Ever since releasing their seminal and still-stunning breakthrough album, Calculating Infinity, The Dillinger Escape Plan has been the standard by which all other bands of their genre are judged, that genre often being referred to as “mathcore.”
In reality, their music has been an unclassifiable blend of thrash, freeform jazz, and the occasional foray into actual melody and choruses that has established them as fearless pioneers and truly groundbreaking artists. To see the band live is to watch a group of men throw themselves ferociously into the performance as if it is their last, playing with a piledriving intensity and a technicality that often crosses over into the realm of “How are they even doing that?”
Such is the nature of their music that quantum leaps at this stage of the band’s career are nearly impossible. When you are that far ahead of the curve for that long it is inevitable that you will catch up with yourself at some point and hit some kind of glass ceiling.
So it is that One Of Us Is The Killer, The Dillinger Escape Plan’s fifth full-length release, is perhaps the band’s most predictable release to date, but if that sounds like faint praise, it is quite the opposite. This is a band that has an absolute mastery of its abilities, and the avenues they choose to explore on the new release are less about making leaps forward and more about focusing on spinning the web into different shapes.
Dillinger has never been a band for a quiet opening, and so it proves with “Prancer,” a track whose opening atonal, two-chord blast recalls the terrifying majesty of “43% Burnt” before the song launches into one of those ridiculous time signatures that seems almost impossible to actually play, never mind follow. The song eventually collapses in on itself before the band reconstructs it almost as quickly, a dazzling virtuosic display of their collective talent.
“When I Lost My Bet” is even better, its jazzy opening drums barely masking a schizophrenic delivery that is awe-inspiring in its shape-shifting four-minute running time. As usual, the band displays more ideas in a single song than most of its peers can muster over the course of an album.
Things do come a little unstuck with the title track, one of several songs on the album that attempts to interweave recognizable melodies into the band’s chaotic sound. “Nothing’s Funny” also struggles to avoid sounding a little bit bland by their extremely high standards, whereas “Paranoia Shields” weaves the tune through a flurry of drums and guitar, representing the best example of what they are attempting to do here. Whereas on previous albums there has been almost too clear a distinction between the freakouts and the calmer tracks, Dillinger is attempting something more seamless here, and the result is the band’s most consistent album since Miss Machine.
The most successful melding of these two sides of the coin is “Understanding Decay,” which features some mind-boggling fret work, includes a hint of electronics, and is almost an x-ray peek into The Dillinger Escape Plan’s methodology with its slightly slower tempo allowing the listener a chance to keep up. The track also highlights the sterling production work that has gone into One Of Us Is The Killer, which prevents the album from becoming a noisy dirge despite all the energy and speed on display. The precision of the songs here is scalpel sharp, with not a single note audible that is not supposed to be.
More than anything, One Of Us Is The Killer proves yet again that The Dillinger Escape Plan, for all of their ability to use shock and awe, is a band that can stand with anybody when it comes to pushing the musical envelope and displaying subtlety, clarity of vision, and artistry in the least likely circumstances.
When I recently referred to them as the best band on the planet, I was not being facetious. In a musical landscape where any deviation from the most predictable path can be overly hyped as original, it remains a pleasure to hear the real thing. This is not their best album, but it is a fine entry in their canon, and once again their dedication to their craft has rendered a lot of other bands’ efforts obsolete.
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