The Dillinger Escape Plan
Oh yeah, it’s 2010. Well this review is a bit old but in light of the recent release of dillinger’s new recordoption paralysis (which is dope and continues down the path described below) I thought I’d dig into the proverbial crates for this…
At least once, you’ve said, “that band sucks now; they used to be good,” and/or, “their old school shit was tight as hell until they changed up their style and sold out.” At least once, your subconscious fear of change made you possessive and protective about your past. Well, stop being pretentious and listen to the new dillinger escape plan album, Ire Works. You might say that (by failing to stagnate) they’ve changed course. But you would be wrong.
On Miss Machine, the addition of front man Greg Paciato brought a poppy edge to some songs. His style is much more diverse than dillinger’s original vocalist, Dimitri Minakaki, and Paciato’s vocal repertoire rivals (and definitely draws inspiration from) Mike Patton (of Mr. Bungal, Fantomas, Tomahawk, Peeping Tom, and Faith No More) who did vocals for dillinger’s “irony is a dead scene.”
After alienating many of their fans with Miss Machine, Dillinger has now done the opposite of selling out; they’ve continued to experiment and evolve. The new record is more poppy, has less oddtime, and way more production and electronic effects than usual but is still unmistakably a dillinger record. Old school fans hoping for a strict “return to normalcy” after the experimental Miss Machine will be disappointed. Ire Works may not sound exactly like calculating infinity. I know. Classic record. But seriously, aren’t we glad blonde on blonde wasn’t highway 61 or freewheelin? (Oh yeah I did!) The best artists mature. (Miles Davis comes to mind.) The worst artists release the same record every two years. (Nickleback comes to mind.) Don’t get me wrong, changing your style doesn’t make a good record but not changing it up definitely is an easy way to make a bad one. (Mastodon’s Crack the Skyee is a fitting example of a disappointing new direction while the similiarity of Blood Mountain toLeviathan could be an exception.)
Ire Works starts off with a bang (in the way of brutal blast beats)! The first two tracks “fix your face” (which actually features vocals from Dimitri) and “lurch” are full of the mathcore genius, heavy breakdowns, and belligerently poetic lyrics that originally drew you to dillinger. But just when you think they’re has reverted back to their old style comes “black bubblegum” full of effects and falsettos. Complete with their catchiest and most twitterable lyrics to date, this overproduced pop sing-along is somehow haunting enough to be awesome (if you can swallow your hardcore-pride for four minutes and four seconds.) The song opens the door to the rest of the album: a mix of the heavy and intricate instrumental brilliance you expect from dillinger (and, if you don’t, go give their other albums a listen) and prog-rock with pop potential. “horse hunter” features mastodon’s brent hinds and is a standout track. The song starts out with trademark chaotic dillinger then progresses into a trudging breakdown where you can really begin to feel Hinds’s influence. (In the climax, the power of Gregs higher scream over Hinds’ voice might be the best duet since “hunger strike.”)
Throughout the album Paciato uses various vocal techniques. Right off the bat, it’s the powerful and consistent hardcore scream that has more sense of rhythm than pitch. In “black bubblegum” the verses are sung in a slightly winy (but in tune) singing voice that is backed up by a falsetto. At times he demonstrates another scream that is higher and more controlled in terms of pitch and intensity (as in “horse hunter”).
While Greg still feels new for long time fans of the group, the more recent changes to the bands lineup are more surprising, devastating, and ultimately relieving. Sometime between (the disappointing)Plagiarism EP and Ire Works, founding member Chris Pennie left the band…to play drums for coheed and cambria! (I’m not even sure if that counts as selling out. Coheed is hardly more popular than dillinger not to mention infinitely worse.) Pennie always seemed to be an integral part of the dillinger esc plan and indeed participated in much of the writing on their earlier records but Gil Sharone holds it down and Pennie is not severely missed. I don’t get the same pleasure from saying this, but neither is guitarist Brian Benoit who is also missing on Ire Works due to nerve damage. (Unlike Pennie, the band has promised him a permanent opportunity to reclaim his position.)
The album ends with “mouth of ghosts”, a fitting conclusion. It starts with slow brushes then a piano solo leads up to a climax that epitomizes dillingers new kind of heavy. The feel and intensity is led by Paciatos commanding vocal dynamics. Dillinger has matured. Rhythm and lyrical brutality is no longer the only focus of the vocals. It used to be. You got the feeling that the band wrote a song and Dimitri would fit the words and screams around the offbeat (literally) genius. Now the songs seem to be written around the vocal melody as much as the other way around. As much as I love calculating infinity (and acknowledge its importance and influence and ultimately its place as dillinger’s signature—if not best—album) the maturity was necessary. (To some extent, novelty is art.) In a genre/scene where clichés are cliché dillinger is continuing to do what they’ve always done best: shock, irritate, experiment, progress.