The Dilinger Escape Plan_Miss MachineIn my experience, there are two kinds of people; the ones that love The Dillinger Escape Plan, and the ones that don’t really get what all the fuss is about. Among the former group, there are those who say that they peaked early and have been cruising since Under the Running Board or 2002’s brilliantly strange Mike Patton collaboration Irony is a Dead Scene. These fans will claim that, after one of these two albums, the band either stopped being abrasive enough or stopped being inventive. In scientific circles, we tend to call sentiments like these “Wrong.” In reality, the zenith of the world’s most beloved mathcore band came in 2004, with a bold and bold-faced album named Miss Machine.

This album not only introduced the world to the tree-armed madman that is Greg Puciato, but ushered in the current era of incredibly diverse, but still abrasive and flabbergasting DEP material. It showed us that the band’s revolving-door lineup of misfit musicians could not only shred, but groove and croon on par with any band out there and spoke volumes of Ben Weinman’s growing compositional talent. It’s still technical and precise, but in contrast to the band’s previous work, immensely experimental and its intrepid denial of genre lines is made somehow sensible and inviting because of its transcendentally excellent writing and performance. And the album isn’t just a landmark for the band, it’s a staple for fans and an album that I have a very personal connection with.

Back when I was a wee child, I heard Meshuggah fans tell of the wonders of a band completely unlike, yet somehow closely allied to, the Swedish experimental metal legends. I decided to investigate. I listened to a bunch of songs and didn’t get it. Obviously there was a lot going on with this band, but it didn’t click with me, it didn’t feel right, and I gave up on it. Then, by chance, “Phone Home” stumbled into my eardrums. I was smitten.

the-dillinger-escape-plan_2004

As “Phone Home”s grinding smolder slowly builds tension, Greg Puciato whisper-sings over minimalist drumming and an anxious guitar line. When the string snaps, there’s time to draw a single breath before the song’s monumental chorus takes hold. And after the shock subsides everything has grown louder, more intense, more menacing, and he’s not singing but yelling now, and strain is beginning to show. And finally, after one more chorus, the song combusts – Puciato is screaming full force and every instrument is both cowering from the singer and echoing the rabid frustration of his lyrics.

This four minute crescendo continues what the opening duo of “Pansonic Youth” and the showstopping “Sunshine the Werewolf” started from the first few seconds of the album; the subtle reinvention of The Dillinger Escape Plan as a disturbingly human musical unit. Puciato brought to the band the incredible vocal diversity that their music always begged for without the Dadaist lyrics and looney-tunes lip-flapping of Mike Patton. Paired with the heavy industrial influence of the album and the most focused and in my opinion, most effective, songwriting the band has ever brought to the table, the album is breathtaking. Every moment bleeds intelligence and emotion, from the crooning of “We are the Storm” to the heavy atmosphere, gigantic contrast, and absolute power of “Sunshine the Werewolf,” which in concert is often quite appropriately punctuated by Greg Puciato jumping off of a large object onto someone’s face. It’s too good for hyperbole.

greg-dep-blood-421x300Take, for instance, “Baby’s First Coffin.” Anyone making the argument that DEP sold out or forgot their roots will be quickly and soundly silenced by the song’s continuously reinvented 15/8 hook and hideous ending, either of which would have fit soundly alongside “43% Burnt” or “4th Grade Dropout.” But unlike previous offerings, in line with the tried and true insanity of these riffs is melody, intrigue and genuinely human ennui that takes over the second half of the album. The horrifyingly clean and catchy “Unretrofied” is not only honest, but incredibly self-effacing, confronting the idea of “selling out” and wasting away forgotten in suburban insipidness. By in turn embodying (in both the structure and the chorus’s tone) and subverting (in the lyrics and the tone of the verses) exactly the vapid drabness that the band rebels against, the song becomes not just a catchy tune or a collection of melodies and riffs, but a truly evocative and disturbingly prescient commentary that over my years has often hit a little too close to home.

