Released: 2004, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
The Dillinger Escape Plan has always reminded me of metal’s version of Radiohead. The critics think they are the cat’s ass and heap praise on them like they are the second coming of Christ yet many people who listen to the music think, “What the hell is this noise?!” It’s plain and simple: either you get The Dillinger Escape Plan or you don’t. I, for one, do “get” them and the new CD, MISS MACHINE, opens up a whole new spectrum to the band’s sound that was first unleashed in 1999 with CALCULATING INFINITY. The band’s metal/hardcore hybrid blends jazz, Latin, industrial and “math metal”—a term invented for them. The five-year break between records saw Dmitri Minakakis leave and his replacement, Greg Pusciato, has WAAAAAY more to offer behind the mike. Minakakis was pure hardcore, but Pusciato brings clean vocals and a much broader range to MISS MACHINE and this shift alone has improved the band’s sound and scope in spades. The technicality of Brian Benoit and Ben Weinman’s staggeringly complex riffing remains as does the bizarre time-changes led buy the rhythm section of Liam Wilson and Chris Pennie. Let’s call this The Dillinger Escape Plan version 2.0 and agree that whatever was expected of them with MISS MACHINE was just thrown out the window and built upon tenfold.
Puciato’s pained screams are first out of the gates on “Panasonic Youth” and he snarls his way around the noodling riffs and jazz-infused middle section where Benoit and Weinman face off. Despite the five year break, the band hasn’t lost a step in bringing disorder to the table. On “Sunshine The Werewolf,” instead of just going for the throat and pummeling the listener, the band dares to throw in a melodic soothing break that allows time for a breather but then a piercing shriek hits you and you’re dragged back for another beating. Pennie’s drumming is inhumanly fast yet it is possible to every kick, snare and cymbal clear as a bell. Puciato exercises his range on “Highway Robbery” and “Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants,” wavering between a clean vocal and a throaty roar even pulling in the listener with a catchy chorus. These are perhaps the band’s most accessible songs to date and while no slouch in the heavy department, the frenetic pacing is put to rest and, in each case, an actual song, complete with—*GASP*—a discernable structure emerges. “Phone Home” is the closest thing to a Nine Inch Nails song I have ever heard without Trent Reznor being involved and The Dillinger Escape Plan pull it off with brazen accuracy. Every part of the equation is there complete with electronic samples, tortured wails and that cold, disconnected feeling one gets listening to a NIN track. “We Are The Storm” is perhaps the most obvious throwback to CALCULATING INFINITY with its off-beat time changes and Pusciato’s soothing vocal that begins just past the halfway point of the song once again demonstrates just how much this band has progressed. “Baby’s First Coffin” appeared on the soundtrack to last year’s futuristic flop, UNDERWORLD, and was fans’ first exposure to Pusciato and silenced critics who thought that the change in vocalist’s coupled with the five-year break would render the band irrelevant. In fact, that track offered a raised middle finger and displayed the breadth of the band and most importantly, Pusciato himself. “Unretrofied” will face the most scrutiny with its sampled electro-beats and mesmerizing vocal harmonies but it really is a forward-thinking track that pushes the boundaries of the genres that the band falls into. Hell, this track could actually be a hit! The chaotic maelstrom that closes “The Perfect Design” leaves the listener breathless, awestruck and second-guessing just what happened over the past 39 minutes.
The Dillinger Escape Plan rocked the foundations of metal in 1999 with CALCULATING INFINITY and it really was something that had never been heard before. Now, five years later, MISS MACHINE offers just as many surprises wrapped in eleven different packages. Even their harshest critics must applaud the band for going out on a limb and extrapolating something from genres as far from metal as possible and using them to accentuate their music. It is a challenging listen, but MISS MACHINE is a testament to what a lineup change and hiatus can do to a band allowing them to simultaneously improve and mature. I’m already salivating for album number three.
KILLER KUTS: “Panasonic Youth,” “Sunshine The Werewolf,” “Highway Robbery,” “Phone Home,” “Baby’s First Coffin,” “Unretrofied”