With 2007’s Ire Works, 2010’s Option Paralysis, and now 2013’s One Of Us Is The Killer, New Jersey mathcore band The Dillinger Escape Plan have become one of the most consistently satisfying bands making music today. One Of Us Is The Killer is typical stellar Dillinger Escape Plan, which is very much a good thing; the record’s punishing screams, complex drum beats and overall explosive urgency give you exactly what you want in a Dillinger Escape Plan record.
Many of One Of Us Is The Killer’s songs work so well because they impressively, on a dime, break down and pick right back up after a quick interlude, as on first two tracks Prancer and When I Lost My Bet. Prancer is one hell of an opener: fast, quintessential mathcore drums eventually give way to a funk-metal riff and leadman Greg Puciato’s pulverizing scream, after which the funky beat again succumbs to brutally high-pitched mathcore. Midway through, however, Prancer turns melodic; even if not quite the experimental ambience that many metal bands have begun to use well today, Prancer’s breakdown offers a breather and a fascinatingly beautiful contrast to Billy Rymer’s drum assaults. For further contrast, however, Rymer’s drums are tone-perfect, often mirroring the hectic spontaneity of avant-garde jazz and offering a small bout of civilization and “culture” to counter the rest of the band’s stunning and thrilling neanderthalish brutalism.
Perhaps the most impressive track on One Of Us Is The Killer, however, is the title track, the quintessential slow melodic track that somehow finds itself on every Dillinger Escape Plan record (the title track would still be the hardest track on any given Foo Fighters album). With an unlikely beginning riff that sounds eerily similar to that on Vomit by Girls, Puciato adopts a croon that’s not quite like a falsetto before launching into an anthemic chorus that could and should find the track on alt rock radio. During the chorus, Puciato sounds somewhere in between Dave Grohl and Josh Homme and certainly shows off his rockstar-worthy vocal chops.
For the length of the title track, you wonder why The Dillinger Escape Plan doesn’t just become the most interesting alt-rock band on the planet. Then, they launch into the next track, the to-the-point Hero Of The Soviet Union, a song that doesn’t waste any of its three minutes along its many valleys, Puciato’s noisy scream eventually arriving at a jarringly melodic chorus during which the band members harmonize (!), only for that chorus to give way, again, to Puciato’s blood-curdling screams. By the end of Hero Of The Soviet Union, you’ve forgotten that The Dillinger Escape Plan can make a somewhat radio-friendly song, and you’re ready for some more full-throttle mathcore.
Occasionally, The Dillinger Escape Plan are tongue-in-cheek, as on fifth track Nothing’s Funny. While the very act of a hard-as-fuck band titling a song Nothing’s Funny is automatically meant to be funny in and of itself, there’s more to Nothing’s Funny than the ironic title. The song expands upon the pop melodies of the previous track as its narrator addresses another person’s unrealistic expectations, singing “You hope to God you never die” and later “Your joke is wasting my time”. If The Dillinger Escape Plan is brutal, Nothing’s Funny is brutally honest, a metal track with a driving bassline, a falsetto-laden chorus, and general pop sensibilities. Even if Puciato sings, “But now I see that the joke’s on me,” the joke is really on the listener who takes Nothing’s Funny at face value, and on the person obsessed with his perception of his own immortality.
Overall, since their formation in 1997, The Dillinger Escape Plan have seamlessly fused math metal with aspects of pop and jazz, a trend that wholeheartedly continues on One Of Us Is The Killer, and that renders them one of the most dynamic bands, let alone metal bands, in music today. Like their namesake, The Dillinger Escape Plan can get away with the most preposterous-sounding plans on paper, but their execution is always spotless. Unlike their namesake, however, The Dillinger Escape Plan aren’t likely to encounter their Biograph Theater anytime soon.