In 2002 The Dillinger Escape Plan supported Armenian-American art-metallers System Of A Down on their UK tour. Frankly, DEP were rubbish. Any semblance of their progressive metalli-hardcore leanings was lost amidst the bludgeoning noise and gym bunny Greg Puciato’s screamed vocals. The lasting impression was simply that Napalm Death had been there, damaged their larynxes and sold the T-shirts aeons ago.
A few months later at The Reading Festival and Puciato decided to add some spice to DEP’s show by taking a dump on-stage, all in the name of “making an impression”. Suddenly the term “crap live performance” took on a whole new meaning…
Despite all this, DEP are very much the darlings of the press, with everyone from extreme metal publications to indie-schmindie types proclaiming Miss Machine to be one of the most eagerly-awaited metal albums, ooh, in quite a few weeks. So does it live up to its hefty billing?
Of course, the answer to this is completely subjective. If you’re a fan of the heaviest of metal but played in a discordant brew of twisting time signatures, stuttering, jagged rhythms and jarring, vomit-ological vocals, then Miss Machine may well be the missing piece of ammunition you’ve been looking for in how to annoy the neighbours.
The danger is that you may well end up annoying yourself in the process because the problem with the likes of Panasonic Youth, Van Damsel and Baby’s First Coffin is not just their incredibly abrasive nature, but that they lose focus in the desire to be as clever as possible.
Nowhere is this better demonstrated than in We Are The Storm which randomly switches after two minutes from insanity metal to an Elliott Smith-like dreamy acoustic section, before heading back into noise territory to finish. “We know how to change time signatures, and we’re ruddy well going to do it as much as possible, ner ner ner ner!” seems to be DEP’s motto of musicianship.
Thankfully, it’s not all fingernails-scraping-down-the-blackboard stuff, and herein lies the development of DEP’s sound since 1999′s Calculating Infinity. Sunshine The Werewolf still has screams a-plenty but the guitars are held back to create a more open, and dare I say it, interesting sound. Highway Robbery nearly features a chorus, whose surprise factor is doubled when you realise that Puciato is nearly singing it too.
In fact, the on-stage excrement-machine has quite an accomplished voice when he chooses to advertise it, as in Phone Home and Unretrofied. The former is nothing like the four tracks that precede it with Nine Inch Nails-esque brooding atmospherics and lyrics that Trent Reznor would be proud of (“tell another f**king joke to pacify the urge for suicide”). Meanwhile, the latter is a real shocker – a macabre but melodic rock number that isn’t too far removed from the Incubus-es of this world. It’s almost worth wishing it to be an MTV2 hit just to see the kids’ faces when they listen to the rest of the album…
DEP’s brand of muso-conscious grindcore has been termed “math metal” by some. To be honest, there are plenty of occasions on Miss Machine when “mad metal” seems a whole lot more appropriate. However, there’s no doubting that fans of Calculating Infinity will be in obtuse heaven, while the album’s more commercial moments will garner them wider acclaim.