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The Dillinger Escape Plan

Extreme hardcore exponents of experimental ‘eavy rock, the band’s calculation was, not so much to let one escape, but to imprison one in a cacophony of complex and cutting-edge math-metal. After a post-millennium decade climbing the walls of contrition and now chart contenders in an onslaught of metal-core combos from around the globe, The DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN look capable of freeing the minds of their stalwart fanbase with their barrage of spontaneous combustion screamophobia. You have been warned.
Founded 1997 in Morris Plains, New Jersey, while rising from the ashes of the rather anarchic but average Arcane, The DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN played to the galleries as each of the five: “singer” Dimitri Minakakis, drummer Chris Pennie, guitarists Ben Weinman and Derrick Brantley (a temp member) and bassist Adam Doll, executed their frenetic type of full-on metal. Deciding to unleash a debut demo under an eponymous title for the Now Or Never imprint, the DEP were at least underway; the Dillinger in question was the infamous 1920s gangster. Guitarist John Fulton was duly added to the equation, although his card was clocked-out after the band’s second EP release, `Under The Running Board’ (1998); sadly, due to a life-threatening automobile accident in which he was paralyzed, Adam was understandably let go. Despite this set-back (his bass licks were still used on the following release) and, with the added attraction of rhythm guitarist Brian Benoit on board, Relapse Records released the hostile and hate-heavy, CALCULATING INFINITY (1999) {*8}. Even in its quieter moments; like some build-up to a cinematic horror scene, the band still managed to scare the bejeebers out of listeners not yet hiding behind the curtains. And while chaos and complexity were rife, there was method – and indeed instances of melody – in their madness; examples `43% Burnt’, `Weekend Sex Change’, `Destro’s Secret’ and `The Running Board’.
It was indeed a crazy time ahead for The DEP amid crisis after post-millennium crisis. Spurred on by the patronage of former FAITH NO MORE singer Mike Patton offering up his services to help the band on their road to success (Jeff Wood of M.O.D. temped on bass), tours supporting CANDIRIA and Patton’s MR BUNGLE proved enlightening and hell-raising; even Doll returned on keyboards for a few years, while a fresh bassist Liam Wilson (ex-STARKWEATHER) was found as his full-time replacement. The major blow, though, was when Minakakis decided to jump ship, plus the subsequent hardship of searching out a suitable substitute via the internet. In the meantime, Patton (on vocals, keyboards, samples and percussion) was only too happy to play deputy at various gigs and, in turn, on 2002’s long-awaited EP release, `Irony Is A Dead Scene’.
Impressed by his web submission, and rehearsing non-stop until there was some sort of simpatico, larynx-loosener Greg Puciato finally took up the reigns for DEP’s “comeback” set, MISS MACHINE (2004) {*8}. Abandoning none of their provocative post-punk or mental math-metal, the rage against the “Miss Machine” was never so fully realised on alchemic anthems like `Unretrofied’, `Van Damsel’ and opener `Panasonic Youth’.
Six places short of a Top 100 entry, the group had now arrived on the scene; sadly Benoit decided to bail – James Love filling his berth for 2006’s stop-gap iTunes covers EP: `Plagiarism’; featuring `Wish’ (NINE INCH NAILS), `Angel’ (MASSIVE ATTACK), `Jesus Christ Pose’ (SOUNDGARDEN) and `Like I Love You’ (er… JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE); they’d already covered `Paranoid’ (BLACK SABBATH) and `Come To Daddy’ (The APHEX TWIN) as B-sides.
Despite losing yet another essential member, Pennie, to COHEED AND CAMBRIA (Gil Sharone was his replacement), DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN were let out on parole for a third stretch: IRE WORKS (2007) {*7}. Involving original gangster, Minakakis, and MASTODON’s axeman extraordinaire Brent Hinds had been a poignant touch, but without a metal lobotomy, psychotic jazz breaks, electro-blips and exotic instrumentation were strangulated by shout-y swaggers, `82588’, `Party Smasher’ and `Horse Hunter’, effective though they were; the 7-minute curtain-call, `Mouth Of Ghosts’ (or even the accessible `Milk Lizard’ and `Black Bubblegum’), probably represented the band in a better progressive light.
It wouldn’t have been natural for the long-standing band not to forfeit or exchange a member or two and, prior to scriber Puciato and Co founding their own label (Season Of Mist) for fourth album, OPTION PARALYSIS (2010) {*7}, Gil – who re-joined STOLEN BABIES – made way for both Billy Rymer, and additional guitarist Jeff Tuttle. Described bafflingly as jazz-metal in some circles, DILLINGER… were closer to Beefheart backing BLACK FLAG in their jagged-edged, stop-start rhythms of relentless freakouts; examples: `Farewell, Mona Lisa’, `Room Full Of Eyes’ and `Gold Teeth On A Bum’. The Top 100 entry had few exceptions to their rowdy rule, the beautiful `Widower’, accompanied by a pianist better known to “Aladdin Sane” fans: Mike Garson. Metal-heads say “urgh!”.
Now without walking man Tuttle and, moving across the metal spectrum to Sumerian Records (again via their own Party Smasher imprint), 2013’s ONE OF US IS THE KILLER {*8} finally gate-crashed to Top 30. Nearly a decade and a half from the group’s ground-pounding debut, the explosive prog-metal of `Prancer’, `Hero Of The Soviet Union’ and `When I Lost My Bet’, were calculated to shape-shift the minds of any pseudo-metal fan still thinking Messrs ADAMS and BON JOVI were hard as nine inch nails. When The DEP let up for a pastoral mood interlude – as on the excellent title track, `The Threat Posed By Nuclear Weapons’ and on the intro to `Crossburner’ – screw-heads were thankfully saved from a mind-blowing aneurysm.
Fresh from moonlighting shifts with respective alt-rock supergroups GIRAFFE TONGUE ORCHESTRA (on the album `Broken Lines’) and The BLACK QUEEN (on `Fever Daydream’), Weinman and Puciato re-surfaced with The DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN for the mean-spirited DISSOCIATION (2016) {*8}; Greg also had a hand in Max Cavalera’s KILLER BE KILLED. Tour auxiliary James Love had made way for Kevin Antreassian prior to the album’s release, and news of their impending split (or “extended hiatus”) was talked of soon after the record just failed to squeeze into the Top 30 lists. Fusing trail-blazing jazz-rock excursions with MAHAVISHNU-math-metal was certainly different (as with the multi-faceted composition `Low Feel Blvd’ and `Symptom Of Terminal Illness’); and in `Surrogate’, `Nothing To Forget’ and rare 7-inch single, `Limerent Death’, the magnetic DEP had probably chosen a high note to crash and burn.
© MC Strong/MCS Dec2013-Oct2016

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