Dillinger Escape Plan brings 'Killer' show to Altar Bar
It seems like every other young metal band that comes out these days is trying to do something tricky and mathematically weird and challenging, but it ends up sounding like madness and not art. Luckily, the masters have returned to show them how it's done.
The Dillinger Escape Plan, the band that basically invented the math-core sound (even if they weren't trying to do that) have returned with a scorching new record, “One of Us Is the Killer,” their fifth album and first under the Sumerian label, in partnership with their own Party Smasher Inc. imprint.
Those who have gotten used to DEP's sound of late, which combines molten lava-style metal punishment along with more melodic passages that remind of the heydays of Nine Inch Nails and Faith No More, will be right at home with the new platter. Yet the heavier parts on the album are more volcanic than usual, some of it seeming to refer back to their landmark, genre-creating classic “Calculating Infinity,” and the melodic parts have even more texture, with vocalist Greg Puciato really stretching his talent further than ever before. It's one of their most ambitious, yet most balanced records to date, and it's one that should peel the paint off the walls live.
When hinting to guitarist Ben Weinman, one of the most insane figures you will ever see play an instrument live, that the record sounds more aggressive than usual, he ponders the idea for a few seconds before reluctantly agreeing.
“I kind of like that,” he says, laughing about the term. “We don't really go into these things with any idea like that in mind. Every time we finish a record, we never know how we're going to do another one, and we don't really purposely try to make things sound angrier or more aggressive. It's not on purpose. I'd say our records are more like a picture of where we are and who we are at the time.”
Weinman, along with Puciato, bassist Liam Wilson, and drummer Billy Whymer (guitarist James Love will join the band for the tour) have set the bar high for other bands trying the same music approach they employ, and as far as physicality, these guys perform like they're fighting invisible forces they must conquer and kill or they'll die on the stage. That has led to many self-inflicted injuries over time, but Weinman says the band has no plans to change their ways.
“As a band, we really don't know any other way of doing things,” he says. “It's just how we are and what we do. The day we can't do things that way is the day we stop.”
It doesn't seem like the finish line is anywhere close, if the new album is any indication. There are tracks such as opener “Prancer,” that sounds like it could replace “Panasonic Youth” as the perfect set opener; “Paranoia,” a track on which Weinman conducted a 13-piece horn section for the piece and is one of the skronkiest songs in the band's history; and brutal “Crossburner,” a total change of pace for the band that finds them delving deep into doom metal . That's a new one for the band that had them trying a new musical approach for the first time in their history.
“We've never tuned down our guitars before to ever try to get that tone,” he admits. “We always looked at a guitar as a guitar, a bass as a bass, and we never wanted to revert to different styles of tuning in order to do certain things in our songs. But we knew we could do this, too, and we're all big fans of doom metal, so it seemed like fun to try something a little different and get something a little more evil sounding.”
What DEP is not doing differently these days is putting together interesting package tours for their headlining jaunts. For the journey that will bring them through Pittsburgh on Thursday, they've assembled a like-minded, math-oriented band the Faceless, who their fans should like a lot, as well as Royal Thunder, one of the hottest underground bands going who are more rock than metal and have extreme music fans salivating over their awesome “CVI” album. Weinman said he doesn't want to assemble a bill of bands that all sound the same, something he always finds boring as a concert-goer.
This summer, DEP will be one of the main attractions at the annual Summer Slaughter festival (not scheduled to hit Pittsburgh). That bill tends to collect more creative bands with strong musicians and tries not to be a meat-head festival (hello, Mayhem tour), and this year other groups on the tour include the Ocean, Animals as Leaders, Cattle Decapitation, and Norma Jean. The effort is put on by Sumerian, DEP's new home, which was an interesting place for them to land.
It's not that DEP don't fit on Sumerian, because they totally do alongside the label's crop of math-oriented, virtuoso-style metal bands that tend to skew younger. But DEP are an excellent representative for Sumerian, not only to give the label even more credibility but to have a living, breathing role model for new bands to emulate. Weinman was excited to work with them through Party Smasher because they could get help with social media and other aspects of business, plus they maintain their creative independence, a must for the band.
“We hung out with the guys at Sumerian and kind of got to know them,” he says. “It turns out they're just really big fans of our band and really wanted to work with us, and they have no interest in changing what it is we do. They didn't want to mess with us.”
Who would? If they can exact accidental violence on each other, who knows what they could do to someone trying to interfere with a good thing?
Brian Krasman is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.