The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation [2016]

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As sad as it is to say, The Dillinger Escape Plan is throwing in the towel. That’s old news. Even older news is their storied commitment to fractured rhythm and teeth-grinding musical violence, their intensely physical and destructive live shows, their defiant DIY attitude that filters down to every move they’ve made in twenty years of existence. But the how and why of the band’s demise is quite possibly the newest thing here: the band is going out in a blaze of glory with one final record and a world tour spanning into 2017. They’re not killing this thing because they’re run out of ideas, or because their bodies are only being held together by sheer force of will, or because everyone hates each other. In fact, the band’s probably operating at its highest creative gear ever. Instead, they’ve realized that once anything reaches an apex, it eventually has to come back down. In the face of potential stagnation and diminishing returns, they’ve decided to clip that apex and kill the beast while it’s potent enough to still be missed.

That final record is Dissociation. And instead of pulling out all the stops and making some unhinged, off-the-wall masterpiece untethered to any expectations and obligations, they’ve instead consolidated their strengths into one album. Dissociation reads like a weathered road map of where the band has been before: touching upon the unrefined chaos and power of Calculating Infinity and Miss Machine, the freak-out glitch of Ire Works, and the melody and more traditional structures of Option Paralysis and One of Us is the Killer, it’s a summation of their body of work. But that’s not to say that Dissociation lacks for its own voice, either. On it the band sounds more crazed, more desperate, and more lonely than ever before, like it’s using those pieces of its past to hold itself together one last time in the face of the end rather than simply revisit the past.

It’s obvious on tracks like “Low Feels Blvd”, “Nothing to Forget”, and “Fugue” that the idea here is to take those past landmarks and channel them into some new feelings and emotions. On the former track, the band fires into breakneck Ire Works-esque riffing that pummels just as hard or harder than anything they’ve done before, and just as you feel like you know where it’s going, the bottom falls out. Suddenly the track takes a detour into Mahavishnu Orchestra styled jazz soloing from Ben Weinman, accompanied by frantic brass and strings and carried by choir-like falsetto from Greg Puciato. On “Nothing to Forget” the band opts to take the ominous, chunky approach they used on much of Option Paralysis, before opening up into one of the most straightforwardly pretty and melodic sections they’ve ever put on tape. Here the band is once again accompanied by a string quartet, but this time they opt for something a little more cinematic than “Low Feels Blvd”, using them to create drama and tension behind some of the most pure and honest-sounding vocals the band’s ever utilized. And “Fugue” builds from the band’s brief flirtations with electronics and morphs it into a full scale Aphex Twin/Dillinger hybrid, smashing Billy Rymer’s drums into quantized madness while layering them over one of Liam Wilson’s most unsettling bass lines ever, turning it into the album’s most jarring and sonically unique track.

But it wouldn’t be a Dillinger album without some tried-and-true landmarks, either. “Symptom of Terminal Illness” is the band’s usual “pop” track, but approaches its melody from an eerie, dramatic, and unsettling angle that quite possibly makes it their most compelling work in that vein yet. And songs like “Honeysuckle”, “Wanting Not So Much to As To”, and “Surrogate” deliver all of the musical shock and awe that their name has been built upon, featuring plenty of the band’s trademark jagged off-time riffing, vicious vocals, and chaotic power. And despite its mid-tempo, opening track “Limerent Death” is perfect for that role, as it feels like it’s dragging the listener kicking and screaming into something bigger, scarier, and more dangerous through it’s multiple build ups and breakdowns.

Bigger, scarier, and more dangerous perhaps sums up the whole record: while the band has been getting progressively more melodic and injecting some pop structures into their sound in recent years, Dissociation is much darker, more desperate, and less obvious as a whole. The first few listens won’t yield many obvious hooks, as the music is denser than ever before, and the lyrics betray a sense of fear, anxiety, and existential dread in the face of death. There’s palpable tension in every moment here; a sense that the beast is cornered and dying, yet strong enough to make its last stand and one final statement. Nothing sums that feeling up more than the album’s eponymous closing track, a track that’s far outside of their typical sound, and yet the most fitting possible conclusion to their discography. “Dissociation” is built entirely around keening, emotional strings courtesy of SEVEN)SUNS string quartet, and layered with throbbing electronics and skittering, off-kilter drum loops that threaten to spiral out of control. And strangely enough, despite Ben Weinman being the band’s only remaining original member, you won’t hear a single moment of his guitar work on this track. Instead, Greg Puciato croons what sounds like an epitaph for the band over all of this without ever raising his voice – lines like “don’t confuse being set free with being discarded and lonely” and “couldn’t stay for you / what a strange way to lose” feel like they were written with the band’s imminent death in mind. Even more strangely, the final moment of Dillinger’s final track fades out into a gentle falsetto, with all of the remaining instrumentation dropping away and leaving nothing but the lyric “finding a way to die alone” echoing out into the emptiness. It’s heart-wrenching in its truth, powerful in its contrast, and a completely unexpected ending.

