New Jersey heavy metal group The Dillinger Escape Plan is one of the pioneers1 of the “mathcore” genre: a style of metalcore that features oft-changing time signatures and dissonance with stylistic similarities to grindcore and jazz fusion. Their fifth studio album One of Us is the Killer qualifies the spastic punishments of earlier albums with stadium grooves. Lyrics describe the emotions and events that surround catastrophic break-ups and the nadir of failed relationships – lyrics that were at least partially informed by some very real intra-band strife..
Songs are quite a bit slower – even sludgier – than the grinds of Ire Works, which penultimate track “Crossburner” aptly demonstrates. It’s not a new development: 2010’s Option Paralysis revealed The Dillinger Escape Plan’s plan2 to spread their sound like butter over just-enough bread through an average song length of over four minutes and an emphasis on spatial penatrance. One of Us… is a lot less experimental in sound than Option Paralysis, but it does retain the latter’s plowing chug-attack in favor of previous albums’ -core overdrive.
As such, One Of Us… remains a curious and potentially divisive listen. On one hand, it’s nice to see The Dillinger Escape Plan continue to diversify their sound. The accessibility of this album is not a bad thing: if there are sing-alongs in the band’s two-decade tenure, then they are here. Greg Puciato’s scream shows no signs of age on the title track, and his lyrics do well at describing the torrid, potentially self-destructive aftermaths of interpersonal relationships. As for guitarist Ben Weinman, his songwriting is at its strongest on opener “Pancer,” and follow-up track “When I Lost My Bet” has his characteristic blitzkrieg-strums that would make John McLaughlin’s head nod. There are subtle studio effects – piano keys on “Nothing’s Funny,” mindless chatter on “Understanding Decay” – that reward repeated listens. Yells that sound like couples fighting accentuate the intimacy of the heartbreak espoused.
On the other hand, One Of Us… may be viewed as a point where The Dillinger Escape Plan lose some vestige of being a foremost bearer of the tag “experimental” and gain an ignominious badge of generic metalcore. There are several tracks – such as “Paranoia Shields” and “Magic That I Held You Prisoner” – that are indistinguishable from your three-star Relapse Records bands. Despite the examples provided in the previous paragraph, Weinman’s abrading guitar attack is relatively absent in the middle of the album, which is most disappointingly seen in instrumental “CH 375 268 277 ARS.”
That being said, The Dillinger Escape Plan’s newfound accessibility is not a bad thing. In fact, it’s generally a good one: the title track and “Pancer” are excellent introductions into The Dillinger Escape Plan’s career for listeners who may find the atomizing Miss Machine or the frenzied electronic experiments of Ire Works too dense. One Of Us… has its issues, but it is charged with the fire that leaves audiences’ bodies forty-three percent burnt.
1. Pancer – (3:51) – ★★★★★
2. When I Lost My Bet – (3:52) – ★★★★☆
3. One of Us Is the Killer – (3:28) – ★★★★★
4. Hero of the Soviet Union – (2:59) – ★★★☆☆
5. Nothing’s Funny – (3:25) – ★★★★☆
6. Understanding Decay – (3:48) – ★★★★★
7. Paranoia Shields – (4:26) – ★★★☆☆
8. CH 375 268 277 ARS – (2:31) – ★★☆☆☆
9. Magic That I Held You Prisoner – (2:49) – ★★★☆☆
10. Crossburner – (5:04) – ★★★★★
11. The Threat Posed by Nuclear Weapons – (3:46) – ★★★☆☆
1Along with Converge, Botch, Coalesce, and Psyopus.