Review Summary: Too weird to live, too rare to die.
Time flies. It’s hard to believe that come Christmas The Dillinger Escape Plan will have hung up their instruments three years ago, but looking back on their career now, and in particular Dissociation
, you can see why there was always a good reason behind the decision. In the loosest possible term, Dillinger was a freak of nature – a paradox on the very notion of understanding commercial viability. You can look at a band like Rammstein or Slipknot and at least assimilate their appeal to the collective masses when you analyse the music for what it is. Despite the fact that these two bands were made with niche appeal on paper, they both utilise a very accessible framework when it comes to the actual music and you can understand why their music resonates with millions of people, as the songs abrasively writhe around a humble verse-chorus structure fit for mainstream radio. With Dillinger, their success is utterly alien and an anomaly that probably won’t happen again for at least another generation. This is a band, in the broadest definition, that followed the punk philosophy to the letter and got rewarded for it: they didn’t compromise an iota of their vision for anyone, and they really
didn’t give a sh-t if you liked them or not. To an unsuspecting layman, their music sounds like white noise being shoved into a meat grinder, and yet, they still walked out of 2017 with an unfettered legacy for future generations to use as a point of reference.
Granted, when you listen to the band’s works chronologically you can see a gravitational pull towards the conventional, but this happens to almost every band that’s been going as long as Dillinger. In the case of this band however, their journey balancing the obscene with the benign felt like it had tangible purpose to it. Ben and co. spent years experimenting with these two juxtaposing pillars, eventually mastering their uncompromising havoc with the congenial. The problem is that they succeeded with this endeavour one album prior to Dissociation
. Indeed, One of Us Is the Killer
is in my opinion – as unpopular as that opinion may be – the album that should have closed the book on their career. It’s an album that resides harmoniously in the band’s feral roots and latter-day melodies, and it feels like it has a certifiable finality to it. To this day, no matter how many times I listen to Dissociation
, it feels, well… dissociated from the rest of the band’s works. Bizarrely the album does everything it is meant to: it hits all the right beats, taps into everything the band has created up to that point, and it doesn’t sacrifice its schizophrenic comportment for a second, but in all that box-checking it ironically develops something that is intrinsically safe
, and the antithesis of what every Dillinger album has been prior.
With that, it’s hard to overlook the plateau that’s being exhibited here. For the first time in The Dillinger Escape Plan’s career, they’ve presented something derivative. In context, yes, Dissociation
is a celebration of the band’s inimitable achievements, and I totally get that. However, bar the last two tracks that display an exciting new facet – an experimentation with a gorgeous symphony and a more level-headed calm to the songwriting itself – the album overall feels a little too conceited with sitting behind the band’s historic accolades. In short, the album’s just not as exciting to listen to as with previous incarnations. Dissociation
experiments with Ire Works
-styled glitchy electronics, a foray of crushing half-time stomps, Ben’s sharp, formless guitar noodles, and an impressive virtuosity with the usual and eclectic styles we’ve come to expect from the band, but all this still culminates into a far less dangerous experience.
It’s hard to fully articulate where the album is lacking, but it’s generally down to the fact that everything you’re hearing on here has been done – and marginally better – on previous LPs. Overall, the band knew they had little else to say up to this point, and Dissociation
most certainly mirrors that. This record is a very solid offering that still manages to be brazenly heavy, classy, and adventurous, but rather than venturing out into the unknown it’s much more content with revisiting previous expeditions. Ultimately, the glimmers of prog-rock on “Low Feels Blvd”, the jazz-fusion segments in “Wanting Not So Much to As To”, and the ambient glitch voyage of “Fugue” bring moments of spice to an otherwise humdrum offering. Of course, this doesn’t make it a bad album, but for a band that has built a career on a bedrock of unease, in a vacuum of boundaryless songwriting, it comes as a bit of a shock and a whimpering disappointment to end a career on.
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