The Dillinger Escape Plan – ‘Dissociation’ [Review]
UPDATE: TMMP has been reborn! This video has the full story:
Until today, I was always that guy. The Dillinger Escape Plan fan who said, in the face of the still-epic Option Paralysis and One Of Us Is The Killer, “…yeah, they’re sick, but Ire Works is still easily their best album.”
I am no longer that guy.
What happened to me? Did I go deaf? Did my brain finally cave in, causing me to suddenly prefer Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda over everything else and declare her Queen Of All Good Music?
Thanks to the kind folks at Party Smasher Inc, I just got my review stream of Dissociation. And fuck me. Seriously.
We all know the bad news. Dillinger seem set to call it quits, dissociating post-Dissociation and acting as a set of individuals as opposed to one single unified whole. Dissociation, then, exists in its current state as The Dillinger Escape Plan’s LP-length swan song.
This is goodbye. Probably maybe almost definitely. Dissociation’s ultimate goal is to send Dillinger on their way at the peak of their powers as creative artists, musicians, and performers.
The Dillinger Escape Plan have always been experimental songwriters at heart. In some corners, they’ve been dismissed as unlistenable, too weird, and definitely too quote-unquote “random,” as if the fact that they happen to consistently play in metronomically precise time with each other is mere coincidence. In others, they’ve been hailed as visionaries – and rightly so.
Dissociation, in an is-it-ironic-or-not-my-head-hurts way, works absolutely perfectly as a single unit. It flows. It incorporates some sounds you’ve never heard these guys pull out of their trick bags before.
Every song feels…well…associated somehow.
Again, my head hurts.
As on One Of Us Is The Killer, relationships are a frequent recurring theme throughout Dissociation. Considering this is at present the “Dillinger Escape Plan Breakup Album,” that’s not surprising – but the way that theme is expressed is utterly fucking unique. We still live in a world where the shittiest of shitty relationship-related songs constantly clog the charts, but Limerent Death (“limerence” being a state of unhealthily obsessed infatuation) hits home harder than some slickly marketed teen crooner warbling his auto-tuned way through a robotically quantized song penned by a team of professional hitmakers.
That’s the track we’ve all heard already; if you haven’t checked it out yet, see the video at the end of this review to get acquainted. If you need proof that Dillinger are best defined as experimental songwriters, there you go.
For me, second track Symptom Of Terminal Illness is exponentially better though. Lyrically, it’s a haunting and haunted song that addresses a host of harsh, PTSD-like symptoms through perfectly chosen words. As on Limerent Death, Greg Puciato pushes himself into territory few dare to even acknowledge exists in the first place – and comes out with a stunning result.
Combine the hectic mathcore insanity you know so intimately with classical melodies, a jazzy drum solo, and a very Metallica-inspired outro riff, and you have Wanting Not So Much As To. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if Aphex Twin and Puciato side-project The Black Queen were to get jamming, or pondered what would happen if a drum ‘n’ bass outfit took all the drugs, Fugue would be the result – one made all the more impressive by the fact that Ben Weinman is famously straight-edge.
More than anything, Fugue brings to mind Salvador Dali’s famous quote, “I don’t do drugs; I am drugs”. On Dissociation, The Dillinger Escape Plan have become Dali’s musical equivalent. Not a statement to be made lightly – but come October 14, you’ll definitely get it.
Onwards into Low Feels Blvd, which jerks back into classic Dillinger Land. At their most hectic, DEP have always sounded as if they’re being repeatedly defibrillated – and this is one more adrenaline peak to add to the list. Not that Low Feels Blvd can be considered a bit of half-masted filler – there’s one hell of a tasty ‘70s / ‘80s fusion solo section tucked away for you to discover. Then redefibrillation, synco-stabs, feedback, insane fuzzy effects, and…
Surrogate. Bear in mind that most musicians half Dillinger’s age can’t come close to matching them for sheer energetic output. More signature Dillinger, this time tinged with clean jazz chords, deep pad swells, and the – the – most monolithic riff on Dissociation so far. Damn.
Honeysuckle: A continuous tug of war between intense bass, chirpy jazz, sky-cracking rhythms, a just plain disgusting beatdown, and killer lyrical hooks out of nowhere. Manufacturing Discontent: A contender for personal weak spot, as Mathcore Fatigue began setting in amid jazz feedback breaks and another freaky Aphex Twin-style section. Apologies Not Included: Ditto to be honest. Neither this song nor Manufacturing Discontent fall short of Dillinger’s lofty standards, but bar some cheeky listen-out-for-it funkiness, my spoilt-by-Ire–Works brain didn’t click on the first few listens here.
Then, things really change. Time for the final two tracks.
As you’ll have figured out by now, I prefer Dillinger’s accessible and experimental side over their penchant for brain-bludgeoning brutality. These songs lean hard on the former, and all but abandon the latter. This is the point where Dissociation gets controversial.
Nothing To Forget’s core ingredients are: One mutated but distinctly poppy guitar melody. Rock-beat drums. Chugging riffs underpinning a perfectly balanced and ultra-versatile Puciato vocal. Vulnerable, disturbed lyrics, utterly clear even when subject to industrial-grade distortion. A whoa-oh section – brief, but significant in that it actually exists and fits perfectly, as if the song would be worse off had it been cut out for fear of what people might think. Billy Rymer starts to stir the pot. A key Dissociation line – “Please let me be by myself / I don’t need anything” comes and goes.
Then, strings, a sparse beat, and clean, delicate singing. Seriously. Strings. Not a totally unfamiliar choice (think the secret track from Calculating Infinity for an early example), but here they’re a core element, kept present as Rymer goes off on a tastefully batshit drum solo under the softest showing ever from The Dillinger Escape Plan. Gradually, darkness threatens to return and takes over. Cue distorted bass, huge walls of guitar, thunderous kick-drums, and one cathartic climax.
Dissociation, the song. For all the metal, all the brutality that’s led up to this point, by the time Dissociation (the song and album) is done it feels like everything has led Dillinger here. This is the swan song. String-laden intro. Sombre. Melancholic. Funereal. Tangential switch into industrial electronica. No strings. Fragmented flickers, synth bass. This could be mistaken for The Black Queen – especially as Greg Puciato enters and delivers a warming, close-to-Zen vocal. “Don’t confuse being so free with being discarded and lonely” – words you likely need to hear now. A direct salute to the world’s outsiders, a reminder that The Dillinger Escape Plan have kept going for two decades for a reason.
The strings and electronic factors fuse together. No blastbeats, no sledgehammer-to-the-eardrum riffage. Now, a gorgeous, Björk-evoking string line. Live drums, crystal clear cymbals. One last line.
“Finding a way to die alone.”
Solo vocal. Same words.
This, then, is how it ends.
Dissociation disappears, replaced by the near-silent hiss of noise-cancelling headphones.
Return to the soundscape of everyday life.
Mentally run through Dillinger’s discography.
Silently count number of fucks given.
On that note: Dissociation is better than Ire Works.
There. I said it.
TMMP RATING: 300% (As much as The Dillinger Escape Plan have given us, for coming up on two decades. They deserve nothing less.)
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