Self destruction is The Dillinger Escape Plan’s calling card. The jazz-metal quintet is notorious for physical, injury-plagued live sets. Lead singer Greg Puciato has shit on stage, used his microphone stand as a javelin, hung from the rafters and been hit by a guitar or two. Guitarist Ben Weinman has been through multiple surgeries brought on by his insanely prodigious playing and his frequent wont to throw himself into drum kits.
So, it isn’t exactly a surprise that the band want you to believe their latest disc is their last. Their new album, Dissociation, plays out as a jazz-metal meditation on one man’s struggle to reconcile his need for human relationships with darker impulses that drive him toward total isolation. The album’s theme might go a long way towards convincing listeners that this is in fact the band’s end. But the execution of the idea is at complete odds with that.
It’s a shame if this is truly the end, because Dissociation is perhaps the most cohesive work the Philadelphia-based quintet has ever delivered. The decision to give up now feels a bit like a kid getting an A+ on his midterm and deciding to drop the class in case he fails his final exam.
Puciato has proudly touted the band’s decision to reach a “thematic end” before things get stale. “A painter doesn’t just paint until they run out of paint,” Puciato recently said.
But painters do hone their craft, refine their skills and strive to perfect their vision. Weinman, drummer Billy Rymer and bassist Liam Wilson’s freakout jazz-core compositions have only become more musical as well as more experimental over the years.
Puciato, however, has generally remained wedded to bleating about relationships gone wrong. His pipes are nothing to ignore–he’s got a range to rival Mike Patton and is generally more impactful when he’s using his powerful singing voice, as he does in his industrial-dance side project The Black Queen.
On Dissociation, Puciato finally appears to have evolved along with his bandmates, delivering a vocal and lyrical performance that complements their dynamism.
The first few tracks of Dissociation manifest some traditional structure, but by track five the album begins to blend into a series of experimentations that see the band jump from brutal doom riffs and spiky hardcore punk to Autechre-styled beatscapes and soothing jazz interludes. On some tracks Puciato seems to be invoking Trent Reznor on Pretty Hate Machine; at other times he summons up the a sound similar to Kurt Cobain in his most alienated and paranoid moments on Bleach. Things come to a head on “Nothing to Forget” as Puciato begs, “Please let me be by myself, I don’t need anything.”
On Dissociation, Puciato reaches the best kind of balance for his delivery since his debut with the band on Miss Machine, while the band dares to go places it hasn’t before. Sure, Puciato’s still yelling about relationships, but you get a sense he’s more concerned about his relationship with music, his band and himself than he is in a long-lost teenage crush. So Dillinger has matured–and it should continue to. To quit now would be admitting that Dillinger was always meant to be dumb and discardable. To move forward would be the real challenge.