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Dillinger Escape Plan - Miss Machine

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Artist: Dillinger Escape Plan

Album: Miss Machine

Label: Relapse

Review date: Aug. 24, 2004

Well, the boys are back in town and they are in punishing form. After a long, weird trip since their breakthrough full-length Calculating Infinity, Jersey’s hell-wrecking and savagely precise Dillinger Escape Plan is once again kicking our collected asses. The lineup has remained mostly intact since 2002’s Irony is a Dead Scene: Ben Weinman and Brian Benoit still occupy the twin guitar chairs, while Liam Wilson remains on bass, Chris Pennie is behind the kit, and “new” vocalist Greg Puciato has taken over for the previously deputized Mike Patton (Puciato has actually been with the band for a couple years, this is just the first release featuring his work).

They still play with a dizzying combination of fury, virtuosity and speed, pinballing through time changes, crazed angularity, and fusion-like dexterity. But the DEP has also changed, which is of course a positive thing. During the writing and recording of Miss Machine, they remained committed to avoiding a Calculating Infinity 2. And they haven’t. For while there are many moments on this record – as on previous recordings – where you feel like the band’s boot is on your neck, or where the singer’s menacing growl is making you skulk backwards into the nearest corner, there are just as many moments of real surprise and fresh turns.

Maybe that's because, though the album consists of 11 full songs, each piece is stuffed full of manic, presto-changeo shifts in direction, feints, and multi-part spasms. No longer just interested in sonic whiplash, where shards of caustic guitar and grindcore drums volley through a new time signature and key every couple of measures, the band has kept some of the lessons learned from their EP with Patton – an emphasis on texture, space, even melody – and combined them with more wide-ranging musical sensibilities, taking in everything from Aphex Twin to Fripp-like guitar flights to high gothic film soundtracks. As I said, rage, speed, and math are still here; but there’s a cinematic scope and a real attention to mood and texture that’s new.

It’s a good thing they’ve got Puciato on hand to lead them through this complicated, at times overstuffed, material. He’s really gifted and has a very diverse array of styles which enables him to navigate these furious waters, ranging from full-throated roars to pleasant near-crooning. If I have one major beef, there are times when there is a very distinct Patton (specifically Tomahawk) influence here that doesn’t sit entirely well. It’s not so much that I hate either Patton or Tomahawk (I don’t), but that these moments seem like the only ones when the DEP’s originality is slightly compromised. Minor quibbles about a major album.

By Jason Bivins

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