All good things must come to an end. When The Dillinger Escape Plan announced that their upcoming album would be their last - as they felt they had reached their artistic peak - I was pretty disappointed. But damn, what a swansong it is; I've been listening to the record more or less non-stop since it dropped about two weeks ago.
From the release of album opener "Limerent Death", it was clear that the publicized betterment of the band members' relationships with one another had in no way compromised their musical approach.
On "Dissociation", The Dillinger Escape Plan have allowed themselves to indulge a bit in their experimentation, but there is really nothing too extravagant. The tritone chords, minor second intervals, chromatic runs, and constantly changing time signatures are all there - and the electronic and atmospheric elements, as well as the unexpected turns in genre are back.
This record is certainly one of the band's creative high points - a true mathcore tour de force.
The first track immediately kicks off with a powerful groove accented by jabbed, stabbing dissonant chords (one of Dillinger's calling cards), before launching into breakneck speed. The vocals in particular are drenched in punk influence, and
"I gave you everything you wanted, you were everything to me"
repeated twelve times with increasing intensity over an accelerando might be my new favourite section by the band.
"Symptom of Terminal Illness", the second track, goes somewhere else entirely. According to singer Greg Puciatio in a TeamRock track-by-track guide, the lyrics reference "panic attacks and panic disorder", which certainly fits the mood of the music. The song is melodic, downbeat, and moody, and though it is more straightforward than the previous track, choruses are beautifully spiced up by drummer Billy Rymer's odd accents.
After a weird opening, the next track head straight back into crazy-territory, but somehow ends up in a pumping punk kind of build up, which in turn leads to alternating spoken words over semi-clean arpeggios, and emotive vocal melodies over dirty strumming. "Wanting Not So Much To As To" is a great song.
"Fugue" is an experimental instrumental that starts off with electronic beats, and then goes into a sad and eerie guitar outro. The band's IDM influence is pretty obvious on this song.
Then comes "Low Feels Blvd", a piece that goes from screaming over complex rhythms to an odd, improvised guitar solo over a more traditional sounding jazz-section, which culminates in a return to the chaotic outset.
"Surrogate" is extreme mathcore, and sounds kind of like a repeating progression through genres, before transitioning to a kind of salsa beat that leads to the outro.
Next is "Honeysuckle". It's an angry, groovy song with great dynamics. I hear some Faith No More (ca. "Angel Dust") in this one, especially during the synth line in the middle of the song. This influence is hardly surprising to fans - the band did collaborate with Mike Patton on the "Irony Is a Dead Scene" EP, after all. When the intro riff is played over a more steady beat near the end of the song I'm reminded of the opener on their last album (2013's "One of Us Is the Killer"), "Prancer".
"Manufacturing Discontent" - there are some interesting grooves on this quite progressive song. I'm getting Faith No More vibes in the middle of this song as well, specifically from the descending vocal melody in combination with the tom-play.
Starting off as a more traditional-sounding hardcore song with a really driving beat, "Apologies Not Included" soon delves into technical drum parts and an extended break, before launching into a fast, aggressive part ending with a breakdown.
Then there's "Nothing To Forget", which starts out with some pop-punky/gothy/circusy guitar parts, that build, chugging towards the really cool chorus. About halfways in, the song goes into a hauntingly beautiful string part with velvety vocals, the climax of which leads into an intense reprise of the chorus.
The album closer is a strange, smooth ballad with the same name as the album. "Dissociation" starts opens with strings leading into electronic beats which, combined with the processed vocals, remind me more of Greg Puciato's side project The Black Queen. This fades into strings again, before bringing in drums proper. A gradual layering of vocal harmonies, before carefully fading out everything but a soft, soothing vocal chorus closes this great album with the words
"Finding a way to die alone".
In my opinion, "Dissociation" surpasses even the band's previous, more focused record "One of Us is the Killer" - which is no small feat - and it is easily one of the top albums I've heard so far this year. It showcases the band's versatility and clearly demonstrates the proficiency of its members. "Dissociation" is emotional and ambitious - and I think it provides a great sense of closure. There is no doubt in my mind that Dillinger is going out on top.
While The Dillinger Escape Plan's music might not be particularly conventional or accessible - it might even be downright challenging to casual listeners - my opinion is that they're one of the most interesting bands out there as of right now.
Indeed, an editorial in MetalSucks claims the band is among "the greatest bands of all time" - and I tend to agree.
If you're interested in the story behind the band and this album in particular, check out Ben Weinman's recent appearance on the SWIM podcast (embedded below, also available on iTunes), where he talks about this in addition to his other projects.
The Dillinger Escape Plan is currently touring (for the last time) - and the band goes balls out on the road as well; just take a look at this video of guitarist Ben Weinman hanging from the ceiling whilst playing...
... or this one, where singer Greg Puciato jumps off the second floor balcony at Webster Hall in New York:
You can buy "Dissociation" directly from the band at their Bandcamp page.