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Music / The Dillinger Escape Plan

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Flying guitarists are a lot more common in this line of work than you might think.

Related Acts:
  • Arcane (former band of Ben Weinman, Chris Pennie and Dmitri Minakakis)
  • Better Lovers (three ex-Every Time I Die members, one Fit for an Autopsy member, and Greg Puciato)
  • The Black Queen (Greg Puciato's synthpop side project)
  • Coheed and Cambria (former drummer Chris Pennie currently plays in them)
  • Jesuit (former guitarist Brian Benoit played in them, alongside future Converge bassist Nate Newton)
  • Killer Be Killed (side project featuring Greg Puciato)
  • Mike Patton (collaborated for one EP)
  • Starkweather (Liam Wilson)

The Dillinger Escape Plan was a Metalcore band from New Jersey. They formed in 1997 after the split-up of Arcane, a fairly run-of-the-mill hardcore band that guitarist Ben Weinman, drummer Chris Pennie and singer Dmitri Minakakis played in. Building on the sound of bands like Converge, Cave In and Botch, they initially developed a technically demanding mathcore style based on speedy tempos, shouted/screamed vocals, and purposefully jarring shifts in rhythm and tone. Following the release of their first album, their music started to become even more experimental, incorporating clean vocals, industrial and electronic textures, and a greater interest in melody and structure.

Despite what the above description might suggest and their being arguably one of the most extreme bands in the world, they maintain a decidedly lighthearted approach to their music (especially in a genre known for po-faced-ness) and their songs are much more quirky and eccentric than might be expected. The band has had numerous lineup changes, to the point that, at the time they split up, lead guitarist Ben Weinman was the sole remaining founding member.

In mid-2016, the band announced that it would be going on an extended hiatus after the release of Dissociation; however, Greg has gone on to say that the band is actually breaking up, in part due to he and Ben feeling that they've done all they can do from an artistic standpoint.

On December 29, 2017, the band played their final show at Terminal 5 in New York City with Code Orange and Daughters as supporting acts. Today, The Dillinger Escape Plan remain a huge influence on Hardcore Punk and Heavy Metal with their discography having received critical acclaim, most notably their debut Calculating Infinity. Following that, Greg Puciato formed a Synthwave project called The Black Queen with the help of former Dillinger sound engineer Steven Alexander and ex-Nine Inch Nails guitarist Joshua Eustis.

The final line-up consisted of:

  • Greg Puciato (vocals)
  • Ben Weinman (guitar, backing vocals, piano, electronics, management)
  • Kevin Antreassian (rhythm guitar)
  • Liam Wilson (bass)
  • Billy Rymer (drums)

Studio albums and other releases:

  • The Dillinger Escape Plan (1997) - EP
  • Under the Running Board (1998) - EPnote 
  • Calculating Infinity (1999)
  • Irony Is a Dead Scene (2002) - an EP-length collaboration with Mike Patton
  • Miss Machine (2004)
  • Plagiarism (2006) - EP
  • Ire Works (2007)
  • Option Paralysis (2010)
  • One of Us Is the Killer (2013)
  • Dissociation (2016)
  • Instrumentalist (2017) - EP

The band provides examples of:

