Full disclosure: this may end up accidentally turning into another drunk edition of Phil’s Phive. Ever since I got the news I just haven’t been right, you see. I wander through my days devoid of purpose, desperately trying to attach meaning to things and failing every time. I try to form rational thought but I can’t get that horrible, haunting phrase from resonating and drowning everything else out; The Dillinger Escape Pan are breaking up. The Dillinger Escape Plan are breaking up.
The Dillinger Escape Plan are breaking up!!!
This all sounds like hyperbole but I assure you it is most certainly fucking not. Anyone who grew up with these guys can likely, unfortunately reaffirm how heartbreaking this is. Other than Deftones, there is no other single band that has been so profoundly essential to the shaping of my being as these guys were, and still are.
Did DEP invent mathcore? Mmm, no, probably not.
But they certainly gave it life and a fervent following with their early albums, before completely dismantling it and introducing a world of new sounds on their later records. The Dillinger Escape Plan are so important because of how fearless they have always been. How insanely heavy and chaotic they can be is matched only by how fucking weird they are. No other band has been, or will be, as intensely brutal and ridiculously catchy as these guys are, often within the same song. Their devotion to keeping heaviness weird and accessible is an ethos that extends beyond music. They laugh in the face of purism, teaching impressionable young minds such as myself that you can stick to your roots while remaining creative at the same time, breaking down boundaries while always remaining true to yourself.
I’m going to attempt to list my ten favourite DEP songs, to stick to the listicle format that you’ve all come to know and love from this wildly popular editorial series, but know that this is extremely futile and meaningless, because, like, every single song these guys have ever put to wax is incredible and ground breaking in its own way. Time to order my 4th beer of the night and get this started.
10. “43% Burnt” – Calculating Infinity
Calculating Infinity was the album that started it all for me. I’m pretty sure I still have the (43%) burnt copy of the album my friend Will gave me in grade 7. Did I ever feel fucking cool listening to this shit in grade 7 when everyone else I knew was listening to like Linkin Park and shit (I still listened to Linkin Park at the time I won’t lie). For the past 14 years I’ve been trying to figure out the pattern and structure of the outro and I haven’t yet and probably never will. Also the opening scream of I SMELL THAT WHOOOORE from former vocalist Dimitri Minakakis probably wouldn’t fly these days but was extremely badass at the time.
9. “The Perfect Design” – Miss Machine
When this album dropped in 2004, I was convined that ‘The Perfect Design’ was the heaviest song ever created. I’m older and wiser now, but listening to the outro of this absolute scorcher, I can see where I was coming from. My vocal chords are the gnarled mess they are today largely due to my 14 year old self screaming YOUR FACE SHATTERS over and over again into pillows in my bedroom in adolescent rage.
8. “Unretrofied” – Miss Machine
When Miss Machine dropped, it was pretty divisive. Hardcore purists were pretty pissed off, and it was probably solely due to this song. I hated it at the time too. What the fuck was this alt-metalesque bullshit? It was pretty easy at the time to think that this could potentially be Dillinger’s future, that they were going to sell out and write radio songs and bleach their hair and start collaborating with Dr. Luke. Wrong. This was just another sound they were folding into their mix, and ‘Unretrofied’ stands as one of Dillinger’s most subversive moments to date.
7. “I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t” – Option Paralysis
The second last track on Option Paralysis is its best, blending the complex fury that peppers this record with its more classically tinged moments (see ‘Widower’). Option Paralysis was a strange record for these guys, awesome in its own right but perhaps not quite on par with all of their earth-shattering other releases. This song, however, remains a highlight of their catalog, Puciato’s vocals dripping with emotion, whether it’s through his heartfelt balladeering in the coda or his piercing screams of SUFFERING IS LOVE that punctuate the last minute or so of the track. This song is proof that even on their lesser works, DEP remained able to create some of the most thrilling music put to tape.
6. “Crossburner” – One Of Us Is The Killer
DEP’s last album, One of Us is the Killer, contained a lot of their most straight forward metal moments, with ‘Crossburner’ epitomizing this trend. A slow burner (lol) that steadily works its way to its massive conclusion, I’ve always considered this the true closing track to this record. No offense to ‘The Threat Posed By Nuclear Weapons’, its just that this song is so epic I don’t see why it wouldn’t be the closer. OOUITK is a record plagued by personal strife between the primary songwriters of this band, so a straight forward approach to releasing that tension makes sense. ‘Crossburner’ is the ultimate fuck you from Puciato to Weinman, and vice versa, serving as the healthiest outlet possible so these guys can continue making the incredible music they do. Too bad, I guess it wasn’t enough.
