1 of 2 thought this review was well written
Whether it'd be for their often outrageous live performances or their music, The Dillinger Escape Plan have always been a special band.
Deemed as some of the greatest innovators in the hardcore scene of the 90s; proclaimed as pioneers of the "Mathcore" genera, Dillinger's sound is always evolving and interesting enough to appeal to those with a desire for more out there music and with enough familiar feel to appeal to those with a more sedentary taste in music. At the same time though, with their extremely odd time signatures, relentlessly fast drumming and crushing screamed vocals, DEP's music will more than likely divide opinions right in the middle, being noise to some, while a joy to others, both numbers of which have increased throughout the years with their constant experimentation, utilizing singing, slow, soothing post-rockish structure, and even piano sections.
All of this is what they do, today. However, everything has to start somewhere and somehow, and if you look back, you'll see how the origins from this band are a lot harsher than you'd imagine. A lot different than you'd imagine.
While DEP's first release was their under appreciated self titled EP, The Dillinger Escape Plan
, and their second release was yet another EP in Under The Running Board
, make no mistake: Dillinger's story, and mark on this world, starts here, in their revolutionary debut, Calculating Infinity
Firstly though, a specification to the aforementioned differences between the band from this record and the one we know today is at hand.
One, the lead vocalist we know today, Greg Puciato, was not present at the time. Instead, we had Dimitri Minakakis, who is the very opposite of what Greg is. Where as Greg is loud mouthed, highly energetic and often very goofy(both in and outside the music), Dimitri was a more straight forward, darker vocalist. While his range is basically non existent outside of screams, he didn't need anything else for the music, and with that, he handled his fury in crazier ways that Greg does, never once sounding that like he's joking around or he isn't pissed off in this record. His lyrical content was also much more sinister, swears being more frequent, and themes were generally more aggressive and dark, like that of a song involving a fat man masturbating to porn all day, or revenge for failed relationships.
Two, the mixing and production of this record is nothing like what came after it. Where as the mixing in the following records allows Greg to lead the entourage without problem, the mixing in here leaves no space, swarming your ears with a storm of chaos that maintains the band members in equal terms, rarely an instrument taking over the situation unless they're supposed to. And as for the production, one word comes to mind: Rigid. In every sense of the word. The instruments are heavy and harsh sounding, every moment sounding extremely musically complex, even when at times, it's really not. Dimitri's screams sound isolated and desperate, and even during the calm moments(which is only calm as far as this album goes, mind you) have a metallic, industrial-ish air to it, helping the album maintain a dense and unsettling feel through out it's 35 minutes or so of duration.
With all of that said though, what about the actual music? I mean, heavy doesn't mean good, right? And neither does revolutionary/original/whatever term you want use, so how does the actual music fair? Can it stand proudly as a piece of music?
Yes, yes it can.
Starting off with a noodly guitar and some drums which concluded before you even notice them, the band strikes at full force, gutteral screams, brutal guitars, basses and insane drumming everywhere with opener 'Sugar Coated Sour'. The song serves as a great taste of what it's to come, the complex and brutality of the instruments remaining through out the album, and including a jazzy section in between the song before going back to full chaos party through the rest of the song.
Following track, possibly the most popular song from the album, '43% Burnt', follows much of the same formula as the previous track, except perfected. Far more interesting guitars and intricate drumming, not mention a longer, catchier jazz breakdown. The "brutality/weird breakdown/brutality" formula is stuck through out the most of the album, some of the middle sections/breakdowns being industrial like distorted sections where Dimitri's vocals take a complete backseat while slowly and intensely building up to another brutal assault.
With that, however, comes my biggest gripe with album: The, perhaps, excessive
The formula is rarely ever really
varied, only exceptions being the vocal-less "intermission" songs, '*#..', 'Calculating Infinity' and 'Weekend Sex Change'.
This makes the songs very difficult to differentiate upon first listen, and maybe even second or third (Multiple listens are required, that much is certain). With that, comes the lack of what I think any classic album requires: A standout track.
Upon my first few listens, I simply thought it was a fairly fun, 35(or so) minute long mess, without anything that could really pull me in to make it throughout it's entirety again, I forced myself to listen to it again in order to see if I could really "get" the hype, since I was by then a big fan of Dillinger's other material. This turned out for the better, of course, but this makes the album more difficult to get into than it should, driving it away from many listeners.
That is where my big complains end, however. When listened in separate, all the songs are an absolute blast, the technicality never letting up for a second, riddling the album with intriguing moments that must be given credit too, even with the previously mentioned failure at making a standout track. Hell, even the previously mentioned intermissions, being highly electronic and ambient based, have complex compositions, proving Dillinger's ability outside of the heavy, aggressive music.
Special mention goes to Chris Pennie's drumming. My favorite DEP drummer, he is insanely fast, performing some of the most insane fills I think I've ever heard. The drumming is relatively quiet and dissonant sounding, which would normally make the drumming feel "colorless"(for the lack of a better word), but Pennie pushes through, relentlessly stricking the double bass pedal, and quick, effective use of cymbals. It is truly a shame that he left DEP later on(Even though Gil and Billy are both fantastic drummers in their right), but he sure didn't waste his time, giving it all.
is every bit as monumental for -core albums as it's made out to be, but it's not an album for everyone, even for people generally into this sort of music. Despite this, however, this is a record that any fan of the style of music should try out. Relentless, intense and never calm or soothing, Calculating Infinity
is the record that set the ground for Dillinger in their endless experimentation, but as far as the aggressive side goes, they have not topped this since.