Dead Letter Circus is one of those bands I’ve purposely refrained from mentioning on this site. Feeling I’ve already mentioned too many Australian progressive rock bands on this site (albeit very good ones), I tried my hardest to refrain from their music. Their latest release (available August 14th) has broken my restraint, though, as “Aesthesis” is more worthy of a listen than any of their prior albums.
Simply put, aesthesis is a sensation or feeling, a perfect word to describe this album. Relying more than ever on the listener’s emotion, Dead Letter Circus has created an album that will set them apart from other Australian prog. Instead of the more refined, technical sound that often appears in the genre, the album is much more melodic and softer. Often driven by an acoustic sound, songs like “In Plain Sight” and “Silence” steer the band in an entirely different direction. Included are beautiful moments of electronic undertones that add depth and character to nearly every song. I am impressed with the change from this album to their previous album “The Catalyst Fire.” Even the different in album titles foreshadow the change, the previous relying on a passionate listener, the current on an emotional one.
Overall, “Aesthesis” is a much more radio-friendly album than anything they’ve released. Continuing to use darker lyrical themes (especially the ode to sexual abuse in “Silence”), Dead Letter Circus takes a safer, subdued approach. Enlisting the help of producers who’ve worked with bands like Muse, Paramore, and Deftones, what results is an unsurprising shift to a lighter sonic experience. The first two songs alone prove this change, utilizing more acoustic guitar than what I’ve heard from their entire discography. Many of the songs are poppier than typical progressive rock, including “While You Wait,” “YANA,” and “Show Me.” It’s in these songs that singer Kim Benzie shines, with his already lighter and higher register vocals that perfectly match the upbeat nature. One of my favorite songs on this album happens to be one of its lighter, atmospheric tracks. “The Burning Number” comprises of an atmospheric introduction, containing only vocals and sound manipulation. Later, the song introduces a closed-wah pedaled rhythm guitar which emits a very hollow and deep tone that isn’t heard too often in the genre. It’s a very cool sounding song, one that I would love to hear live if they ever make their way to the United States.
Despite the softness of this album, “Aesthesis” still has its moments of sheer rock. That signature reverb-heavy guitar, the bombastic snare, and falsetto wails are unleashed in at least half of the tracks. Reminiscent of the dual guitar work from the band Circa Survive, guitarists Clint Vincent and Tom Skerlj perfectly compliment each other’s rhythms. “The Lie We Live” contains that echoed rhythm guitar taken straight from their prior releases, while “Change The Concept” allows the listener to head bang to technical drum beats. With that throwback to that classic Dead Letter Circus sound comes my only complaint: the album is too short. Not following the stereotypical requirement of longer albums and fewer songs, “Aesthesis” is the antithesis of a progressive rock album, but still uniquely falls into the definition. I feel sharing the traditional progressive sound with the modern radio-friendly sound will result in a wider audience, though, ultimately leading to national and international recognition. When all is said and done, this move was the right one.
The album closes with a combination of the new and the old, an atmospheric yet heavy “Born (Part 2).” After moments of synthesizers and singing, clean guitar riffs engulf your ears until the song’s chorus. It’s here that the track becomes memorable, with its catchy lyrics, muted guitar rhythm and airy lead guitar. The final moments leave the listener satisfied and wanting more, a perfect excuse to hit the repeat button.
“Aesthesis” is definitely a hit, a softer addition to an ambitious discography. Not straying too far from who they are, fans of Dead Letter Circus will not be disappointed, and new listeners will be delighted when discovering this album. I’d also recommend checking out this album for fans of Caligula’s Horse, Slaves, Karnivool, and I Was Awake. Please support Dead Letter Circus by purchasing their brand new album on iTunes. You can also support them by following their Facebook and Twitter pages. They are currently touring Australia, so fans in the area should definitely show their support. In the meantime, I’ll be sitting on my couch in California waiting for a North American visit.