Have you ever hated and enjoyed a record at the same time? Ever had a record that you liked and respected while all your ingrained instincts told you it was pure shit and your taste is questionable? Then maybe if I introduce you to Dead Letter Circus, we can feel the same way. These guys are from Australia, and apparently pretty popular, although I am notoriously years behind in just about every music circle, so I haven’t even heard of them before. I am also literally behind the times for this record itself, as it came out later last year. Forgive the delay.
The very initial impressions I got of Aesthesis was that it was going to be some bloated alternative record, despite it being on The End Records, which should have clued me in that there was some unusualness lurking within. Upon hearing the first song, “In Plain Sight”, all I could hear at first was the pop production and vocals. Singer Kim Benzie has a decently typical voice and vocal approach; smooth, high pitched, soaring, and excessively clean. In a split second decision I decided this album sounded just like a third rate Imagine Dragons and I wasn’t going to enjoy it. I zoned out for the rest of the song.
Then a funny thing happened. “While You Wait” came on and instantly caught my ear. Now, one of my favorite records of all time is “The Rising Tide” by Sunny Day Real Estate. This song almost sounded like a B side cut to that record. That’s when everything fell together for me. If you took SDRE’s later mellow, epic emo, Tool’s manic, pounding rhythmic sense, and the Deftones’ alternative metal lush soundscapes, mashed them together and gave the whole thing a slick polished production, not only would you have a decent album, you’d have this one. From that realization, the album becomes much more interesting to listen to.
Much of this record is a little too sticky sweet for me, despite its heavy moments. “Show Me” is a perfect example of this. Lighthearted singing and songwriting combined with a math-rock base. Something about it just doesn’t quite gel with me, despite the fact that I really dig what’s going on under the surface. The heaviest moment to be found comes with the second half of “Silence”, but by and large, this and all the other songs follow a pretty similar pattern. Light verses, heavy riffs, soaring choruses, catchy songs.
I want to hate this record. The heavy music fan inside me hears the pop sheen on this and wants me to cringe and throw it out the window. But despite all this, despite the seeming indifference I’ve noted in this review, I find my interest in this record does not wane after many listens. The songs get stuck in my head really easy. I listen to this record and they stay there for weeks. It makes me let my guard down and challenges me to realize that there’s a world outside all the stupid heavy metal and hardcore I listen to. So do I hate this? Kinda. Do I love it? Kinda. Is it a much better record than I will admit to myself? Probably. Listen to it, I dunno, find out for yourself.