On Dissociation, The Dillinger Escape Plan have truly found a way to die alone, but not in the sense you would think. They’re dying alone in the sense that, like everything else they’ve done, they’re going out in a way that no one else could. After years of setting the standard for mathy, technical metal and hardcore, with plenty of new musical ground left to tread and with an ever-growing fanbase, they’ve bowed out on top of their game with this record. They’ve left no opportunity for themselves to simply become another band that people wonder, “wow, those guys are still around?” about. Instead, what they’ve left behind is a perfect discography, with each record standing in stark contrast to each other, and one with a clear beginning, middle, and thematic conclusion. They’ve left a myriad of crazy stories, intense memories, and music that has influenced and will influence generations to come. It’s heart breaking to know that this is the end of a band at the height of their powers, but it would’ve been more heart breaking to watch them fade into mediocrity eventually. Dillinger has always been a band that stood alone miles above the rest, so for them, dying alone was always the only option.

Key Tracks: Wanting Not So Much to As To, Low Feels Blvd, Honeysuckle, Dissociation

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Dillinger Escape Plan Release New Video for “Paranoia Shields”

A lot of things can be said about Dillinger signing with Sumerian Records, things both positive and negative, but the one clear benefit there has definitely been their video budget. As with the track “When I Lost My Bet”, the band have now released a new video for “Paranoia Shields”, directed by Mitch Massie, which brings to mind the same visual feel of Nine Inch Nail’s videos in the ’90s. It’s creepy, unnerving, and schizophrenic, leaping from scene to scene with little reason, evoking more mood than story. But like most music videos, it doesn’t need a coherent plot, and its visual aesthetic is what makes it a compelling video among a sea of cobbled-together live performance pastiches (besides the fact that the track it’s supporting is one of the highlights of the band’s 2013 release, One of Us is the Killer). Check out the video for yourself below, and get ready for a ride.

Artist Feature/Mini Review: Tricot

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Rock is in a weird sort of place at the moment. Bands are trying to increasingly mold their sound after radio trends in order to get the airplay necessary to sustain a career, and the ones that aren’t are usually too far off the map to ever be considered by the vast majority of listeners. Few bands try to walk the middle ground between the two, accessible yet arty, and even few manage to pull it off. Enter Tricot, an all-girl rock band hailing from Kyoto, Japan. With a mix of jangly guitars, melodic songwriting, and an eye for the arty, they’re quickly making a name for themselves not only in Japan, but around the world. The reason for this international appeal is clear once you listen to them – Tricot’s sound is incredibly dynamic, shifting between tender, almost whispered vocals to crashing guitars and drums, with Ikkyu Nakajima belting out her lines at the top of her voice. And on top of it all, guitarist Motoko Kida layers intricate guitar rhythms and limber arrangements, which are in turn held down by bassist Hiromi Sagane, giving them a sound and energy that stands apart from their peers. And yet, after all this uphill success, their second album A N D comes at a bit of a troubled time for the band. After touring through Europe and Japan, Tricot lost their permanent drummer. In a move befitting of their dynamic sound, instead of getting a full-time replacement, they instead opted to enlist the help of five of Japan’s most talented drummers. The result is an album that shows the band hasn’t missed a beat, and even in the face of adversity, they’ve only grown more confident in their music.

A N D doesn’t seek to reinvent the wheel, but rather builds upon the blueprint that the band set for themselves with T H E. A N D is an album that feels more consolidated, more stripped down, and more confident – instead of dedicating an entire song to a specific mood or vibe, the band now often effortlessly mixes them together, like on “Hashire”. Starting off with a tense tremolo-picked riff and covered in reverb-laden vocals, it explodes into its chorus. “Pieeen” exhibits these dynamics as well, starting off with tender piano before kicking into the real meat of the song, blending in the band’s trademark guitars with piano work peppered throughout (and even including a piano solo). “QFF” is a long, slow build, a track that very nearly cracks the 7 minute mark, and features very little of their usual rock vibe. It’s a slow, drifting song, that isn’t overly concerned with structure or technique, and instead runs on mood and tension-building. If it wasn’t the second to last track on the album I’d consider it the centerpiece of the whole thing, but that title is a bit out of place with its actual placing. And while “Hashire” and “Pieeen” have the ability to shock with their dynamics, songs like “Niwa”, “Colorless Aquarium”, and “Noradrenaline” burst right out of the gate with all the jangly, punky urgency of any mathcore band. Ikkyu really shines on this album, vocally, especially on “Niwa”, where she shows off her punky, aggressive side, shouting and growling her lyrics with the kind of emotional power that’s not seen often in J-Rock. “CBG” shows another side of this emotional quality, too – Ikkyu sings almost in a whisper for the first half of the track, with gentle guitar arpeggios buoying the song along, and eventually achieves a catharsis resembling that of a post rock band when it finally chooses to kick things up. All these elements are what make Tricot such an interesting, exciting band. Their music is both catchy and technical, moody and aggressive, and even if you don’t speak a lick of Japanese, you can feel some real emotion come through. By taking all the best elements of mathcore and even some from grunge, they stand out as something special regardless of what country you’re from. And with this level of talent, it’s hard to see them going anywhere else but up.