The New Jersey mathcore band’s debut EP founds the traits that’d make their career.
Mike Diver 2012
Long before current frontman Greg Puciato confirmed The Dillinger Escape Plan’s fearsome live reputation at the 2002 Reading Festival by combining muck of his own making with his tight white vest, this New Jersey outfit was troubling frets with outstanding tech-metal fare that has stood the test of time remarkably well. Any worry that they’d become something of a sideshow has been sidestepped by a phenomenal work ethic and tremendous commitment to furthering metal’s creative cause. Testament to this staying power: this debut EP, reissued by Earache 15 years after its first release.
Although the group’s line-up in 1997 was very different to how it is today – only guitarist Ben Weinman remains from the core foursome credited on this sleeve – their methodology has remained true to its roots. This is inventive, acerbic, senses-assaulting music that across six fiery, kinetic tracks doesn't once shirk its responsibilities to entertain while intimidating.
Then-vocalist Dimitri Minakakis, who’d leave after 1999’s debut LP Calculating Infinity but cameo on the group’s outstanding Ire Works collection of 2007, lacks the lowest-levels-of-Hell roar of Puciato, but he’s a commanding presence throughout – equally as deafening of bellow as Dave Verellen, whose band Botch were mathcore peers of Dillinger. Weinman’s six-string contributions haven’t been blunted, and while the band has come on leaps and bounds compositionally the raw constituent of a killer riff has, evidently, always been forefront in the mix.
Naturally there’s a lo-fi feel to this set, inevitable given its budget and how recording technology has advanced in the intervening years, but it doesn’t once cloud the experience. Indeed, occasionally it tricks the listener into assuming calm waters are ahead before socking them in the kisser with an explosion of aggression: check out the transition from Proceed With Caution to I Love Secret Agents, and be sure to duck. Caffeine’s false start of cacophonous clatter breaks to a near-a-cappella: "I’d rather burn you than love you." And, soon enough, the track’s ablaze; but this isn’t hostility without heart, and Dillinger’s credentials as a progressive band with both heart and head engaged in the songwriting process take their foundation from this EP.
Cleverness and combustion, balanced by a knack for crafting unlikely earworms: these traits have served the band well, and will do for future material.