Dillinger Escape Plan – ‘Dissociation’ Album Review

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In a scene crowded by pale imitators, it’s difficult to express the monumental impact that Dillinger Escape Plan had upon the metal scene, first when they exploded forth in 1999 with ‘Calculating infinity’ and later when they cemented their mastery over it with 2004’2 ‘Miss machine’. Whether it be Greg Puciato hurling faecal matter into the crowd during an unfeasibly early slot on the main stage at Reading Festival in 2002, thus providing a rather more visceral expression of his feelings regarding the other bands on the bill that day; or the band collaborating with Mike Patton to provide an unnerving cover of Aphex Twin’s ‘Come to daddy’ on the ‘Irony is a dead scene’ EP of the same year, Dillinger Escape Plan took their music and their ethos to places that few artists dare follow. It seems fitting, then, that the band end things on their own terms, releasing one last album to let the music do the talking and cleverly avoiding the soap-opera drama that so often comes with band breakups and which sees music journalists suddenly do an impressive imitation of tabloid hacks. There is no drama here – the band simply felt that they should conclude the work of Dillinger escape Plan on a high and, in ‘Dissociation’ they have absolutely succeeded. Represented with remarkable clarity thanks to the powerful-yet-clean production of Steve Evetts; the ever-reliable mixing work of Kurt Ballou and Josh Wilbur and mastering by Alan Douches, ‘Dissociation’ is a multi-tiered celebration of the wilful perversity of the band’s impressive back catalogue and it emerges as their finest work to date with a sense of atmosphere and drama that is uniquely Dillinger-esque in conception.  

Opening with the searing rage of ‘Limerent death’ there’s no sense that the band’s end is nigh and they sound as brutally forthright as ever. Having openly stated that any search for clues regarding their split within the music itself will be a futile one, ‘Limarent Death’ can be approached simply as a near perfect expression of the Dillinger sound. Greg’s vocals, if anything, sound more unhinged than ever and his blood-spattered roar takes on the aspect of a mad cross between Mike Patton and Jello Biafra as the song careers towards its deranged conclusion. In contrast ‘symptom of terminal illness’ is a dark, subtle piece of music that sounds like hell’s own lounge band, recalling both Fantomas and Faith No More at their inventive best. It’s eerie how close Greg comes to the vocal stylings of Mike Patton in places, but as the song progresses, its schizophrenic bursts of noise are pure Dillinger whilst the intelligently written lyrics are darkly evocative of the titular subject matter. Where ‘Symptom…’ is relatively straight forward, ‘wanting not so much as to’ is a ferocious, jazz-infused blast with angular guitars stabbing and grinding against Billy Rymer’s endlessly impressive percussion. Yet even here there is subtlety and melody, always driving the song forward and always helping to carve out that unique Dillinger Escape Plan atmosphere that most bands, believing the hair-raising screams and jagged guitars to be the central point, are capable of emulating. The Aphex Twin connection is further cemented here with a full-blown emulation of that artist’s skittering beats and playful brand of electronica on ‘Fugue’. Quite remarkably well done, it shows how adept the band are at folding a variety of genres into their sound and it leads perfectly into the whirlwind metal of ‘Low Feels Blvd’ which sees Dillinger at their most epically confrontational and, conversely, at their most jazzy with a guitar solo at its heart that is more Jeff Beck than Jeff Waters. Drawing the first half of the album to a close, ‘Surrogate’ is a tense, dissonant blast of guttural roars and gut-wrenching riffs, tearing away at the listener with savage, unrestrained ferocity.

 Proving that few can match the existential rage of Dillinger Escape Plan in full flow, ‘honeysuckle’ is a stuttering monstrosity that plunges so far into freeform jazz that the nearest comparison to this nimble cacophony is the work of the similarly adventurous Refused only for the band to wrongfoot the listener by suddenly changing tack to explore the dark progressive rock of Mastadon. It shouldn’t work, and yet for all the genre hopping, there’s an argument that this is Dillinger at their most accessible and adrenalin charged no matter how challenging it might appear at first glance, whilst the sunning production job allows the listener to appreciate just how astonishing the band’s musicianship actually is. The track segues straight into ‘manufacturing discontent’ (a play on Noam Chomsky’s conceptualisation of the spread of Western goods and ideals by hybridising them with local culture), which proves to be a gruelling workout with a riff that could shatter re-enforced concrete. The throbbing ‘Apologies not included’ has a blistered punk edge whilst ‘nothing to forget’ has been described (and correctly) by the band as the ‘best song that Faith No More never wrote’. With whimsical leads, chugging guitars and a vocal that recalls Patton at his ‘Jizzlobber’ best, ‘nothing to forget’ is an awesome track and one that would stand out if it wasn’t for how damned good the whole record sounds. The album ends with its title track, a six-minute ambient nightmare that juxtaposes a gorgeous, string-laden melody with sputtering electronics in a way that is both heart breaking and threatening all at once. As a final statement, it is bold, dramatic and laden with pathos and it reminds the listener that this is a band who truly were unique.  

With Dillinger Escape Plan currently on a lengthy tour, there’s still a chance to see the band in the live environment, but, sadly, it seems that ‘Dissociation’ is the last album to be released under the DeP flag. However, as an epitaph on a stunning career, no band could wish for better. ‘Dissociation’ is both a strong contender for album of the year (certainly it will be high on the lists) and for the best album of DeP’s storied career. Here there is subtlety and rage, beauty and brutality and everything in-between, but most importantly this is the most emotionally-charged album the band have yet delivered. The musical performances are exemplary, as is the production, and if this is to be the last we shall hear from the band, then it is one hell of an explosive goodbye. 9

 

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