I read once that The Dillinger Escape Plan are as close as you'll find to being a household name in the genre of mathcore (essentially rhythmically complex thrash metal). Though that can be agreed, it's doubtful that you'll see their albums appear on supermarket shelves just yet.
Under a decade old, the US band has released a handful of work (notably including an EP with the former Faith No More singer Mike Patton) garnering sure notches of praise from the ones previous.
Their mix of clever rhythms arguably too clever at times and aggressive playing has earned the band a growing hardcore fan base that seems to have survived the normal denting of 'new vocalist syndrome'.
Miss Machine is the first album to feature new singer Greg Puciato, the antithesis to runty shoutists, and makes a bid to fish for more ears.
I had heard of, but not followed TDEP until this still current album therefore I won't be diluting the review with how better the old stuff may perhaps be, which is something existing fans of any band often can't avoid doing; myself included.
The first track on the album was also the first single to be released. It was catching the video when over at a friend's house that stirred my interest, but not his they aren't for everyone.
Panasonic Youth is a brilliant single that no doubt kept the green light on in existing fans hearts. It defines the root nature of the band while still being a fairly palatable example to more jarring pens.
It's like putting Slayer through a shredder with start-stop rhythms, juggernaut rolling drums and an assault of concrete and mental asylum soundtrack guitars, further confused by time signatures and tempos that change lots. It'll properly take a few listens to get into bar the more classic thrash style moderate mid.
I've not seen the band live but am assured (partly by the included DVD, which I've only watched once as it's not really that captivating just buy the standard edition) that they put on frenzied and wild shows. But these shows will only preach to the converted. TDEP are not a band you'd go to a gig without song familiarisation and enjoy. The listener has to learn the twists and turns of all their songs as much as the band. Otherwise, like my title, hearing them is like being caught on a fence with a high current. You learn to enjoy it once you frequently rub that sadistic nerve.
The rest of the album is equally the same bar a pair of tracks that sound too close to over glossed moderate US punk, and one which is just a Nine Inch Nails cliché in order to just show off they've got electronic toys to play with. It's a 40min ride, which is a perfect length as I don't think style of music should be stretched out across a whole 80min CD, let alone a double album.
The reason why I'm not going into more individual song detail here is because Miss Machine is a record that's an example of being a body rather than a collection of songs with vastly individual traits of personality. Any handful of songs can define the album and perhaps TDEP's career in general; but I'm not doing down that route.
Problems with the album are also somehow a plus. A lot of the tracks sound fairly similar but yet this keeps things uniform. TDEP are defined by a certain style that I think they're loathe to modify too much in fear of an identity crisis. Yet despite the cleverness of their music they need to show more clear songwriting chops and not fear melody by relegating it two a pair of average pop tunes and it's these which have caused some chin scratching. A bit of estrogen in the right places needs to zap off the excess testosterone.
Production is crisp with a clear raw performed feel, but there are bits of slick sheen that could be better off removed.
TDEP certainly aren't nu-metal but they have a refreshingly modern angle on classic thrash metal that soars just above the much more underground appeal of their contemporaries. The writing of both praiseworthy drummer Chris Pennie and guitarist Ben Wienman is well fitted by the vocals of Puciato who turns from roar to acceptable singing. Jazz and experimental influences are clear for the ear to discern.
But they aren't for everybody. As a muso myself I'm part attracted solely by their hot instrumental gymnastics, but as we've learned in the history of popular music it's not just ability to play but the talent to write good songs. Metal fans will clearly be most willing to hear them out but certainly it is an acquired taste. And there is a method to TDEP's chaos; dare I say that there is a formula that is easily sussed after a while.
Judging by Miss Machine though, TDEP do have their finger on the pulse and I'm sure that they'll assess how things are at, and slowly but surely modify their style accordingly to reach the masses (I'm certain they aren't anti-mainstream) without compromising their original definition. For now Miss Machine captures the band at a probable shedding period of being caught between a stubborn jarring past and part pop dreams. Pretty damn good but not perfect. They're in need of creating an album that you can keep on going back to as longevity is fairly short, or a tleast in bursts.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Panasonic Youth
2 Sunshine the Werewolf
3 Highway Robbery
4 Van Damsel
5 Phone Home
6 We Are the Storm
7 Crutch Field Tongs
8 Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants
9 Babys First Coffin
11 The Perfect Design
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Bonus DVD Material