Which are your favourite The Dillinger Escape Plan songs?
Working alphabetically, each week The Monolith staff vote for their favourite iconic bands, and once a winner has been chosen, the experts go to task on voting for the top ten songs for your enjoyment and discourse. This week: New Jerseyian mathcore masters The Dillinger Escape Plan!
In the annals of mathcore history, Morris Plains’ The Dillinger Escape Plan will likely go down as one of the greatest examples of the genre. From their humble beginnings in the late nineties as a more run of the mill hardcore band, they burst into their own with 1999′s Calculating Infinity, a revolution at the time, and ever since they have produced progressive album after progressive album, adding new elements to their sound with every release.
Even the near-constant lineup changes haven’t slowed them down. The introduction of vocalist Greg Puciato in the wake of Dimitri Minakakis’ departure was a masterstroke, and even drummer Chris Pennie’s departure for pastures-Coheed didn’t curtail them. Guitarist Ben Weinman is the only remaining original member, and he has presided over a catalogue of nearly 100 song – the best ten of which we’re counting down today!
The Dillinger Escape Plan’s discography:
The Dillinger Escape Plan (1997)
Under The Running Board (1998)
The Dillinger Escape Plan / Nora w/ NORA (1999)
Calculating Infinity (1999)
The Dillinger Escape Plan/Drowningman w/ Drowningman (1999)
Irony Is A Dead Scene (2002)
Miss Machine (2004)
Ire Works (2007)
Option Paralysis (2010)
One Of Us Is The Killer (2013)
10. “Baby’s First Coffin” – Miss Machine
“Dear god!“, screams Puciato right from the get-go – bloody hell – and his harsh vocal lines don’t get much more complicated from this point, and dear god, it’s just a string of furiously-delivered, infinitely quotable lyrics from the now incumbent frontman: “Silence tells us we’re damned // Jesus we’ve gone and done it again!”
“Baby’s First Coffin” is a dark song – as the title suggests – but it’s served on a phonic platter of dichotomy. Whilst short, pummelling passages are executed with brutal aplomb – “Dear God! Protect us! Come on! Laugh this time!” – they are counterbalanced by noodly, fret-stroking interjections. It’s absolute black magic at times, honestly. Some of the sections in this song are ridiculous; take the post-”you’re being a liar” syncopatic madness; the instruments are all over the place, but it all gels perfectly somehow; the cohesion is absurd!
The ultimate change of direction occurs directly after this at 2:30. After a brutish, stabbing riff and vocal assault, the band drop into something hitherto unheard; a passage plucked from so far out of left field that they built a left-handed shop there. It drops all of the fury and energy built up until that point and starts afresh. The vocal delivery is sped up but softened, as are the guitar lines, the drums are all high hat and bass drum. Again it builds, adding elements here and there, up until the final, crushing climax, where it all comes back and beats you round the face, screaming “You should never have said “Yes” when you really mean “No.”!”
9. “Widower” – Option Paralysis
Known primarily for their technical and frantic wizardy, Dillinger have another, oft-used sound, with which they have been experimenting since at least Ire Works, if not certain sections of tracks from Miss Machine like, coincidentally, the end of “Baby’s First Coffin“. I like to call it “dark jazz-lounge”, and it mixes the groove-orientated and syncopation inherent in the sensibilities of both jazz and mathcore.
This side of Dillinger’s sound is incredibly interesting to me – it’s part of the reason I find Calculating Infinity-era purists so incredibly dull; the compositional nous needed to switch between such styles with the fluidity they do is astounding, and far more interesting that eleven songs of weedly madness.
“Widower” is perhaps the purest form of Dillinger’s dark jazz-lounge to date, and it’s a real gem. Puciato spends much of the song crooning, reminiscing about the demise of a relationship. All the while the music behind him builds in pace and intensity – very slowly, mind; this track is almost six and a half minutes in length – and when it starts crashing against the rocks, with the vocals slipping into screams, the culmination of the song’s message “I couldn’t hold on to the things that mattered to you // it was my big mistake; thinking there were two roads to take” makes perfect sonic sense.