  • Added Alliterative Appeal: Miss Machine, "Black Bubblegum", "Sick on Sunday", "Horse Hunter", Endless Endings.
  • Big Rock Ending: "Mouth of Ghosts" has one after six minutes of jazz, complete with Careful with That Axe for the last couple of lines.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In the choruses of "Pig Latin," Mike Patton screams "Chinga" ("Aching" in Pig Latin) in between the verses. Spanish speakers however will hear the Spanish equivalent of "Fuck", turning the sense of frustration and aching to hostile rage.
  • Black Comedy: "Baby's First Coffin".
  • Boléro Effect: Several songs start out quiet and build to loud climaxes. "Mouth of Ghosts" may be the band's most obvious example, but there are some others.
  • Break Up Song: What most of their early work was according to original vocalist Dimitri Minakakis.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Both bassist Adam Doll and rhythm guitarist Brian Benoit were forced to quit the band after injuries that left them unable to play their instruments. Interestingly, both Doll and Benoit attempted to remain with the band as keyboardists before quitting entirely.
  • Careful with That Axe: Occasionally Greg will start screaming at some point into songs that are mostly calm and largely sung, such as "Widower" and "Mouth of Ghosts". Overall most of their vocals outside their ballads are screamed anyway, so it's debatable how much this trope applies to those.
  • Cover Version: Among others, "Come to Daddy" by Aphex Twin (recorded with Mike Patton on vocals), "Wish" by Nine Inch Nails (Greg and Ben later joined NIN onstage at a gig in Australia to perform the song) and "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy. Let's not forget "Like I Love You" by Justin Timberlake, "Paranoid" by Black Sabbath, "Jesus Christ Pose" by Soundgarden, "Territorial Pissings" by Nirvana or "Angel" by Massive Attack.
    • They also combined "Damaged I" and "Damaged II" for a Black Flag tribute album.
    • The first night of their last shows in New York City had them covering "Malpractice" by Faith No More with Mike Patton. The mosh pit was reportedly terrifying.
  • Cross-Referenced Titles: "Nong Eye Gong" from Ire Works is bookended by the instrumentals "When Acting as a Particle" and "When Acting as a Wave".
  • Dramatic Shattering: On par with X Japan and The Who for playing this trope: from smashing guitars, to setting them on fire, to smashing microphones and other equipment, to smashing drumkits and setting them ablaze, they have done all these and more.
  • Epic Rocking: "Mouth of Ghosts" (6:50), "Widower" (6:24), "Angel" (6:15), "Dissociation" (6:15), "When Good Dogs Do Bad Things" (6:01)
  • Genre-Busting: While they're almost universally agreed to be a mathcore band (to the extent that they're frequently cited as candidates for Trope Codifier), they also have elements of Progressive Metal, grindcore (on early material), Hardcore Punk, Experimental Metal, Jazz, and Electronic Music, among other styles.
  • Genre Mashup: A weird mix of avant-garde metal, math rock, hardcore punk, jazz, noise, industrial, IDM and what have you.
  • Gorn: The videos for "When I Lost My Bet" and "One of Us Is the Killer" have very bloody and violent imagery.
  • Harsh Vocals: While Puciato can sing clean vocals and does so on several songs, he's most known for a mix of harsh screams and shouted vocals.
  • Hidden Track: There's one at the end of Calculating Infinity, which has samples from the film version of Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl.
  • I Am the Band: Ben Weinman was the band's main creative force, manager, and only remaining founding member. He wasn't entirely happy with this arrangement, however; in an interview around the release of Option Paralysis, he said that he hoped the present Dillinger line-up would be the last one. (The lineup still changed a bit after that interview, but not nearly as much; in fact, apart from a few changes in rhythm guitarist, the lineup was stable from 2009 onward). And towards the end of the project, Puciato seems to have had a lot more influence over its direction.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: Surprisingly averted - Greg's vocals are quite harsh but the lyrics remain easy to understand. Tended to be played straighter on the records with Dmitri, though the screamed parts of "Paranoid" are still easy to understand (but that might just be because everyone already knows the lyrics anyway).
  • Instrumentals: They have several. "*%..", "Calculating Infinity", "Weekend Sex Change", "When Acting as a Particle", and "When Acting as a Wave" are some examples. Some of these have spoken-word samples.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Mouth of Ghosts", to some extent; it ends on a rather discordant note after being a serene jazz song for most of its nearly seven-minute running time. It's not very intense by the band's standards, however, despite the last two lines being screamed.
  • Loudness War: Much of their music has fallen prey to this problem. Dissociation is DR5 (with several songs at DR4) and most of it is pretty badly clipped. It's not their only example, either. Their '90s material isn't quite as badly affected as their material starting with Irony Is a Dead Scene, but the problem affects all of their recordings to an extent.
  • Lucky Charms Title: The Calculating Infinty instrumental "*%..".
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: Mike Patton, obviously, but Greg Puciato has some impressive vocal range as well. He's also very good at altering his voice to fit the material. It's difficult to tell that that's not Trent Reznor singing on their cover of Nine Inch Nails' "Wish". Plus he can do all the expected screams and yells that you'd want from a mathcore vocalist.
  • Metalcore: One of the heaviest and most chaotic bands in the genre. Next to Converge, they're the most famous example of the mathcore variant of metalcore.
  • Mood Whiplash: Happens pretty often, like on their cover of "Paranoid". Probably more of their songs feature this trope than not.
