When I found out that my favorite grimy guitar gods of the gutter, Dystopia, were returning to release one last gasp of weed smoke to their unwashed and dreadlocked fanbase, I was, to put it bluntly, ecstatic. This meant about 20 minutes of me jumping up and down, furiously checking Cultpunk, the band's MySpace and Interpunk, and then writing a series of over-enthusiastic message board posts.
While this monumental news did interfere slightly with my plans to spend the afternoon alone moping about how girls don't like me (I didn't mean to ask your best friend out!), I managed to calm myself down. After all, this was not a precursor to a Dystopia reformation or tour -- Dystopia's self-titled album had been recorded over the eight years since their last album, The Aftermath, and was only being released as a sort of "so long, and thanks for all the tofu" to crusties worldwide. Still, I knew that Dystopia would play an important role in the band's discography; a final album can make or break a band's lasting legacy.
The good news is: Dystopia is not an abject failure. Of course, it lacks the unbridled misanthropy that made Human = Garbage a classic, and it doesn't quite capture the sarcastic edge of The Aftermath, but it is still, by and large, a decent album. Not the tour de force I was hoping for, but still decent.
Musically and lyrically, Dystopia covers the styles one would expect: ultra-heavy, sludge-dripping crust-metal, laden with disconcerting audio samples illustrating the misery that is living in modern society. Dino's vocals are still some of the most intense I've ever heard -- they become more choked and desperate with every album, but it seems like he's lost some of the nasal whininess that made his vocals on the first album so memorable. Dino's drumming is as competent as always, although it's a little less complex than some of the arrangements on The Aftermath. Guitarist Matt, a.k.a. Mauz, still plays with a mostly clean, shimmering tone that contrasts nicely with Todd's intricate and distorted basslines. Unfortunately, Matt's previously complementary vocal style has become a full-on death grunt in Dystopia, which serves to remove a lot of the pathos from his vocal parts. Dystopia does try a few things on this album that they had previously shied away from: "Illusion of Love" mixes up the rhythmic doom with some blast-beats, and "My Meds Aren't Working" has some soft fingerpicking.
The lyrics are generally weaker than the previous two albums, and are almost cringeworthy at some points. The clichéd "Control Alt Delete" urges listeners to "double click for friendship! / double click for love!," while "Illusion of Love" goes on a trite rant about how God doesn't exist -- something we've heard from every other crust band, and didn't need to hear from Dystopia.
Dystopia's always-excellent artwork isn't quite up to par this time, and looks, generally, like a typical punk photo collage. The only truly fantastic image in the 16-page full-color booklet is a set of photos from Abu Ghraib placed next to a McDonald's logo cheerily proclaiming, "I'm Lovin' It!"
Dystopia isn't going to ruin Dystopia's legacy, but it isn't going to cement it either. While still better than 70% of all the crust and metal that's been released so far this year, this last memorial to one of the best bands of the `90s is merely a reminder of how great Human = Garbage and The Aftermath were. It's a good album for fans, but inexperienced stench-heads should look to Dystopia's earlier releases.