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Dillinger Escape Plan, We Are Knuckle Dragger - Belfast

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ATL | 13:24 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

Dillinger Escape Plan
We Are Knuckle Dragger
Spring and Airbrake
Thursday 4th August 2011


The drummer from Def Leppard’s only got one arm!” So sang the Bloodhound Gang back in 1997, but tonight the song could also apply to the crushing racket of We Are Knuckle Dragger, the Newcastle based three piece featuring ex-members of Contraband, Yourcodenameis:milo, and Scrabo. Playing with one arm in a cast, their drummer pounds out stop-start rhythms whilst distorted guitar and bass lock in with military precision, it’s a sonic evisceration, relentless in its pursuit of heaviness. And – once again – proving that you don’t need to be angry to make angry music, the band come across as amiable and happy to be here, playing to a (technically) hometown crowd.

Whilst the songs are tight and heavy, there’s something missing from the vocals, alternating between gruff howls and melodic passages. As the music rises in intensity, becoming more and more angular, the vocals don’t seem to gel, rooting the music in a more traditional vein. But with everything else in place, it’s probably only a matter of time before this lot gel into a terrifyingly brutal proposition.

Dillinger Escape Plan, on the other hand, have been driving their insanely complicated brand of mathcore into the heartland for over ten years now, and casually display the kind of musical dexterity that other bands would kill for, as if it meant absolutely nothing to them. It’s a terrifying sound, rhythmically complex and melodically dense, and is only matched by the physicality of the performance. It would appear that the stage has not yet been built which can contain this band, and whilst the Spring and Airbrake gives it a good go, it is merely seconds before parts of the band have left the stage, playing while gliding over the top of the audience’s heads.

With arms and legs flying everywhere, it’s stunning that the band can still unleash the musical precision that they’ve made their name with, but Dillinger are nothing if not finely honed, and one gets the impression they could play this well if they were in a hurricane, or a capsizing ocean liner.

However, whilst the raw energy is undeniable, to the outsider, the density and repetitiveness of the music could be off-putting. Dillinger essentially do two things, and they do them really well: an awesomely dexterous, but melodically atonal thrash, and Deftones-esque epic riffs, slower and more atmospheric. But that’s it, and ultimately there’s only so many times you can swing the guitar around your head, climb on top of the speaker stack, and jump into the crowd.

On the other hand, if you’re right in the middle of the throng, with you life in your hands, it would be difficult to imagine a more thrilling proposition. It might not be pleasant to listen to, but it’s rarely less than life-affirming. Just be careful you don’t get hurt.

Steven Rainey


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