  • Musical Pastiche: The title track of Calculating Infinity seems to be one of King Crimson's recurring set of instrumentals "Larks' Tongues in Aspic", especially "Part II".
  • New Sound Album: Arguable, but One of Us Is the Killer is considerably heavier than their preceding releases, with a harsh, noisy sound akin to Converge. Dissociation follows suit.
  • Non-Appearing Title: Probably upwards of half of their song titles don't appear anywhere in the lyrics. Quite a few don't even have any obvious relation to the lyrics (a good example here is "Hero of the Soviet Union").
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: Many of their instrumentals are this, being electronic music akin to Aphex Twin (whom they've covered) or Squarepusher including "Fugue", "*#..", "Weekend Sex Change", and "CH 375 268 277 ARS." They also have several ballads, such as "Mouth of Ghosts", "Dissociation", "One of Us Is the Killer", "Widower", and "Symptom of a Terminal Illness", which stand out among their back catalogue of chaotic technical metalcore.
  • Performance Video: "Panasonic Youth" and "Farewell, Mona Lisa".
  • Pun-Based Title: "Panasonic Youth", fnarr fnarr.
  • Rearrange the Song: Some songs get greatly expanded in live performances. The reissue of Under the Running Board contains live performances of "Clip the Apex... Accept Instruction" and "Abe the Cop" that add over a minute to each of them as compared to their studio counterparts. Incidentally, these expanded versions contain material that the band would later reuse in new compositions. It seems they may have used live performances as a way to test-drive new material for audiences before recording it, much like The Mars Volta used to.
  • Refuge in Audacity: During their first performance at Reading Festival in 2002, Greg defecated in full view on stage before putting the feces in a plastic bag and throwing it in the audience and smearing the rest on himself. This nearly resulted in the band being banned in the UK for violation of public decency laws. It was apparently meant as a Take That! to some of the other acts on the festival (Word of God later singled out Puddle of Mudd in particular); in the middle of the act, Greg quipped, "This is a bag of shit; I just wanted to show you this so you'll recognize it later on throughout the day".
  • Revolving Door Band: Two vocalists (three if you count Mike Patton), seven guitarists, three bassists and three drummers over the course of fourteen years.
  • Rockers Smash Guitars: Hoo boy, definitely. And not just guitars either, for that matter.
  • Sampling: They sometimes sample John Doe's line from Se7en ("I've gone and done it again.") in live performances of "Sugar Coated Sour" (some versions, such as the one on Under the Running Board, also incorporate more of Doe's lines at the intro). "Weekend Sex Change" and "Monticello" also have several samples about the band's namesake, bank robber John Dillinger.
  • Scary Musician, Harmless Music: An inversion - they look like a harmless indie rock band, but just wait till you hear them play songs like this.
  • Shout-Out: Their cover of Black Sabbath's "Paranoid" quotes Jimmy Page's guitar solo from Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" at one point.
  • Song Style Shift: Particularly starting from Irony Is a Dead Scene, quite a few songs shift style at least once. "When Good Dogs Do Bad Things" does this at least three times.
  • Soprano and Gravel: Greg Puciato does this a lot, screaming as his primary vocal style on most songs but using a lot of clean vocal hooks on some of them as well. Mike Patton did this on his EP with the band as well. Interestingly, Puciato's singing has been compared to Patton's, which is high praise indeed.
  • Springtime for Hitler: The aforementioned "bag of shit" incident. This was the first time the band had played a major show along with a bunch of bands they didn't like, and they figured that D.E.P. wouldn't have enough shelf life to be there next year anyway, so Greg thought that if he was never going to get a chance to play Reading twice anyway, he may as well get banned. Except the band DID have some staying power, and in fact returned to Reading in 2016. This time Greg decided to drink tea on a couch on stage during the first song instead.
  • Subdued Section: Some of their songs alternate chaotic mathcore sections with more serene sections. "Baby's First Coffin" contains a great example. "When Good Dogs Do Bad Things" contains another.
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: Started to pop up with more frequency from Miss Machine onwards. Examples include "Unretrofied", "Black Bubblegum", "Milk Lizard", "Dead as History", "Mouth of Ghosts", "Widower" (an honest-to-goodness Power Ballad), "One of Us Is the Killer", and "Dissociation". Earlier albums had a few examples as well, though (almost all instrumentals). "Weekend Sex Change" is a good example; it's still unsettling, but it's nothing anyone could describe as "heavy".
  • Uncommon Time: Weird time signatures and stuttering off-beats are what their core sound is based around. In fact, Dillinger songs in Common Time are the exception, rather than the rule. To give you an idea of how prevalent this trope is, there is a rumour (probably apocryphal) that they determine their time signatures by throwing dice.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Ben and Greg. Most of One of Us Is the Killer was written and recorded when their friendship was in dire straits.
    • True Companions: At the the end of the day, Ben, Greg, Liam, and Billy are all this.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Ben and Chris Pennie were good friends, but as time went on their relationship was very strained. According to Greg, they would go from talking to screaming at each other in a matter of minutes. Chris eventually left the band to be in Coheed and Cambria.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: The lyrics on Calculating Infinity consisted almost exclusively of this. Greg's lyrics are substantially less nonsensical.