Dissociation by The Dillinger Escape Plan

Release date: October 14, 2016
Label: Party Smasher Inc.

A clatter of drums, guitars crank and grind into the dirtiest of riffs, like some mutanoid maniacal robot rebooting. Here come the impossible time signatures and a vocalist seemingly listening to an entirely different backing track. There’s just shit everywhere. That’s the intro to Dissociation, the latest and apparently last album from New Jersey metallers The Dillinger Escape Plan. No fucking about, just straight in, boots flailing, much like front man, Greg Puciato and his on-stage/off-stage antics, increasingly insane. I reviewed their last album, One of Us is the Killer, and you’ll be pleased to know that things haven’t changed for me. I’m left utterly confused as to what it is that I actually like about this band, but perversely, I’m still drawn to them. When they’re good, they’re very, very good, but when they’re bad they’re just plain disturbing.

As an introduction to Dissociation, opener ‘Limerent Death’ is severe and brutal and an absolute car crash on first listen. Oddly, after three listens, it makes perfect sense and you get to know all of the nuances and twists, I think I’ve cracked the code at last. There’s an early retreat into calmness with the fluid intro to ‘Symptom of Terminal Illness’, an understated and melodic verse leaps full blooded into an epic earworm of a chorus. Much like the title track of the last album, it’s probably the band’s best attempt at a crossover hit, even throwing in a delicate nod to post-rock in the mid-section. This is The Dillinger Escape Plan showing off their melodic capabilities and whilst it is a relatively straightforward song by their standards, the tempos are still devilishly complex and fidgety.

Some of the tracks on the album have a common ground, they refuse to be tied down and no amount of listens gets these tracks to register with me. Every listen is like hearing a new track, each time as chaotic as the first, so no, the code is still not deciphered. Guilty parties are ‘Wanting Not So Much To As To’, Surrogate’, ‘Honeysuckle’ and ‘Manufacturing Discontent’. It’s probably a better arrangement to absorb each track individually rather than as a composite whole. One track that really only needs to be heard once is the oddity ‘Fugue’, an instrumental passage of electronic burbles and flickering beats. Devoid of any melody and structure, it comes across as if a kid had hit the demo button on their Casio keyboard while jamming a screwdriver into the battery compartment. I guess it does act as a little diversion from the surrounding bedlam.

The complex collision of riffs, twisted beats and schizoid tempos that constitute ‘Low Feels Blvd’ has an unwelcome addition of a slow jazzy section with languid guitar work. Then there is a switch to a prog-rock section that sounds a bit like something from a recent (and bad) Prince album. Of course, hell as to reopen and unleash a few demons for the ending. The aforementioned ‘Surrogate’ is hookless and over exuberant with insane riffs and crazy timings, courtesy of outstanding drummer Billy Rymer. After a fleeting moment when the track actually comes to a halt, it returns as a mellow passage with hideously bummed out guitar notes being tossed into the air. The impossible timing, splattering beats and fighting guitars of ‘Honeysuckle’ fire up a furious blizzard of vitriol that unfortunately I just can’t get to grips with.

There’s a straight-up groove neatly shackled between frustratingly hacked beats and riffs in ‘Manufacturing Discontent’. The occasional lurch into a tangible and memorable hook suffocated by the determination to fucking obliterate. Things slow down a little with the sludge riffs and head nodding groove of ‘Apologies Not Included’, the brief moments interspersed with thrashy frenetic passages of utter bedlam. The one-off chorus somehow manages to remind me of Iron Maiden, I appreciate I might be the only person in the world to hear that!

How strange it is that a band notorious for sonic terrorism should end their final album the way they do. Toning down the nosebleed rhythms and adding a delicate pastoral section featuring string instrumentation and gently strummed guitars, ‘Nothing To Forget’ is a beauty. Featuring an absolute beast of a chorus with swathes of guitar on full attack, Greg adds the sweetest melody tinged with a tear-jerking melancholy. This is obviously dropkicked to fuck every time that chorus swings by. The downbeat theme continues on closing title track ‘Dissociation’, opening with haunting and beautiful strings, there’s some electronic skullfuckery (as previously heard on ‘Fugue’). A seismic throbbing hum hurts the frontal lobes and Greg sings tenderly in a soothing almost falsetto croon. Finishing off with just voice, strings and a pounding drumbeat, Puciato leaves us with the parting sentiment of “Finding A Way To Die Alone”. It could easily be another band entirely but that’s part of the charisma of The Dillinger Escape Plan, the ability to diversify. As a swansong finale, it’s a curious, dark and downbeat end.

Just when things were getting interesting and taking shape in terms of success and outreach, here we find The Dillinger Escape Plan deciding to call it a day. Jane’s Addiction pulled a similar trick on me when I just discovered them, though they did manage to return down the line. Both of these bands have a darkness and a danger that draws me in, I know I shouldn’t be involved with them, but that’s part of the attraction. I get a buzz from watching live footage, the recorded version sounds wonderfully serene compared to the insanity of the band performing in person, while mercilessly bludgeoning their instruments in front of fit inducing strobes. The Dillinger Escape Plan have truly made an extreme and challenging album that is a modern day metal classic. It mightn’t come across like it, but I fucking loved it.

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