When The Dillinger Escape Plan call it quits at the end of their tour in 2017 they will have been a band for 20 years, released six full-length albums, and achieved legendary status. Dillinger have expanded musical and performance boundaries, defined and defied genres, and have become truly influential; their legacy will resonate in extreme music culture for decades. Dissociation wraps up the two-decade long project with typical well-timed finesse, and it’s absolutely stunning. It’s art; pure and complicated.
RELEASE DATE: 14 October 2016 LABEL: Party Smasher
First track and lead single Limerent Death kicks off Dissociation without preamble in classic Dillinger fashion. Greg Puciato’s vocal performance, excellent throughout, gets increasingly raw and passionate as the song reaches a climax. There’s a moment around 02:40, where the instrumentation opens up and we can hear his hoarse panting and groaning reverberate in empty space. This exemplifies everything there is to love about TDEP. They are real and this is no joke.
Somehow Dissociation exudes even more confidence and arrogance than ever before. This is a band so comfortable with themselves and their creative process that it seems as if they can’t make mistakes. Surrogate is the perfect example of how Dillinger can take what seem like totally opposing ideas and combine them to great effect; often the only recognisable motif tying song sections together is the vocal, but it still works. Structure is meaningless, most riffs appear only once and sections transition smoothly just as often as they are just smashed into. This is exactly where Dillinger shine; creativity is unrestricted, there are no rules, no boundaries, no consequences.
More melodic moments such as second track Symptom Of Terminal Illness, show how TDEP are able to write a strong hook and follow traditional rock structure when they choose. Though it seems simple at first, it’s the subtle aspects of the song that make it unique; the time signature changes and that amazing little off-time drum groove in the chorus. The final song and title track once again shows a consideration for melody, but what shines here is the contrasting electronic vs acoustic production and excruciating beauty in the arrangement.
Dissociation pulses with clarity and focus. Every element is purposeful, there’s no fluff, even the unexpected sections feel as essential as the Dillinger signature sound. There’s math but there’s also electronica, jazz and prog. It’s experimental. The only predictable aspect of this album is the fact that Dillinger can still constantly surprise the listener. I’m nodding along to parts I’ve never heard before thinking ‘of course they would do something this fucking weird’. As exciting as this approach is, it does have a small downside. When listening to the entire work the inherent unpredictability can slightly detract from the overall atmosphere, as the listener gets jolted out of the album experience.
Technically it’s about as precise as we’ve come to expect from TDEP. They’ve got it down to such a fine art that proficiency with their instruments is almost not worth mentioning; it is just known. The recording quality is in a similar boat. For a band of this caliber and experience you wouldn’t expect anything less than a sonically impressive record and Dissociation is almost spot-on. It’s hard to complain at this level, but the only aspect of the recording lacking is that it doesn’t perhaps reflect the capricious nature of the composition itself.
Because they are breaking up, because it’s the last Dillinger record, there’s been so much hype about Dissociation being the final piece of some mystic puzzle, some swansong that encapsulates an illustrious 20 year career. Dissociation was a success before anyone even heard it and it’s doubtful that, at least for the next few years, it will be judged as an individual work; so that’s what I set out to do. But I was wrong. This is their swansong, this is the final piece of their puzzle. Dissociation encapsulates everything The Dillinger Escape Plan has done and everything they represent; they are staring in the mirror of two decades and Dissociation is the reflection staring back at them. It’s utterly astounding, and as a fan you just can’t help but love it instantly.