In psychiatry, dissociation is defined as: “a separation of normally related mental processes, resulting in one group functioning independently from the rest, leading in extreme cases to disorders such as multiple personality”. That is part of what comes to mind when I think of the Dillinger Escape Plan’s newest and final release, Dissociation. Though a collection of songs with a variety of emotions and energies that simmer and shoot out like sciatic nerve damage, it makes for a release that carefully ties and connects everything together as one living whole.
As a band that has been around for 19 years, and has just put out their sixth studio album, there is no denying the kinship in Dillinger. Ben Weinman and Kevin Antreassian present sounds that drive, drag, and distort emotions. Billy Rymer on drums and Liam Wilson on bass are excellent with driving songs forward with adrenaline and building up the anticipation. And vocalist Greg Puciato to this day has one of the best screams and shrieks in all of heavy music (not to mention his singing voice which is so powerful, it comes as a shock to startle ear drums when present). Throughout the album Puciato goes back and forth from pissed off to poetic, but always a brilliant storyteller bringing the listener into the atmosphere of the song. These are veteran musicians who know their strengths and have built upon challenges in the past; harnessing their beast and crafting them to soar.
Dillinger has done a solid job keeping teasers for Dissociation under wraps until the final product hits shelves. Opening with the first single “Limerent Death” was a brilliant idea, considering those who start the album from the very beginning, are still in mystery for what is yet to come. The track is a slow mood shift from beginning to end. With a slow opening, the tempo picks up in classic Dillinger fashion while never feeling crazy: that part comes in towards the end as everyone rushes in to amplify the anxiety of the closing. The following track “Symptom of Terminal Illness” begins with gentle guitars and vocals like something off their previous album One of Us Is the Killer. In Puciato’s vocals and the gentleness of the instrumentals, there’s an aura of mist and darkness like a haunted carnival surrounding the track.
“Wanting Not So Much As To” starts as a typical Dillinger song, to then taking moments with the guitar to give us glances of shrieks and hardcore punk tones. Half way the instrumentals begin to fade (even as the drums echo with their bashing cymbals), as Puciato returns with some spoken word, and the song kicks back in shifting tone to a twilight melody, just a bit brighter than the previous track. Then you have “Fugue”, which as a pure electronic instrumental track, plays brilliantly in the pattern of chaos and dreams laid out so far. Both fast, yet with a climbing chill of somber ever-present. “Low Feels Blvd” displays some excellent high guitar sounds, while “Surrogate” begins as a driving force, to trying to slowly apply the breaks as everyone begins to twist and twang their sound. “Honeysuckle” is a mirror of the previous track, only taking a slight dip in the middle before speeding away towards the end.
“Manufacturing Discontent” feels very “classic”, meaning it comes off like a Dillinger song we’ve heard before, and almost like a tribute to the math metal giants’ past work. Chugging, shifting time signatures, screaming, singing, distant and in your face all at once. “Apologies Not Included” provides one of the coolest twists found on the record, and that is how the drums act as a powerhouse, and the guitar comes off as pretty…. normal. Not overflowing with erratic math tones, there is something almost radio friendly about, and that’s a great twist to not expect from such an act. “Nothing to Forget” brings back that nightmarish carnival tone, into some hardcore chugging, to even being classical. This is also the track where Puciato displays possibly the record’s best sining; all at once clean, dark, and most importantly, beautiful.
Then finally, but not least, is the title track “Dissociation”. Beautiful strings bring the listener, then introducing quiet and speedy electronic keys, and Puciato comes in with vocals very similar to his electronic side project the Black Queen. The drastically different track compared to the entire album, it makes for the only song to give off any brightness to the dark atmosphere given off. It makes for a simple, yet elegant ending to the body of songs before.
The members of the Dillinger Escape Plan have gone on to say that this album is the end of the band. With it being 19 years, Dissociation makes for a conclusion and the ability for the band and their fans to reflect on a complete body of work. The members of group aren’t calling it an end to creating music in their own endeavors, but an end to Dillinger. They can now look back at an oeuvre that asked of them time, discipline and sweat. In its varying emotions and thoughts, Dissociation is at once is a whirlwind of chaos and a pit of darkness and thought. Crafted with frenzy and care, this is a true work of art in all its instrumentation and vocalization. The record tells many stories, and asks the listener to give part of themselves over.
The balance in dipping and plunging into so many sounds of math rock, metal, electronic, and classical music pays off in becoming a work that proves that there is a peace in chaos. In all its clean and high moments, in all its jagged dreams and nightmares, Dissociation is an album that will not only make music lovers think about the Dillinger Escape Plan, but will remind music lovers the gift that music is.