There are many ways one could describe The Dillinger Escape Plan but most of what you will hear in day-to-day life will be factually inaccurate. Those who aren’t fans of the music, band or are, for want of a better word, closed-minded, will have you believe that it’s nothing more than a chaotic ‘noise’ without structure or timing which serves no real purpose. These are the ones that singer Greg Puciato has dubbed “the non-believers” and what they say couldn’t be further from the truth. In actual fact what Dillinger have created is something that transcends almost all of the norms you would find anywhere else in ‘alternative’ music. They belong to no specific ‘scene’ and buck almost every tradition and trend you would associate with a band of their size. They have created a situation for themselves where essentially they can do whatever they want, when they want. Self-managed with their own label, Party Smasher Inc, they handle every single creative decision the band makes giving them complete control and unmolested artistic freedom and their fifth album ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’ is the perfect example of this. Recorded with producer and life-long Dillinger collaborator Steve Evetts (Poison The Well, Story Of The Year, Sepultura, Still Remains, Every Time I Die) ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’ sees the band returning more furious, creatively fueled and focused than ever before.
Opening song and first single from the album, ‘Prancer’, kicks things off in spectacular fashion. A small flurry of drums and guitars give way to a truly ferocious opening section, with singer Puciato sounding revived, refreshed and very energetic before the song dives headfirst into the kind of polyrhythmic tornado Dillinger are most known for. There’s something different here though – an energy or vibe that is hard to place. Possibly, it’s the fact that this is the first time that the band have put out two albums in a row with the same drummer since they released ‘Calculating Infinity’ and ‘Miss Machine’ with original drummer Chris Pennie, or maybe it’s just the sound/feeling of this current stage of the evolution of the band. As the song progresses it becomes clear that although there has always been a dynamic and atmospheric level to Dillinger‘s music, it is more honed and effective here than ever before. This is noticed for the first time in the middle of ‘Prancer’ but becomes more evident and infinitely more effective as the album progresses.
The second song, and coincidentally second single from the album, ‘When I Lost My Bet’, picks up much where the opener left off. Opening with subtle syncopated drums, coupled with machine-gun like interruptions, it acts as a portal to the darker, and more sinister, side of the bands music, as those who have seen its’ accompanying, macabre but strikingly brilliant, video will agree. Again there is plenty of variation as the song progresses. From the schizophrenic polyrhythms to the middle section of pseudo-Latin groove this song truly covers all bases and does so in spectacular fashion.
Listeners to the ‘Radio 1 Review Show’ over the last few weeks may well have heard third song, and title track, ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’ a little early. This is a song that shows the dexterity and finesse of Dillinger more than any other. With a vibe not dissimilar to Mr Bungle and Radiohead, the verses see singer Greg Puciato use the falsetto aspect of his voice with the most stunningly beautiful outcome. This is a more honed use of the technique than we have seen/heard from him before on songs such as ‘Parasitic Twins’ or ‘Mouth Of Ghosts’ whilst simultaneously there is a depth and honesty to his performance throughout this song, the contrast between verses and choruses is nothing short of stunning. It is a huge highlight both on this album and their entire back-catalogue and a true delight to listen to. As ‘One If Us Is The Killer’ progresses the aforementioned use of dynamics becomes more and more apparent. These differences do not only come in terms of heavy and mellow(er) parts but also in terms of how a heavier section is delivered.
A great example of this is fourth song ‘Hero Of The Soviet Union’. Opening with a torrent of polyrhythmic fury, this is a song that consistently smashes the listener with wave after wave of spectacularly well crafted brutality. From the opening and early sections it is a sound that fans of the band will be used to, however, it is the second half of this song where things start to get interesting. Following ringing guitars and staggered drum fills, not dissimilar to ‘A Song For The Dead’by Queens Of The Stone Age,are some of the more ‘quirky’ vocal moments with interesting harmonized phrases weaving between Puciato‘s more typical deliveries. Once this vocal back and forth is completed the song opens up into a section that most would call a ‘breakdown’, but in this case we shall describe it as a dynamic change in delivery. Stomping guitars and drums provide a rock-solid, watertight foundation for what is arguably the most intense and visceral vocal performance this album has to offer, with levels of aggression, power and finesse most vocalists will only dream of. This grade of vocal and musical delivery never falters even slightly as ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’ continues. Songs such as the Meshuggah or Deftones-esque ‘Nothings Funny’and the truly stunning ‘Paranoia Shields’ show with great style and gusto how Dillinger‘s more ‘traditional’ songwriting has evolved to a point where it is easily as effective a tool as any other in their arsenal while other songs like ‘Understanding Decay’and ‘Magic That I Held You Prisoner’show, with unwavering impact, how the band have evolved their own unquestionably signature sound and composing style into a force that demands a truly supreme level of respect.
