There will be no encore. The hour is nigh when some lucky few will experience the last gig, the last song, the last moment of the world’s most violent performative force. And the rest will be silence – because after The Dillinger Escape Plan leave the stage, the vacuum left behind won’t fill. Few artists have ever accomplished such a monumentally intense yet far-reaching career. How many can claim to have collaborated with both Mike Patton and Jarren Benton? To have covered Justin Timberlake and be covered by string quartet Seven)Suns? After years of dizzying performances and stratospheric success, The Dillinger Escape Plan find themselves with no barrier left to break.
But the object of breaking never seems to matter much. Never known for subtle entrances, Dillinger pitch the bar off into the sun immediately with “Limerent Death,” a song that presses and beats against the walls of any room unfortunate enough to host it. “Limerent Death” makes “Prancer” look like elevator music, and puts the band’s previous spazz-outs to shame; it should end at about the 2:40 mark, but it’s such a powerful song that it bounces back from the grave, slinging its weight forward into a collapse that’s disturbing in scope. Puciato’s mangled vocal delivery warps the kitschy accelerando into a spectacle of insanity, and Weinman’s absolute trust in his talent is obvious across the album.
2013’s One of Us is the Killer was many things, but I liked to sum it up in a single name: Billy Rymer. Mind-blowing performances on tracks like “When I Lost My Bet” established his absolute dominance in technical drumming, and the detail and energy of his playing made great songs into incredible songs. Yet on Dissociation Greg Puciato gets the last chance to contribute and uses it to break new ground and top even Rymer’s performance. Puciato writes and records his vocals only after the rest of the album is essentially finished, meaning that he has a unique freedom to shape songs in ways the rest of the band can’t; yet the music is tailor made for him in the first place. When the band give him addled interludes, he responds with spoken-word ennui in “Wanting Not So Much to as To.” When given space between attacks in “Manufacturing Discontent,” he fills with a yowl that’s half blues, half hardcore. His double-tracked pop-crooning is breathtaking next to Seven)Suns quartet’s strings and layered industrial polyrhythm on The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s final song, imploring; “Find me a way to die alone.”
Yet for all of Puciato’s considerable charisma, he’d be lost without Weinman & Co. writing the most grating and unpredictable music on the planet for him to pour over. If for some reason you were afraid that Dillinger would back off the pedal, you have nothing to fear. The guitar work in this album is some of Weinman’s best ever, whether he’s executing excruciatingly percussive speed riffing or adding subtle harmonic flourishes to more melodic riffs. Even the ballad-like “Symptom of Terminal Illness” rides a shifty odd-time line that flows between aggression and agility with impossible lightness.
With all of this experimentation on full display Dissociation proves to be The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s weirdest album by a mile. “Low Feels Blvd” transitions from “Sugar Coated Sour” to a fuzzy samba solo in the span of 100 seconds and when Puciato finally rips through the soaring, ultra-prog guitar work, it’s like he’s actually splitting Mahavishnu Orchestra in half. “Fugue” takes Ire Works-style interludes to their logical extreme, and it’s actually surprising not to hear Greg Puciato trying to scream or even rap his way through it. Dillinger are painting in colors I’ve never heard.
And isn’t that the point? Though not as uniformly aggressive and dark as One of Us Is the Killer, Dissociation is by any measure more bizarre, unprecedented, and uncomfortable than any other recording from the band. Every album from The Dillinger Escape Plan is a grower because fans are never really prepared for its novelty; but looking back, this is even more unconventional than Ire Works. “Limerent Death,” “Low Feels Blvd,” and “Dissociation” are some of the best songs not just of this year but of The Dillinger Escape Plan‘s entire oeuvre; as challenging as “43% Burnt” and “When I lost my Bet” but powerful as “Sunshine the Werewolf.”
Rather than become stagnant, stable, and predictable, The Dillinger Escape Plan chose to push boundaries in every way even after widespread popularity. Dissociation carries the trend to the very end. It’s a mighty accomplishment even among one of the most forward-thinking, intense, and excellent discographies ever. When Billy Rymer’s drumkit is dashed to the floor for the last time, soaked in sweat and I dearly hope blood, it will have not been for naught. They gave us everything we wanted – and more.