8. “Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants” – Miss Machine
The Dillinger Escape Plan are prone to weirdness. One reviewer, extolling the band’s intense and innovative style, once sarcastically cautioned the band to avoid being labelled “the Radiohead of metalcore”. “Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants” is a glimpse into the band’s future, presaging their forays into blending the abrasive elements of mathcore with subtler melodies that would be more familiar in a mainstream rock setting. It’s fun, complex, and aggressive — all the things that have come to characterize the music produced by this exceptionally odd band.
Puciato delivers the verses in a decidedly unsettling tone, like a molester whispering sweet nothings into your ear, while he lends the cleanly sung chorus the tone of some kind of immensely catchy rock jam that clashes brilliantly with its downright creepy lyrics, “The stranger’s candy takes you where you ought to be / In broken alleys in the back of every street”. Despite being a patchwork quilt of musical styles and techniques, “Setting Fire To Sleeping Giants” manages not only to be a coherent song, but a great one. Somehow it all just works, which is pretty much The Dillinger Escape Plan in a nutshell: no matter what they throw together, the band has a damnably hard time writing an unsatisfying song.
7. “Paranoia Shields” – One Of Us Is The Killer
its a dangerous business compiling ‘best of’ lists so soon after the release of an eligible album. The thrill of the new can sometimes drown out other, older but deeper pleasures. So, with the ink barely dry on the cover art [or our review- Ed.] for One Of Us Is The Killer, it is perhaps a relief that this is the only track from the album to make the final 10.
But what a track it is. With the band letting their Mike Patton influences roam free, the opening passages of the song, with their taut, claustrophobic guitar lines and sinister vocals wouldn’t sound out of place on the latest Tomahawk record. But it is a testament to the fluidity of these sections that I barely noticed the perennially awkward 5/4 time signature until I tried to pin down the Billy Rymer’s unusually placed drum fills. The fact that One Of Us Is The Killer is the first Dillinger album since Miss Machine that featured the same drummer as the preceding one does not go unnoticed, and it is Billy’s obvious comfort and confidence in his role that pushes the album – and this song in particular – to hitherto unreached heights.
I’ve heard it said that a crucial element to writing a great song is after nailing a great verse and chorus, one should write q second chorus. There are many examples of this in the Dillinger catalogue, but the moment “Paranoia Shields” snaps back into 4/4 must rank as the best yet. This second chorus is big enough to be visible from space.
I noticed on the dates I caught of the Option Paralysis tour that, for the first time, Greg was sometimes being drowned out by the crowd singing along. I have a strong suspicion that as songs like this make their way into the set, that will be an increasingly common occurrence.
6. “Panasonic Youth” – Miss Machine
In keeping with their hold-nothing-back ethos, The Dillinger Escape Plan have quite a knack for kicking albums off with a memorable song and Miss Machine’s opener, “Panasonic Youth”, is no exception. “Panasonic Youth” is an excellent lead-in to the album’s half hour of mathcore madness, pairing perfectly with its sonically conjoined twin “Sunshine The Werewolf” (the transition between those two songs is so seamless as to be nigh on unnoticeable).
The follow-up to the genre-defining Calculating Infinity, Miss Machine is the band’s first album to feature infamous frontman and bag-shitter Greg Puciato. Puciato’s ferocious vocal stylings have since become one of the core aspects of The Dillinger Escape Plan, but “Panasonic Youth” dates back to a time when he was the as-yet unproven replacement for the beloved Dimitri Minakakis. Fortunately for everyone, Greg turned out to be an unquestionably fantastic frontman and one of heavy music’s most prized possessions.
Serving as something of a statement of purpose for the rest of the album — and the band’s future — “Panasonic Youth” feels designed to be a doubt-killer. This song wastes no time, firing right up with Greg Puciato’s a trademark stutter-stepping Ben Weinman riff. It’s a couple of minutes of chaotic catharsis and encapsulates the progressive zaniness for which The Dillinger Escape Plan is so revered.