This might seem a bit out of the blue, but here’s the thing: The Dillinger Escape Plan were one of the most groundbreaking, forward-thinking bands in extreme music history, and although they’re certainly far from forgotten, sometimes I wonder why I can walk down the road, grab five random strangers by the shoulders and scream the band’s name in their face, and they have no idea what I’m talking about. (Pro tip: never do this.) So, just because they were the kings of face-melting technical metalcore and we never want anyone to forget it, we thought it was time to take a look at five of the most jaw-dropping moments in the band’s catalogue.
Presented here in chronological order are five times The Dillinger Escape Plan totally killed it, totally shattered expectations, totally knocked us on our asses.
1: 0:00 to 0:44 of “The Mullet Burden”
Sure, there was a more or less forgotten debut EP from 1997, but The Dillinger Escape Plan truly found themselves with 1998 EP Under the Running Board, and our introduction to it was “The Mullet Burden,” arguably (see #2) the band’s most classic cut. And is there anything more balls-to-the-wall frantic and shocking than the first 44 seconds of this song? From the can’t-quite-air-drum-to-it blasting to the sampled scream that etched its way into all our memories, the first part of “The Mullet Burden” will go down in extreme music history as a game-changer, 44 seconds that made us all stop dead in our tracks and just listen, jaws dropped, adrenaline pumping, excitement building as to where this band was about to take extreme music.
2: 0:00 to 0:23 of “43% Burnt”
Then they went and did it again with “43% Burnt,” the other track that stands in competition as the band’s defining moment. Taken from their debut full-length, 1999’s Calculating Infinity, the song was more of a warning than a teaser of what was to come, and the first 23 seconds of it were nothing short of a revelation. After the surprising suckerpunch of the tech-sludge opening, the metalcore-on-speed riff that came next, which sounded like the cogs of a machine getting tangled in themselves on warp speed, was pure audio innovation, the band bringing in the next level of metalcore right at the genre’s peak.
3: 2:07 to 3:35 of “Sunshine the Werewolf”
Now, those first two were paradigm-shifting moments of absolute boundary pushing in extreme music, and I loved every second of them the day they came out, and still do today. But to me, what really made DEP reach the realm of legends was their second full-length, 2004’s astounding Miss Machine. Here, the band suddenly ventured into the danger zone of the melodic, but never left behind the chaos they established with previous releases. But with then-new vocalist Greg Puciato behind the mic, something even more exciting happened as the band channeled batshit bonkers Faith No More anti-radio radio rock with beyond-tech metalcore. And when the build-up that starts at 2:07 in “Sunshine the Werewolf” begins, you’re sucked into this strange and fascinating world until it spits you out at 3:35, anxious to see where the band will take this newfound sense of extremity within melody next.
4: 1:04 to 1:52 of “Unretrofied”
What you didn’t expect was that later in the same album, they’d take things here. “Unretrofied” is a one-of-a-kind funky groove chill electro-metalcore… What sweet hell is this song? I still have no idea, but it’s incredible, the bizarre left turn that the band’s whole career up to this point had been leading to, placed as the second-to-last song on Miss Machine, and the section from 1:04 to 1:52, with the fantastic verse and soaring chorus, is untouchable. In a world far better than one any of us have ever known, this is a hit single and the band went on to headline stadiums throughout the rest of their destructive time with us. “Unretrofied” is unreal, Puciato’s vocals incredibly on point, the band playing things shockingly restrained to great impact, Dillinger Escape Plan pulling off with glory what could have been horrifying garbage.
5: 1:13 to 1:28 of “Black Bubblegum”
For their next album, 2007’s fantastic Ire Works, the band perfected the sound they created with Miss Machine. “Black Bubblegum” is a great example of this, and the brief section from 1:13 to 1:28 is a perfect, head-shaker of a build-up as the band, again, harnesses their inner Faith No More but adds more slivery shards and antagonistic prickles hiding behind the deceptively pretty melodies. On its own, the section doesn’t sound like much, but placed in the greater context of the song, of the discography, it’s a perfect summation of what they were going for at this point. Like “Unretrofied,” this song has all the makings for enormity in a world that can appreciate such groundbreaking sounds. And, you know, our world could, kinda, as the band went on to achieve greater success than any of us ever would have thought when those first 44 seconds of “The Mullet Burden” destroyed our earholes all those years earlier. Still, in a perfect world, The Dillinger Escape Plan topped all charts and destroyed stadiums, songs like “Black Bubblegum” echoing in the air; here on planet Earth those in the know simply nod in reverence to one of the greats, the beautiful chaos gone but never forgotten.