishes of genius until you're familiar with it. It was only a few days ago, over a year after I first heard it, when I realised just how incredible the final instrumental section of 'The Drum' is. Being a band led by a vocalist with such a skill for a great hook, the instrumental parts just sort of become background, especially when it's basically on the same massively intricate mode for 54 minutes. 'The Drum', the longest track on the album, starts with a brooding ambient intro, and it never really builds massively with the vocals. Usually DLC will use Benzie to create their energy, but here the build-up is all instrumental. Benzie pours over it with the atmospheric chorus 'The city is alive, help me to start over'' but as we finish, the song plummets into a fully instrumental section with pounding drums and fantastic sampled guitars everywhere, even starting to get a bit of a noise influence coming in.

I could easily talk for hours about particular moments of this record. I have already done so in my single reviews of Big and Cage, saving plenty of room here, but I don't want to get too tiring with the writing. 'This Long Hour' is probably the only other track I haven't talked about that deserves a mention, as well as opener 'Here We Divide'. One of the few complaints I have in this record, and it's a complaint I've mentioned about them previously, is the weak repetition of the verse during 'This Long Hour'. As a band who pride themselves on energy and keeping things moving, it feels a bit weak to just go and repeat the same verse with the same lyrics, but everything is forgiven when the chorus hits. This is one of the tracks that, due to Benzie's ridiculous voice, I never actually learnt the lyrics too for months, and found myself blurting aimless attempts at them as loud as I could, but that's just how ridiculously catchy this song is.

But there's one more song here that is the undisputed champion, reigning high above everything else this band have ever done, and I've mentioned this in my reviews of Big and Cage, their second and third best songs.

This is the big, enormous, album-wide version of The DLC Build-Up and Release Technique, although not necessarily the same. During Big, I mentioned that the final chorus is just so momentous because they already have an incredible song with incredible energy, and then they just top it, because it the world of Dead Letter Circus, nothing is ever big enough, it can always go bigger. I like to think of 'This Is The Warning' as an enormous, album-wide 'but what if we go bigger'.

Everything about the track, the laughable spoken word sample, the way the drums come in underneath Benzie's opening vocal, the build, the drum breakdown, especially the drum breakdown, all add to the best thing they've done. It's taken me a good twenty listens to finally be able to nail the drumming during the heavy section, which is entirely in 4/4, but it begins part way through a phrase making it sound like an 8 bar repeating pattern. It's the epitome of intensity, smashing a drum at seemingly random intervals, but after a while you realise there's a pretty clear pattern to the drums, which makes it so much better. But the final verse is what gets me. It's pretty similar to the final verse of Cage in that it's an insanely catchy line delivered with unparalleled intensity over a pounding and energetic rhythm section, but this one knocks Cage off the table.

'They've got it all worked out, wish I could leave here now, is there another way, some other path to take? We will figure out, same people brought us down, they are controlling you. These people lead us. I saw them change the truth; they didn't want me to, right there before our eyes. I knew we'd make it. Don't take the easy ride, we're running out of time.'

This is the warning.


I realise how corny it is to simply quote the album when trying to review it, but I honestly don't think I can do this verse any more justice.

Yes, yes, of course This Is The Warning is samey, but after enough listens I've simply stopped caring, especially because this is one of the greatest melodic releases of this decade, and one of my favourite albums of all time. The melodies are epic, the instrumentals are tight, the energy is unfiltered and enormous, this is one of the best records I have ever come to know, and I can't recommend it enough.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Report this review (#1131958)
Posted Saturday, February 15, 2014 | Review Permalink

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