It’s better to burn out than to fade away.
Label: Party Smasher Inc / Cooking Vinyl
Released: 14th October 2016
Facing the prospect of this being the final Dillinger Escape Plan album, it seems somewhat pithy to try and critically place ‘Dissociation’ within their existing canon; nor is it fitting for a band that have burned so bright to have their final release pigeonholed to a mere footnote.
So it’s convenient in any case that ‘Dissociation’ isn’t immediately comparable to any previous Dillinger album. It retains some of the aggression and reverse-on-a-dime choppiness of previous record ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’, but perhaps dials up the weirdness and exposes more shades of their sound. Case in point – there’s the trip-hop electronic groove of ‘Fugue’, recalling to some extent the glitchier parts of ‘Ire Works’ – but there’s also the downright superb lounge jazz middle-eight of ‘Low Feels Blvd’, one of the most joyously unchained and brilliant passages they’ve yet penned. When the band kick back in with laser-guided precision and Billy Rymer’s trademark snare-heavy shredding, the release is as powerful as anything in their back catalogue.
Greg Puciato’s vocal throughout is powerful as ever, and maybe as a result of his Black Queen project, he seems more comfortable with using his natural voice. As a result, on tracks like ‘Wanting Not So Much As To’ you not only get a brilliant turn of spoken-word in the verses, but come the chorus, some of the most anthemic melodies on the record, backed by appropriately atmospheric guitars. The cutting climax of ‘Surrogate’ sees another round of powerful clean vocal, as do the choruses of taut thrashers ‘Honeysuckle’, and ‘Manufacturing Discontent’, but on ‘Apologies Not Included’ there’s zero need to be nice, and Greg destroys his vocal chords with glee from start to finish.
In other ways, however, this record treads water. Where ‘One Of Us Is The Killer’ was a progression in the sense of almost being an attempt to see just how heavy and how aggressive, how mean and how lean the band could be at their most extreme, ‘Dissociation’, for all its diversity doesn’t feel like a great break from all that came before. Then again, when even the least experimental or unusual Dillinger Escape Plan song is both stranger and more leftfield than entire genres, maybe that’s an indulgence they should be allowed.
All in all, ‘Dissociation’ feels less like a full-stop on a distinguished, if chaotic, career and more like an excellent mid-career album, with the promise of more to come. That this will be their final album is all the more tragic; this is not the sound of a band bowing out, but a group at the peak of their powers bulldozing all in their path. Then again, more than most, Dillinger Escape Plan probably embody that most rock’n’roll of sayings – that it’s better to burn out than to fade away. Alex Lynham