5. “Black Bubblegum” – Ire Works
‘Unretrofied’ may have seemed like a false start for a lot of people, whereas ‘Black Bubblegum’ is where it all started to come together. Obviously DEP were massive Patton fans from the get go but ‘Black Bubblegum’ plays out like the best 21st century Faith No More song that never was. Still probably the catchiest Dillinger song to date, ‘Black Bubblegum’ represents a massive turning point for the band, existing as proof that giving in to your melodic, formulaic side can serve as the apex of creative when chaos is the standard.
4. “Sunshine The Werewolf” – Miss Machine
‘Sunshine the Werewolf’ has been a live set staple for these guys ever since its release for verrrrrry good reason. This is a song made for live setting, for setting a crowd on fire. With one of the greatest build ups and breakdowns in this band’s history, this is the shit that people get seriously injured at shows over. When this album was released I thought ‘we fucked like a nuclear war’ was one of the most badass lyrics of all time, and that is one of the few things from my youth I am still confident in.
3. “When Good Dogs Do Bad Things” – Irony Is A Dead Scene
In retrospect it almost seems too good to be true that Dillinger recorded an entire EP with motherfucking Mike Patton on vocals. My favourite (and empirically greatest ever) vocalist fronting one of my favourite bands and it totally DOESN’T suck?? I’m sorry but most of the time situations like this are simply too good to be true. This was not the case for this EP. Irony is a Dead Scene represented a massive turning point for the group, for the first time ever embracing their weirdo, creepy side, while of course retaining the mathcore brilliance they had already become famous for. ‘When Good Dogs Do Bad Things’ is far away the greatest of the collaborations that this EP garnered, and stands as one of the best songs either the band or Patton has put out. For a solid few years, this was my absolute favourite song on the face of the earth, and looking back, god damn did I ever have good taste.
2. “Horse Hunter” – Ire Works
The Puciato-era Dillinger Escape Plan songs are usually pretty evenly split into two categories: the all out chaotic, mathy ragers, and the more conventional leaning structurally sound tracks. This has led to a fantastic variety and thrilling, engaging experience on each of their albums, but where Dillinger really shows how special they are is on tracks where these two elements are combined. ‘Horse Hunter’, the second last track on Ire Works, is the ultimate encapsulation of these two faces of the band. It has its spazzy, freak out moments just as heavy as any Dillinger song, but also some of the earwormiest melodies the band has ever produced, not to mention an incredible guest vocalist appearance from none other than Brent Hinds of Mastodon. All of that squeezed into a compact, liberal 3 minute track. ‘Horse Hunter’ is the ultimate Dillinger song, containing all the elements that make them the legendary band that they absolutely are.
1. “Mouth of Ghosts” – Ire Works
Coming directly after ‘Horse Hunter’ sequentially on Ire Works, ‘Mouth of Ghosts’ ends Dillinger’s best record with the most un-Dillinger tracks they’ve ever put to tape. The song begins with samples of children playing in a schoolyard before cutting in with some soft, low-tempo brush drumming and piano, before Greg comes in crooning with Weinman’s distinctively loungy guitar, eventually leading to an almost 3 minute long piano solo that makes way for salsa percussion. When Greg finally makes an appearance again with his repeated cries of ‘don’t you know iiiiiit’ over the increasingly heavy salsa, you begin to realize that the Dillinger Escape Plan is, objectively, one of the greatest bands of all time, because all of these incredibly outre musical elements still end up sounding like the product of this band. Eventually the build up reaches its fever pitch, Greg yells DON’T YOU KNOOOW, and the distorted guitars come back in, bringing with it the most emotionally resonant section in this incredibly emotionally band’s history. ‘Mouth of Ghosts’ is one of the mostly wildly creative songs in heavy music’s storied history, and will serve as a reminder until the end of time that there never was, and never will be, another band quite like the Dillinger Escape Plan. I cry when I listen to this song now, and probably will forever.