For 20 years The Dillinger Escape Plan have maintained their status as one of extreme music’s most technically proficient, influential, forward-thinking and devastating acts on record and off. The band helped pave the way for the niche subgenre mathcore and their presence can be felt in all things technical and complex. Naturally when a band that is held to such a high regard as Dillinger announces their breakup, the sadness can be felt throughout the music community. But while fans may still reel from the loss of one of their favorite bands, they can find some solace in how dense and monolithic their swansong is. The band wanted to go out while they are still on top and Dissociation they go out swinging.
The Dillinger Escape Plan combine elements of everything they have ever done, and things they never had a chance to try, on their sixth and presumably final album. Dissociation is like a mathcore grab-bag in this regard as listeners never know what they are going to get. It is full of twists and turns that are surprising, even by Dillinger‘s standards. It doesn’t always work in the band’s favor, but the majority of the time it provides for some hard-hitting and discombobulating moments.
The band come out guns blazing on tracks like the opening bombardment, “Limerent Death”. A lurching, venomous riff dominates the majority of this track but seamlessly gives way to more frenetic chaos, jazz phrasing and quirky noodling. Frontman Greg Puciato steals the show on this track, and throughout the album really, by feverishly transitioning from his trademark howls, to piercing screeches, bestial grunts and beyond. The final moments of this tune are arguably some of the heaviest in this band’s history.
Tracks like the tumultuous “Honeysuckle” are by and large traditional Dillinger, but still beat listeners senseless. This track in particular features mind-numbing tornadoes of angular riffs, which are displaced by gypsy jazz breaks and propulsive vocal melodies, that build into a breakdown of cataclysmic proportions. The visceral aggression and contrasting schizoid character of this track sounds like it belongs somewhere between Calculating Infinity and Miss Machine.
No Dillinger record would be complete without an apocalyptic rock number, a void which is filled by “Symptom of Terminal Illness”. Clean, twirling guitar riffs and waves of ethereal ambiance comprise the track’s sinister verses, while towering chords and Puciato’s commanding vocal presence construct insanely memorable choruses. Just like the band’s other tunes of this ilk, it is sure to stay in listener’s minds for days on end.
“Wanting Not So Much to as To” is one of the first tracks where the band bombard the listener with several ideas at once in the hopes of scrambling minds. The track begins with tension-building drum rolls and quirky trumpet lines before it explodes into the band’s infamous off-kilter assaults. The mathematical thrashing and bashing eventually gives way to psychedelic breaks that are spearheaded by Puciato’s spoken-word prose, as well as anthemic hooks. But unfortunately the song ends with a section of uninspired chord progressions that leave a lot to be desired. This lackluster moment leads into the album’s other misstep, the electronic track “Fugue”. Though it is well-constructed and will appease anyone who was a fan of Ire Works‘ flirtation with electronica, it ultimately adds nothing to the album.
But the band pick things back up on the one-two punch of “Low Feels Blvd” and “Surrogate”. Both of these tracks feature maelstroms of seizure-inducing riffs, jazz exhibitions, stuttering breaks, propulsive choruses and essentially everything makes Dillinger Dillinger rolled into one. But the album’s crowning achievement, and arguably one of the band’s strongest moments in their discography, is its closing title track. The hauntingly beautiful “Dissociation” is awash with melancholic string arrangements, electronic flair and expressive and complex drumming courtesy of Hella and Death Grips‘ Zach Hill. Puciato’s enthralling, R&B-esque vocal performances on this somber, yet triumphant track bring the album and the band’s career to a fitting close.
It may not strike a chord with listeners upon first listen, but repeated visits to Dissociation will open their eyes to how glorious and dense the record is. This record is a culmination of everything The Dillinger Escape Plan have ever done and is a fittingly chaotic conclusion to 20 years of musical deviance. The band play with a myriad of different ideas on this record and although they do not always work, the vast majority of them are pulled off with finesse. This is probably the album the band always wanted to make, and it shows by how unapologetic and dense it is. Though it is a shame they decided to call it day, fans should rejoice in the fact that they left behind an impressive final album to cap off their impressive catalog.
Release Date: October 14, 2016
Label: Party Smasher
Favorite Tracks: “Limerent Death”, “Symptom of Terminal Illness”, “Surrogate”, “Honeysuckle”, “Nothing to Forget” and “Dissociation”