This is especially true when referring to ‘Understanding Decay’. This song opens with a pseudo drum & bass pattern before erupting into a true monster of a song that covers all of the boundaries mentioned above. The middle section(s) of this song are particularly outstanding and make it very clear that Billy Rymer is by far the most exciting, inventive and diverse drummer in any band anywhere in the world right now. Head and shoulders above the rest he powers through this song, and album, with finesse, distinct individuality and devastating power. His unique sound and technique add layers to this album that are subtle, powerful, undeniably brilliant.
There are parts of this album that return to the earlier territories of Dillinger‘s career also. Eighth song ‘CH 375 268 277 ARS’ sees the band return to the instrumental pastures visited during ‘Ire Works’, ‘Miss Machine’and ‘Calculating Infinity’. It consists of nothing more than a repeating guitar pattern and drums to match but it is how this song evolves that is impressive. Subtle changes in drums and a gradual progression in heaviness lead the song to a climax that is as hard hitting as they come.
As ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’ begins to approach its end the truly big guns come out. The first of which is the almighty ‘Crossburner’. Building from a stabbing opening it explodes into a low pace but extremely lively chorus, of sorts, before dying down to allow the deliciously creepy verses weave their own pattern through the chaos. After this cycle repeats one more time the song takes yet another sideways step into an area that could only be described as ‘very Mastodon‘. This short lived section gives way to a sound that is, and I’m not exaggerating here, harder to describe than anything else i have ever encountered. At risk of being wrong i will, however, hazard a guess and say that it may simply be a ludicrously strange guitar pattern and a blast beat drum pattern that has exchanged the usual snare and cymbal combination for a floor tom and china cymbal combination instead but whether i am right or not this is a sound that truly needs to be heard to be believed. Coming full circle and ending as it started, ‘Crossburner’ is one of the most dynamically diverse and flat out amazing songs this band has ever written
The closing song to this album is ‘The Threat Posed By Nuclear Weapons’. After a somewhat schizophrenic opening this song more than any other displays the punk rock and hardcore influences and inspirations guitarist Ben Wienman has drawn on for this album. After a brief interlude the song branches into a chugging guitar pattern that, if it were in a remotely straight time signature, would sit perfectly on any Pantera album. The cleaner sections of Puciato’s performance, as well as the heavier screaming parts, show just how much he has evolved as an artist not only since his debut on 2004’s ‘Miss Machine’ but also since their last album, ‘Option Paralysis’. Brutal and chaotic and with a tinge of punk rock, ‘The Threat Posed By Nuclear Weapons’is a fantastic way close ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’.
So now that is over and the sounds of silence begin to fill out ears again we can being to take stock and evaluate what it is we have just listened to. This is a very challenging and often uncomfortable album to listen to but this is meant in the most positive way possible. After all, art is meant to challenge your senses and perspectives and a work of art is exactly what The Dillinger Escape Plan have created here. Art in its purest form. Pure, honest, unrelenting, and completely untouched by the musical or societal norms of the world we live in. Truly unique and nothing short of wondrous, ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’ raises the benchmark once again and begs the rest of the world to keep playing catch-up. If only more bands these days had the same attitude towards creating music, we might not have radios, televisions and magazines filled with these overly homogenized bands who are doing nothing more than replicating each other over and again.
Dillinger are currently touring the U.S with support duties being fulfilled by The Faceless and Royal Thunder but trips to Europe and the UK are planned for later in the year although at the time of writing, no UK dates have been released. With their live line-up now consisting of guitarist Ben Weinman, singer Greg Puciatio, drummer Billy Rymer, bassist Liam Wilson, and latest addition and former Fenix TX guitarist James Love filling the gap left by Jeff Tuttle, the Dillinger live show promises to be more exciting than ever and with these additions to their set-list its sure to be a show nobody will want to miss
Easiest 10/10 ever!!