Dillinger Escape Plan


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Calculating Infinity (1999), 7/10
Miss Machine (2004), 6.5/10
Ire Works (2007), 6.5/10
Option Paralysis (2010) , 5/10
Dissociation (2016), 4.5/10
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(Clicka qua per la versione Italiana)

The Dillinger Escape Plan, formed in New Jersey in 1997 by guitarist Ben Weinman, completely revolutionized the concept of grindcore. Their rage is modulated by quite skilled playing, highlighted by sophisticated guitar riffs and complex polyrhythms. The six-song EP Dillinger Escape Plan (Now Or Never, 1997) and the three-song EP Under The Running Board (Relapse, 1998) displayed a ferocious but methodic grafting of speed metal, hardcore and even jazz on the trunk of grindcore.

With guitarist Brian Benoit and bassist Jeff Wood replacing Adam Doll (who was left paralyzed after an accident), their first full-length, Calculating Infinity (Relapse, 1999), only 33 minutes in length, showed even more dexterity. The formidable impact of high-speed missiles like Sugar Coated Sour and Variations On A Cocktail Dress make it clear that this music is grounded in grindcore, although it evolved into its own biological organism. Dimitri Minakakis' horsely screamed vocals paint a terrible picture of the world he inhabits. Horror and mayhem permeate 4th Grade Dropout, echoed by the eerie and sinister instrumentals *#.. and Weekend Sex Change.
But, buried somewhere in the rubble, are jazz elements (especially in 43% Burnt and Destro's Secret). Tracks like Calculating Infinity (perhaps the defining moment here), Jim Fear and The Running Board actually resort to the odd time signatures and tempo shifts and hypnotic guitar scalings of progressive-rock. They rarely play 4/4 tempo.

The EP Irony Is A Dead Scene (Epitaph, 2002) is a collaboration with Mike Patton.

Miss Machine (Relapse, 2004), their first album in five years, featuring new vocalist Greg Puciato instead of Minakakis, was a whirlwind of stylistic ideas, but less difficult than the previous one. The wedding of post-rock and grindcore leads to the unstable dynamics and unnerving textures of Panasonic Youth and Baby's First Coffin, which ripple through the rest of the album. An impressive amount of experimenting goes into tense songs such as Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants (one of their catchiest refrains is buried here), the menacing but relatively restrained Phone Home and Unretrofied (the most original rhythmic construction and another catchy theme), with frequent musical contradictions, including quiet passages in the middle of brutal frontal attacks. Mutant songs such as Sunshine the Werewolf and We Are the Storm host a lengthy slow and melodic intermezzo. The dense viscous walls of sound hide disorienting nuances (e.g., pathos-rich keyboards). Nonetheless, the straightforward Highway Robbery competes with the vehement punk-rock of the Dead Kennedys. This album is an exhausting experience, one that testifies to the band's originality and competence, although it may detract from the overall cohesiveness.

Error (Epitaph, 2004) is the project of Dillinger Escape Plan's singer Greg Puciato and Bad Religion's guitarist Brett Gurewitz.

Ire Works (Relapse, 2007), recorded before original drummer Chris Pennie left the band to join Coheed and Cambria (replaced by Gil Sharone), was another impressive display of musicianship, notably on the part of guitarist Ben Weinman, the sole remaining original member, and bassist Liam Wilson. They careened through ferocious speed-infected songs such as Fix Your Face, Lurch, 82588, Party Smasher, Nong Eye Gong. And at the same time they engaged in duets with beat-boxes (Sick on Sunday), strings (When Acting as a Particle), horns (the radio-friendly Milk Lizard), synthesizers (When Acting as a Wave, Sick on Sunday, Dead as History). There is even a relatively catchy ditty, Black Bubblegum (which boasts an acrobatic performance by Puciato, who feels otherwise often out of context during his cohorts' convoluted jams). However, many of these gestures sound cold and artificial, only loosely integrated in an organic whole. Many sound like they were conceived as a means in itself. The album is not so much exciting as intimidating.

Gil Sharone left to concentrate on his band Stolen Babies and was replaced by new drummer Billy Rymer. The lineup changes began to take a toll on Option Paralysis (2010), that sounded almost smooth (anathema for early DEP) and even classy (especially Widower).

The Dillinger Escape Plan disbanded and released their last album, Dissociation (Cooking Vynil, 2016), that feels like a collection of rarities, spanning a broad range of styles and including too many duds. Given the mediocre material, Limerent Death is easily the standout, a sort of disjointed rockabilly introduced by the full crushing power of the band; but the emphatic Surrogate is a close second, a psychodrama of acute neurosis; and Nothing To Forget shows that the band had power-pop potential with a melody but sounds like dark-punk of the 1980s and, above all, a romantic intermezzo a` la Muse. Unfortunately, most of the songs indulge in a lot of vain doodling that is sold as creative arrangement. Some of them are just dressings for what would otherwise be considered old-fashioned ballads, such as Symptom Of Terminal Illness, with a poppy refrain and doom-y overtones, and, worst of all, Dissociation, an embarrassing litany with strings and choral singalong. There is a residue of death ferocity in Wanting Not So Much To As To and its explosive drumming, but the song is ruined by a tedious spoken-word break. There is some imaginative drumming in Apologies Not Included to show that the musicianship was there. But every is second-rate and rather lame. Due to the raspy vocals, Low Feels Blvd, sounds like AC/DC without the melody, and then even decays into fusion-jazz and prog-rock. The instrumental Fugue is an abstract soundscape of digital dance beats and samples, the kind of things that Squarepusher were doing two decades earlier.

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