Review Summary: The Dillinger Escape Plan jumps the shark, but while doing a sweet backflip or something.
Over the years, fans of The Dillinger Escape Plan have come to expect a little something different with each new album. Though they almost certainly ran the risk of alienating portions of their large fanbase with each new direction they embarked upon, it has always been an admirable quality. Here is a group that, among the dozens of generic wannabe bands within the metalcore scene, has always dared to think outside the box and challenge the pre-conceived notions of what their music could be. With their first set of EPs and their debut full-length, 1999’s Calculating Infinity
, TDEP introduced the world to their distinctly chaotic style – their seemingly random time signatures, angular guitar riffing, and disjointed song structures. However, not content to be satisfied with what they had achieved, their next album saw the chaos subside, if only partially, in favour of more traditional song-structures with powerful choruses and crushing walls of guitar. This trend continued to carry forward, with each new album carving out its own unique niche within their spectrum of musical styles.
For better or for worse, this desire to constantly change has always defined their career. Each successive album was, if nothing else, interesting at the very least. They never retraced ground that had already been covered and were always progressing into new territories of sonic exploration. This is precisely why One of Us Is the Killer
fails to create as much interest as any of their previous works: for the first time in their career, TDEP have released an album easily comparable to their back catalogue. I’m not one to fault a band for settling into a groove, or for reliving past successes (if the shoe fits…), but it really does come across as a negative when talking about TDEP. “When I Lost My Bet” sounds like a b-side from Calculating Infinity
, just with a little more studio sheen, and technicality that sounds more forced rather than naturally flowing. The title track feels like a continuation of their most recent album Option Paralysis
with its disjointed themes and eclectic song structure. These comments aren’t necessarily negative assessments – both songs are great for what they are – but rather just observations that appear troubling when accumulated together over the entire album. One of Us Is the Killer
is actually a very satisfying listen, and it definitely delivers just as much technicality, heaviness, and catchiness as one would expect. The problem is that, in the end, we’re left with an album without its own identity when compared to the rest of their discography. It almost plays like a compilation record: displaying all that the band has become known for over the years, but unfortunately not really bringing anything new to the table.
Taken for what it is, outside of the context of their impressive discography, One of Us Is the Killer
is surely a success. The passion and intensity is palpable, and the skill with which the songs are played is top-notch. The vocals are dynamic, covering a pretty wide range from melodic cleans to high-pitched shrieks, and while the lyrics are decidedly missable, that’s always been this band’s biggest weakness, so no points are really lost there. In the end, it all comes down to the fact that this is the first time in over fifteen years that The Dillinger Escape Plan has failed to change the game with a fresh, forward-thinking piece of metal. This is a criticism that wouldn’t even be relevant for very many bands, but definitely is here. Calculating Infinity
has gone down as their “chaotic, math-y” album. Ire Works
was their experimental work, which employed a number of strategies previously absent from their arsenal. One of Us Is the Killer
fails to foster any sort of identity for itself, but instead seems to sample from each of their past successes. This is not an inherent negative, and the album will still surely satisfy many fans, but it is somewhat of a disappointment coming from a band that has always been on the cutting edge – pushing their musical boundaries outwards. For The Dillinger Escape Plan, it seems that their best days of unique experimentation and constantly shifting dynamics are behind them. But the road ahead is not bleak – it is lit by the brightly shining lights of all of their past musical achievements.