Wednesday, January 09, 2008

A Mouth Without A Heart, An Action Without Meaning

Dillinger Escape Plan – Ire Works

Poor old Dillinger Escape Plan have had a rough time over the last couple of years. Since the release of the brilliant Miss Machine, both of their guitarists have suffered from muscle problems that prevented them from performing. Fortunately main songwriter Ben Weinman has recovered, but sadly second guitarist Brian Benoit will probably never be able to play again. On top of that the drummer, Chris Pennie, quit the band and for inexplicable reasons joined the dire Coheed and Cambria, a band whose unique blend of all the worst aspects of emo, prog rock and nu metal reveals an artistic capacity for terribleness that is the dark twin of Dillinger's genius.

With all these problems surrounding the recording, it was hard to guess what to expect from Ire Works. It was also difficult to imagine how their sound could be improved from what they achieved on Miss Machine, so it was a question of whether they'd just try and make the same album again or go in a new direction, as well as whether it would turn out to be any good. The answers turn out to be a surprising sort of compromise to the first question and a 'hell fucking yeah!' to the second.

The meat and bones of the album are a number of two minute thrashers in the style that has endeared DEP to their fans over years past. These will be familiar territory to anyone who's heard any of their older albums. Ben's guitars spit out twisted, free time riffs with astonishing technical skill, vocalist Greg Puciato screams with savage intensity and the new drummer, Gil Sharone, is (much to everyone's relief) a perfect fit for the style and if anything his capacity for controlled cacophony is even sicker than Pennie's. Two of these tracks feature guest vocalists, 'Fix Your Face' brings back original vocalist Dimitri Minakakis and 'Horse Hunter' features Mastodon's Brent Hinds. However I can't help but feel that the band is a little tired of this style, they have after all been doing it for a while. There's nothing here that isn't good, but none of these songs reach the levels of greatness found on their older albums. But despite such a slight deterioration of quality on this half of the album, the rest turns out to be well worthwhile.

Ire Works contains a healthy number of surprises that will no doubt offend many old school fans, but which are in fact uniformly brilliant. Dillinger throw their first curveball on track three, 'Black Bubblegum', which as the name suggests is their version of a pop punk song, complete with a catchy singalong chorus. It's followed by 'Sick on Sunday', a weird ambient piece that bursts into metal at the end, and the trio of 'When Acting As A Particle', 'Non Eye Gong' and 'When Acting As A Wave', which are two twin tracks that appear to be the distant descendants of Calculating Infinity's title track, surrounding a short, angry song in the old style.

Not long after that is the brilliant 'Milk Lizard', a heavy song that replaces their usual rhythmic insanity with a bluesy swagger and a soaring chorus. 'Dead As History' is hard to categorise; introduced by acoustic guitar, strings and piano, transforming into a menacing nu metal chugger and ending the same way it started, now accompanied with twee falsetto vocals.

And finally, just when you think that Ire Works couldn't get any better, it closes with 'Mouths Of Ghosts'. You know that feeling you get when you first hear a song and it gives you goosebumps, and you drop what you were doing and stare at the speakers in astonishment? And then you start to cry a little bit? Well that's how good this song is. It features a heavy ending as a powerful, cathartic finish to the album, but the intro shows off Weinman's considerable aptitude on the piano in a melancholy build up that sounds a little like Pink Floyd crossed with Secret Chiefs 3 in their Western film score mode. It's even more of a surprise to hear as a Dillinger song than 'Black Bubblegum' and is one of the best songs they've ever done.

Ire Works is quite easily one of the top three albums of 2007, perhaps the best. Come for the screamy mathcore craziness, stay for the catchy pop and mellow piano noodling.

Here's 'When Acting As A Particle' and 'Nong Eye Gong' live:


Lorie said...

I love 'mouth of ghosts'. I can't stop listening and I know what you mean by chills. I feel like biting my lip from how good it feels. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

Wow, very well put. I wonder if you're my clone, because I felt exactly the same way and essentially predicted everything you said, because I would have said it myself.