It’s doubtful that Miss Machine will happen again. An album like this is something of a unicorn or, perhaps more appropriately in this situation, a chimaera; a rare creature whose sightings are few and becomes more and more mythical with each passing year. As talented and excellent as The Dillinger Escape Plan continues to be, I don’t think they’ll ever become the storm that they were in 2004 again, and maybe it’s for the better, because perhaps that makes Miss Machine’s perfection even more obvious. What we can all be sure of, though, is that the fate that the band saw over their shoulder in “Unretrofied” has been put far behind them. They are not a hiccup in the throat of hardcore, or a flash in metal’s considerably blackened pan, but a creative force to be reckoned with and a spectacularly committed and extreme musical act whose recordings are brilliant and whose live shows are the stuff of legend. In the end, they have never faked it, and never left anything for a new song, and have always left everything on the table. It’s just that this one time, the table was a bit bigger than it would ever be again.

Share →
  • Feytalist

    Are 2004 albums old now? Oh my.

    I’m one of the ones who never really got what the fuss was about. Then again, I feel the same way about Meshuggah, so maybe that’s it.

    • 10 years go fast.

      Maybe it’s not for you, but if you’re curious and have the opportunity, I would recommend to hit a live show from these bands. I had no trouble “getting” Meshuggah, I don’t really think they are as unapproachable or complex as some other bands, but I definitely started to appreciate DEP until after watching them perform.

      Maybe it’s kind of the same issue some have with Dream Theater, it’s music made more for musicians than listeners. I can’t craft a bad riff to save my life, so maybe that’s why I personally can’t stand Dream Theater, studio or live. Your mileage may vary.

      • The Lascivious Snape

        Best live show I’ve ever seen was Dillinger Escape Plan. There was a moment or two I thought I actually might die … and I wasn’t even moshing.

  • chris

    Never heard it. I am interested.

  • Not a hardcore/metalcore fan but ia am a DEP plan.The term mathcore made me listen to them and when i did,not many months ago, i was amazed especially with this record.I like the structured chaos they bring, almost reminds me of black metal at some points(Dodheimsgard) due to the pace changes and the complicated structured but with raw power.
    Maybe my way to justify why i listen to them.

    • Andy_0

      Same here. Never really got into their other stuff or similar bands but I still listen to Miss Machine fairly regularly.

    • The Lascivious Snape

      I’m almost with you on the mathcore thing. It’s a fascinating and promising label, but rarely do the other bands which receive the title appeal to me like DEP.

      Other bands labeled mathcore somewhat regularly that I find scratch the itch: Converge, Exotic Animal Petting Zoo, The Chariot, The Crinn, Car Bomb.

  • one

    Always thought of Miss Machine as a too straightforward thing, with not so much interesting things going on during the listen, to the contrary of Mike Patton’s “When good dogs…” AND, somehow, more late Ire Works (with it’s electionic, jazzy piano and grindcorishly-one-two-minute pieces sounding nice and intelligent)

    • Ire Works was really good.

    • The Lascivious Snape

      Ire Works is altogether a stranger, more progressive album, even with the relatively “poppy” tracks like “Milk Lizard” and “Black Bubblegum” (both great tracks in their own right).

      Fact is I love every DEP record and can’t be objective on them. They are very nearly my favorite band.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    Thanks now I feel old :)

  • The Lascivious Snape

    Really enjoyed this article.

    For me, Dillinger Escape Plan are a band who have never made a misstep. Unlike some other premier modern metal bands such as Opeth, Mastodon and Baroness (albeit great bands all of them), DEP manages to chart new territory with every release without ever seeming to become something they’re not.

    They’re also the rare band that I think a valid case could be made for any album in their discography as the unqualified best. Well, One of Us is the Killer might be difficult, because that album still needs to get some history on it, but otherwise. My favorite is Option Paralysis. The combination of aggression, melody and mania has never been sharper than on that flawless album.

  • Jm from nj

    This is THE DEP album for me. It built off of “Irony is a Dead Scene” and Puciato added so much to this band (ala Patton for “IiaDS”). I’ve liked everything since…but never as much as this album.

  • Andrés Alafita

    Not old enough.