The Dillinger Escape Plan
Reviewed on this page:
Calculating Infinity - Irony Is A Dead Scene - Miss Machine - Ire Works - Option Paralysis - One Of Us Is The Killer
New Jersey's own DEP helped pioneer "mathcore" in the late 90s, combining hardcore screaming and garage production with such complicated song structures and time signatures that the results can sound more like a mathematical exercise than actual music. They overcome the innate nerdiness of the genre with intensity, occasionally arresting melodicism and extreme violence, to the point that several bandmembers have been incapacitated by injuries.
I'm pretty sure if I met these guys on the street they'd beat me up and steal my lunch money, but in the safety of my living room they're quite agreeable.
Ben Weinman, guitar; Dimitri Minakakis, vocals; Adam Doll, bass; Chris Pennie, drums. John Fulton added on guitar, 1998. Fulton left, 1999, replaced by Brian Benoit; Doll left, 1999, replaced by Liam Wilson. Minakakis left, 2000, replaced by Greg Puciato in 2001. Benoit left, 2005, replaced by Jeff Tuttle in 2007. Pennie left, 2007, replaced by Gil Sharone. Sharone left, 2009, replaced by Billy Rymer.
The Dillinger Escape Plan (1997)
A six-song EP, produced by Steve Evetts.
Under The Running Board (1998)
Another EP; the original release had just three tunes, though a 2008 re-release contains ten bonus tracks.
Calculating Infinity (1999)
The mathcore formula is present and accounted for: the band pounding out synchronized but highly irregular rhythms, generally at supersonic tempos, while Minakakis screams ("Jim Fear"). (The main divergence, "Weekend Sex Change," is equally unhinged but is mostly made up of electronic noise.)
But outside of a couple of terrific cuts ("Clip The Apex... Accept Instruction"), and a solid vamp here and there (the opening and closing of "43% Burnt") it's more of an intellectual exercise than music:
It's hard to count out the individual sections, sure, but once you have there's nothing much else to listen for... it's like putting together a difficult jigsaw puzzle to find out you're looking at a crummy painting. That said, Pennie's drumming is extraordinary, not just riding the time signatures but creating an endless series of fills and patterns, and the complexity of the undertaking is impressive if rarely enjoyable.
Irony Is A Dead Scene (2002)
Yet another EP, with former Faith No More singer Mike Patton filling in on vocals for a departed Minakakis. Three new tunes plus a cover of Aphex Twin's "Come To Daddy," and I don't know if Patton had anything to do with this but it's much more song-oriented and digestible: "Hollywood Squares" even has what amounts to a verse-chorus structure. The tunes themselves aren't that great ("When Good Dogs Do Bad Things"), and Patton's more oriented toward childish games and whispering than actual singing, but at least they're pointed in an interesting direction.
Miss Machine (2004)
Puciato's first record with the group and Benoit's last is a step down from the Irony EP, sort of: mathcore compositional techniques are shoehorned into more conventional song structures ("Van Damsel"), but it sounds more routine than revelatory because many of the individual sections are nothing special, just Weinman banging out one chord in lockstep with Pennie's snare ("Highway Robbery"; "We Are The Storm" except for the bracing coda).
The weak tracks are as unenjoyable as anything on Infinity but not as unusual, so you really wonder why you're listening to them ("Baby's First Coffin"; "The Perfect Design"). Fortunately there is some first-rate stuff - the reckless, roaring opener "Panasonic Youth"; the memorable multipart "Phone Home," with Puciato demonstrating his singing chops - and a fair number of gripping moments in otherwise lackluster tunes (the reggae-metal middle in "Unretrofied").
Ire Works (2007)
Down to one original member (Weinman; Pennie had split for Coheed & Cambria), and everything that was diffuse on the previous album is filed down to sharp points: the unadulterated mathcore ("Lurch"; "82588") is cathartic if chaotic, and they only improve things when they mix in spacey keyboards ("Mouth Of Ghosts"), sound collage ("When Acting As A Particle") or mellow middles. The forays into other styles show extraordinary (albeit offhand) facility - the alt-rocker "Black Bubblegum" has a gorgeous falsetto vocal hook; the deliciously sleazy main riff on "Milk Lizard" serves notice that they could be Franz Ferdinand or The Strokes if they wanted to be; Puciato's singing is positively plaintive on the world-weary "Dead As History" - and the melodies are just as remarkable. All the elements come together on the tour de force "Party Smasher" - slamming fast riffs, slow vamps and total confusion into a compelling whole, all in under two minutes.
Option Paralysis (2010)
A continuation of the killer Ire Works combination of calculated insanity and pop smarts ("Chinese Whispers"), more or less: new drummer Billy Rymer picks up where Sharone had left off; Weinman again played all the guitars though Tuttle got in some vocals.
The band's application of virtuosic technique and intricate structure to bestial fury puts them in a league with The Red Chord, and while their riffs aren't as explosive, DEP has a secret weapon in Puciato's chameleon-like vocals: he can sing just like Corey Glover ("Gold Teeth On A Bum") when he isn't raving like a maniac ("Good Neighbor"), so they can touch deftly on a range of emotions ("Parasitic Twins," with Bonzo-ish drumming and Beach Boysesque harmonies).
This time the centerpiece is a love song (with keyboards from Mike Garson) that only switches to hardcore near the end - their "Nothing Else Matters," you might say.
But there's still plenty of the frenzied, tempo-shifting craziness longtime fans know and love ("I Wouldn't If You Didn't"; "Crystal Morning").
Produced by Evetts; not quite as sharp as Ire but too good for a 3.5-star rating.
One Of Us Is The Killer (2013)
Very much in line with the two previous albums, but with the pop and arena rock elements dialed down (except for singalong choruses on "Nothing's Funny" and the title track). On the other hand, the song lengths have normalized, as everything's between two and a half and five minutes. Put these two developments together, and you get an album where a lot of the tracks are roughly similar - especially "When I Lost My Bet" and "Understanding Decay," which both rely on the same stuttering guitar/cymbal effect. There are a few great tracks here ("Hero Of The Soviet Union"; "The Threat Posed By Nuclear Weapons") and scads of sit-up-in-your-chair licks ("Crossburner"); it's just not as much short-out-your-brain fun as the previous two albums would lead you to expect.