Meshuggah, Converge, Coalesce and Botch all blazed the extreme-metal trail years before The Dillinger Escape Plan's frenetic blend of spastic time changes, guitar sprees and blast-furnace intensity captured scenesters' attentions with their 1999 debut, Calculating Infinity. The Jersey quintet has been a band of marked men ever since, with a thousand generic, mediocre alt/metal pretenders biting at their heels while legions of newborn fans beg for a reprise.
Not that they're ones to play requests: Importantly, DEP has never sought approbation or validation, so when it came time they answered with 2004's antagonistic Miss Machine, which turns up the amperage across the board while mincing musical genres like Iron Chefs mince ingredients. From the brief snatches of melody (courtesy of then-new singer Greg Puciato) and schizophrenic tempos to the washes of guitar and bolts of electronic noise, Miss Machine is a merry-go-round powered by Cuisinart. After all, according to guitarist Ben Weinman, it was a self-aware move to confound expectations.
"We were adding diversity to our music, and we wanted to be more adventurous right off the bat, to create more artistic freedom in the future," Weinman says, explaining the thought process that led to their terrific new release, Ire Works. "We created a situation where we felt free to make this record."
Timing is everything when it comes to an impression. Miss Machine's aggression sidestepped coattail riders, smartly opening the door for Ire Works' relative accessibility. Its bitterness made Works' appeal that much sweeter. The horn-fueled "Milk Lizard" sounds like Jesus Lizard fellating the Peter Gunn theme, and "Black Bubblegum" is all hook-lined hard rock with vocal histrionics that suggest Faith No More. (Mike Patton did fill in as vocalist on 2002's Irony Is a Dead Scene EP.) Their more straightforward attack contrasts well with the other neck-breaking arrangements, something Weinman values in his band: "Those are the songs that are most fun for me. The songs that I write in my head at night and, in the morning, I play them, and they're done," he says. "Then it's just a matter to see how we can make it work production-wise to make it more dense. In the past we were definitely a dynamic band. ... We've created a circumstance where our records will have dynamics throughout the records themselves. Songs like those are now really an important part of the band."
It's good that Weinman still enjoys the band: He says he spent several weeks foregoing sleep while fiddling with Meshuggah's programmed "Drumkit From Hell" after the abrupt departure of drummer Chris Pennie for Coheed & Cambria set the band back several months. Weinman was trying to be prepared in case a replacement couldn't be found. Poison the Well drummer Chris Hornbrook saved the day, recommending Gil Sharone, who plays a huge role in Ire Works' success. His beats are as loud and punishing as those of Pennie, but with more swing. DEP's thunder sounds newly enriched.
"Chris is very mechanical, machine-like and was a big part of us developing our sound," says Weinman of the past. "But it's nice to have someone who can do that, but also has all this groove and feel."
Sharone's moodier, syncopated playing dovetails with one of Weinman's key gripes about DEP—the people who describe it as "technical metal."
"One thing I feel really separates us from all the tech bands is that energy and emotion comes first over technicality," he says. "Some of the pleasure comes from things we want to pull off technically ... but if the song doesn't have energy and some kind of emotion, we have no use for it. Just being clever or interesting is not enough for me."
The Dillenger Escape Plan plays with Killswitch Engage, Every Time I Die and Parkway Drive at Lincoln Theatre (this show has been moved from Disco Rodeo) Thursday, Jan. 17, at 7 p.m. Tickets are $23-$26.