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Monday, October 10, 2016

Mathcore Pioneers The Dillinger Escape Plan Mark an End to Their 20-Year Run

Posted By on Mon, Oct 10, 2016 at 11:15 AM

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The Dillinger Escape Plan are not for the faint of heart. With their jarring guitar riffs, fleeting rhythms, and vocalist Greg Puciato's screams sounding like a frenzied Trent Reznor, their recipe of chaotic metalcore wields itself with heavy, unstable power, like a semi-truck fishtailing on the freeway, but is carefully crafted as such. This style of lurching aggression has them regarded as the pioneers of the technically-conscious subgenre “mathcore,” a juxtaposition of mindfulness and insanity where their compositions are brilliantly layered and meticulously measured, yet operate as if they’re about to rip apart at the seams.

That precariousness may be the sonic signature that deemed The Dillinger Escape Plan as one of the most influential metal bands of today, but it's also been an ongoing theme in the band's lifespan of nearly twenty years. With the band now feeling the most stable they've ever been, their upcoming sixth album, Dissociation, will be their last, opting to end the band's run by their own choice.

When asked about if there were any moments in the band's history that felt like it could be their last, Ben Weinman responds with a laugh, "At every album!" As the lead guitarist, head songwriter, and the only founding member left, Weinman knows how often the band has nearly veered into its own end. A tragic accident that paralyzed their original bassist almost cut off Dillinger from finishing their landmark debut album, Calculating Infinity. Having to find a new vocalist almost prevented the making of their follow-up, Miss Machine, and the album's aspiration of branching out into other styles was a make-it-or-break-it period of growth. Parting ways with their original drummer in the midst of writing Ire Works almost derailed its completion. Struggling with the business aspect of moving forward as a band was a stressful undertone while working on Option Paralysis.

The most recent tensions were perhaps the strongest. The straining personal relationships within the band while making One of Us Is the Killer had Weinman feeling the end truly was nigh.

"It nearly imploded the band, there were so many issues between us," Weinman says. But after letting the conflicts cool down, they realized that beyond the issues that they've had and may have in the future, their bond was a great one, and that they would make a sixth record. "We really felt privileged to have each other creatively.”

All those snags that didn't kill Dillinger only made them stronger. But when working on their latest album, Weinman notes a feeling that he hadn't experienced with any other Dillinger album – a feeling that everything was fine. There were no unfortunate elements that needed to be weathered, they were working fully independent, and not one iota of their creative conscience was nervous about meeting the expectations of others.

"For the first time, I was 100-percent centered in this album,” he says. “I was just trying to make the best album I could make without any care about how well the album does or what people think. That’s the ultimate emotional maturity."

That epiphany proved to be a profound dichotomy, because Weinman then realized that this feeling of security was the feeling necessary to bring Dillinger to a proper close. The band's end wouldn't be caused by unfortunate events or a crumbling of personal relationships, but brought forth by finally hitting a sweet spot – the ending scene where they can happily ride off into the sunset.
"We figured it out. We finally got to a good place. We want to end on a high note."

Initially keeping this idea of ending the band to himself for a while, he first told Billy Rymer, the drummer and co-head songwriter of the band, who was supportive of the decision. Puciato, on the other hand, was ambivalent to totally ending things, making a counter-proposal of an indefinite hiatus. Weinman agreed at first, but the more he pondered the idea, the more certain he felt that this end shouldn't be a temporary one.

"I just don't feel like, cosmically, the world will open up new doors if we don't close this one," he says.

Puciato eventually abided, and the making of Dissociation became a unified expression of being the band's swan song. With the music being more chaotic and dynamic than ever before, Weinman comments on Puciato's performance being the most honest it's ever been on their records.

"There are moments where you can tell he's really going someplace, not concerned if it's the appropriate thing for the part," Weinman says. "It's an honest reaction to the song."

This stands out most on the titular song; the last song on the album, and the very last song for the band's catalog. Being a significant contrast after hearing the band pour out all the crazy they can earlier in the record, the final song only showcases Puciato's clean singing, swaddled by synths and string sections courtesy of Seven)suns. It's a song that most defies Dillinger's signature sound, yet it's the most appropriate song to end the band with – a ballad to say goodbye to the listener. And the kicker is that the song was originally conceived long before this point in their career, long before this enlightened sense of finality.

"I wrote the majority of that song close to ten years ago and just never finished it," he says, noting that no Dillinger song is ever actually finished. "Those songs are literally abandoned."

That sentiment about nothing ever truly being finished is a universal one when it comes to art. Every artistic work can be developed ad infinitum, but it's up to the artist to decide when it’s ready for an end. It may seem like an act of surrender, but the choice to finally let go of a creative endeavor displays a sense of empowerment. The Dillinger Escape Plan's end by their choice is that same sense of empowerment, writing their own consensual end to their body of work. And though the pioneers of mathcore are ending their journey together, Weinman understands how much impact they've made with the trail they blazed.

"It's definitely cool to know that I left a mark, and that there are things out there that would never be out there if we didn't do what we did."

The Dillinger Escape Plan
7 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 18, House of Blues, 308 Euclid Ave., 216-523-2583. Tickets: $18, houseofblues.com.

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