My reviews of albums released by The Dillinger Escape Plan.
1999: Calculating Infinity (8/10)
I came into this fully expecting to say it’s the “birth of mathcore”. But a little bit of research suggests that many bands had been making music at least somewhat similar to this for a little while, perhaps even years. I don’t know any of those bands, basically, so I have no idea how many of them are closer to “proto-mathcore” than actual mathcore, or what. (When writing history it’s easy to see minor innovations as births of genres.) But this little bit of research has definitely discouraged me from making any bold proclamations.
Musically, though, this is basically the platonic ideal of ’90s mathcore, as far as I know. It’s extremely loud and aggressive while being knottier than any metalcore band that I’ve ever heard by miles. For me, this is one of the places metal went in the late ’90s that is really exciting. Had I been a metal fan at 18 I would like to think I would have been getting bored by albums that are just trying to play one preexisting subgenre really well. (Those tend to bore me now, anyway.)
I tend to pay very little attention to metal lyrics, in part because in many metal subgenres (such as this one) they are often indecipherable. But, moreover, metal has a long tradition of having shitty lyrics, either just because they’re not well written or because they are offensive (either on purpose or because the person writing them is an asshole). I haven’t read the lyrics included in albums since I was in my early 20s and I usually only look up lyrics online if I want to make sure I’m hearing something correctly. In a genre where I can hear every word, I pay attention. When I can’t, I am usually fine with the sound of the voice. But I read hear that some of the lyrics are super problematic. And there’s a part of me that just doesn’t want to look them up, because I know that what I will find. Does telling myself that they switched lead singers (and lyricists) later make it better? It helps me stay in denial, anyway. The only thing I can say in meek defense of lyrics like these is that the purpose of art like metal is to allow people to express socially inappropriate emotions in a safe way. Unfortunately, there are always some in society (including many artists) who take this stuff seriously and think that song lyrics are an endorsement of the content. (And some are, obviously, but plenty aren’t.)
If I completely ignore the presumed content of the lyrics, I really, really like this. The only criticism I have against it, which isn’t fair, is that the band would get far more musically ambitious and interesting on later records. That’s not so much a criticism, given this is the first album, so much as a statement of fact, really.
8/10 as long as I don’t look up those lyrics
2002: “Irony is a Dead Scene” (8/10) with Mike Patton
This is a match made in heaven. Patton is the perfect vocalist for this band. The only downsides are that it is so short (one wishes it was way longer) and it makes one hypothesize about how rad something like Ire Works would be if Patton had joined the band. That makes me sad.
2004: Miss Machine (2004)
Somehow I’ve never listened to this album.
2007: Ire Works (8/10)
It’s varied enough that I like it. That’s their strength and they should stick to it, they can pull off multiple styles. They may want to enlist real singers if they’re going to include more traditional singing, however.
After many more listens: I absolutely love this record whether or not I think it’s a true classic. One of those albums I gotta put on every few months just to yell along with it.
2010: Operation Paralysis (7/10)
Despite my familiarity with this band – I’ve listened to all of their Puciato albums now that I’ve heard this one, as well as their debut, and I’ve seen them live – I always have the same experience when I listen to one of their (Puciato) records: I like it less than the ones that I already know. This is simply because Dillinger are, um, inaccessible. Even if you already know what to expect, their records take time. Moreover, with this one, I’m giving my listens months apart meaning I kind of forgot it a bit in the interim.
Because I love this band, I really like this album. That’s basically a given. Where I always struggle with albums of theirs that are new to me is how much I like it in relation to the other records. And I’ve approached this band in a weird way, listening to the various albums completely out of order. For me to really judge this record, I’ll have to listen to everything from Ire Works to Dissociation in a row.
In the meantime, I guess I’ll say that, at least, initially, I like it less than Ire Works because it’s less bonkers, but you could also argue it’s a little more mature. (I don’t always like “more mature”, it sort of depends upon my mood.) And because I know it less well than the latter albums, I like those more just due to familiarity. So my feeling is to go with the consensus that this is the weakest Puciato-era album.
But that suggests this record isn’t good. And it’s also totally because I am just more familiar with their other records, and so it feels very unfair. (And possibly wrong.) So, to reiterate: I like this record. I just don’t know how much I like it in relation to their other albums.
2013: One of Us is the Killer (8/10)
I got into DEP with Ire Works as a kind of impulse buy when I was actually looking for Irony is a Dead Scene, which I have since acquired. I didn’t know what they used to sound like prior to that, beyond a couple tracks a friend had sent me. I know there is a group of fans out there who wish they still sounded like that. I have no idea really whether that’s valid or not. I suspect it’s not.
I do know that I generally loved Ire Works, out of context, and I like it more and more. I have missed Operation Paralysis so far, for some reason or other, so maybe I’m missing something but this sounds both like a step forward and a step back from what they were doing in the last decade, and I thought that was a bad thing at first. I liked how all-over-the-place their sound was.
This is more focused, yes, and less ambitious, but it also feels conservative, in a sense. (Though I realize describing music like this as conservative is pretty idiotic.)
That being said, I feel like Puciato has learned how to sing sometime in the last 6 years, something I am extraordinarily thankful for given that his voice was my one hang-up with this band in the past, and the more I listen to it, the more I stop caring about how it compares to Ire Works. It’s just too good for me to worry about comparing it.
My #3 album of 2013 (with the caveat that I haven’t listened to enough music from that year). Read my reviews of music from 2013.
2016: Dissociation (8/10)
I think there’s a tendency to get a little too excited about this record, given that we know this is the last one. But, like nearly all of their records upon first listen, I find that, at least at first, it’s not my favourite one. So I find myself caught between wanting to like it a lot, and feeling like it’s a bit of a retread of various earlier albums. (You can almost play “spot the reference to an earlier album” with this record.)
But that feeling, that I’ve heard this before, is fleeting when I listen again. It’s also a stupid feeling, given that this band does what they do, at this point. And that thing that they do is a very specific, and great, form of mathcore that I really like. And so I don’t know why I was struggling with the album.
I haven’t sat down and listened to all their records in a row, so I’m not sure where I’d put this if I did that, but it feels like a pretty fitting end to one of the better bands of the last two decades. I look forward to seeing them for their last show in Toronto in a month or so.
Read my very few reviews of 2016 albums. This one is #3 which is probably silly.