Dead Letter Circus Dead Letter Circus BMG The mid-2000s were a fertile time for progressive metal in Australia — or “tradie prog”, as it is referred to by a certain kind of genre snob. The 2010 debut album by Brisbane’s Dead Letter Circus and its 2013 follow-up The Catalyst Fire were bombastic statement pieces complete with stunning visuals and thoughtfully executed lyrical themes, while 2015’s Aesthesis was a push into radio rock territory subverted by singer Kim Benzie’s distinctive vocals and boldly political lyrics. Last year marked 10 years since the group released its debut self-titled EP, and the band celebrated the occasion by releasing an acoustic re-recording, yet this new album — which, confusingly, is also self-titled — is too pristine. Yes, Benzie’s voice soars, Stewart Hill’s bass playing rumbles and pops, guitarists Luke Palmer and Clint Vincent keep their parts in chiming lock-step and drummer Luke Williams holds it all together. But its sound has been edited, quantised and refined so much that nothing outside the formula is left to hold on to. The same tricks are used to build and release tension on multiple tracks, and the latter half of the album is totally unmemorable. The one standout is lead single The Armour You Own, which Benzie wrote for his son. Dead Letter Circus is a band of musicians who possess incredible amounts of skill. Unfortunately, that skill has left them stuck in a comfort zone within the bounds of a successful formula. I hope this is just a temporary lull.