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Sunday, February 10, 2008

CD Review: Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works

Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works
2007 Relapse Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

One of the lasting images I've had in my concertgoing experiences is the sight of Dillinger Escape Plan headlining a gig in Washington, DC with Every Time I Die and Zao opening. It was the day after George W. Bush won office a second time with the baffling statistic of only 11% of the city at his back actually voting for him. The atmosphere at The Black Cat in DC possessed an unstable electric charge of outrage and shock that the decidedly anti-Bush crowd had no trouble in expressing its displeasure. I certainly won't forget my on-site interview with Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die, who had just released Hot Damn and were a few steps from becoming stars of the metal underground. Their performance contained a lot of the frenetic rage that Buckley expressed in our interview as we'd discussed the preposterous election outcome, but as visually impressive as Every Time I Die was, nothing could've prepared me or a fair chunk of the audience for the positively insane stage outpouring the headliners bestowed.

When you hear a band described as "owning the stage," you've seen nothing until you've seen Dillinger Escape Plan criss-cross like transmutated hellions, letting nary an inch of the stage be remiss of their presence, including the tops of the amps. Accompanying this fireball puissance was some of the loudest cacophony I've heard in a live environment outside a Morbid Angel show or even Motorhead simply tuning up. Back then, I recognized a band that was trying to reinvent grind metal and I wasn't quite sure I dug it, but I did note that the crowd found it so infectious there was not just one pit in full action, but two; standard for an arena concert, but not always a common occurrence in a club. I remember going home with a screaming headache after the aural pounding Dillinger Escape Plan inflicted, but never will I forget their onstage lunacy that rivaled even Faith No More's wild antics (I often think back on Mike Patton climbing into the rafters in 1990 of the long-closed Bayou Club in DC and stretching out on his back while singing).

Over the past two albums, I've kept a closer eye on Dillinger Escape Plan, because like Between the Buried and Me, they've fearlessly tread the line between standard grind techniques and genuine, expansive art. I took note with interest when I saw the video for "Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants" from Dillinger Escape Plan's 2004 album Miss Machine and I had one of those rare moments when I scooted forward on the couch with consumed interest. I'd underestimated these guys, for sure.

With their latest album Ire Works, Dillinger Escape Plan has proven that they, like Between the Buried Me, are capable of merging grindcore with a flotilla of external supplements that is nothing short of full-on genius. As both were shown the way towards harmoniously stirring in genre-bending elements into a mathmatical stew by The Mars Volta, what Dillinger Escape Plan has done through their recent efforts is to yank in elements of jazz, electronica, vocal huckestering from Greg Puciato (have a go with his fun faux swoons on "Black Bubblegum" that hail Mike Patton) and a raging tempest of Black Flag-laced hardcore that allows them to dick hard with unchained algorithms and dizzying guitar notes and strikes that has of late been harnessed into a wonderfully controlled chaos that was still in refinement stages up from 1999's Calculating Infinity.

Dillinger Escape Plan's ability to write cohesive and infectious tunes amidst their swirling algebraic grind reveals a discipline that would've been unheard of in the genre's foundation years from Carcass, Extreme Noise Terror and the grandpappies of grind, Napalm Death. The rock dittyism of "Black Bubblegum" being one example, Dillinger Escape Plan rocks out like Bon Scott era AC/DC on "Milk Lizard," an energetic toe tapper filled with sublayered horns that reel in a top coat of alarming disorder, along with snaky piano notes just to spice up the basic riff sequence that forms the basis of the song.

If you think you're getting off easy, abandon that thought at once, because Dillinger Escape Plan doesn't forget that at their inner core is a propensity to blitz you senseless with their speed-skid-speed-skid teasery on "Lurch" while going full throttle on "Nong Eye Gong" and "Party Smasher." As if their soothing vocal syncopation capping the end of "Dead as History" isn't intelligent enough, much less the airy jazz/percussion jam of the album's closer "Mouth of Ghosts," the way Dillinger Escape Plan seamlessly weaves jazz portions inside the utterly rowdy "Horse Hunter" without losing step is something to truly savor; only in the final stanza does the song opt a signature swap, lighting the fuse to a loud rawk finish that makes the song perfect from beginning-to-end.

The difference between Dillinger Escape Plan now versus a few years ago is that they've understood--like Between the Buried and Me--that playing on a tilt for 45-50 minutes solid is sheer mind meld and ear rape, as it is a limited way to exist when a thousand ideas are obviously scuttling inside your head, begging for a proper channel. Kudos to Dillinger Escape Plan for their brave reinvention of themselves as well as a specific thread of metal that is certainly not for the weak, but it's also not for the life sustenance of most of its practitioners, Napalm Death notwithstanding. There's a reason it's called grind metal...

Rating: ****1/2

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