The Dillinger Escape Plan
posted on 12/2007 By:
Now that Ire Works has been out for a while, all of us have had a bit of time to reflect on Dillinger Escape Plan's third full-length. First and foremost, this album was supposed to be the band's big thrust toward the mainstream. We're speaking primarily in terms of sales, but for many that step went hand-in-hand with a more accessible sound. To say the least, sales weren't as expected. A #142 debut on the Billboard 200 with 7,000 copies sold the first week of release might be something worth popping a cork over for most metal bands, but somehow I am thinking DEP and Relapse were expecting more.
There are a number of reasons why less people were interested in buying Ire Works than many had predicted. DEP went through a number of lineup changes since the 2004 release, Miss Machine. When you lose a founding member, in this case drummer Chris Pennie, you're bound to experience hardship in some form. DEP also lost guitarist Brian Benoit to nerve damage. Did losing these two have any effect on the sound? I think so. Taking even one guitarist out of the mix is a pretty big deal when you only had two to begin with. For a "mathcore" band like DEP, the effect is that much more pronounced. Losing a founding member can also be a huge detriment to chemistry.
An immediate comparison came to mind after the first listen: Ire Works doesn't feel as seamlessly constructed as Miss Machine. Even with its relatively short length (38.4 minutes), there are a few tracks I don't care for in the least. In their attempt to keep it real while still incorporating more recognizable song structures DEP has failed to establish an identity here. I would have preferred a complete devotion to writing songs more closely resembling "Unretrofied" and "Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants." It's the same mistake Shadows Fall made when writing Threads of Life. The DEP fanbase isn't so underground that they're going to protest a new album that sounds, for lack of a better word, poppy.
What Mastodon did with Blood Mountain is a good framework for what I would have liked to have seen from DEP with Ire Works. Keep the gut of your sound (the general sense of insanity this band tends to produce), sing just a tad bit cleaner, don't shy away from choruses and, above all, write good songs. I am not asking for a complete pop record that sacrifices character for accessibility, but bands can maintain their identity while still experimenting with a different sound. Judas Priest did it. Sabbath did it. Rush did it. Mastodon continues to do it. Need I go on? It CAN be done successfully. Unfortunately, DEP only went halfway. Songs like "Black Bubblegum" and "Milk Lizard" clearly show that the band is capable of deviating from their norm in remarkable fashion. While admirable from a purely technical standpoint, songs like "Party Smasher," "82588," and "Lurch" force this band to take three steps back from whatever "Milk Lizard" accomplished. "Sick On Sunday," a pointless amalgamation of strange effects, guitar noodling and affected vocals, simply doesn't belong on the same album as a song like "Black Bubblegum." The same could be said for "When Acting As a Particle."
Disappointment came pretty easy for me because I quickly made the comparison between Ire Works and Miss Machine. A mistake? Maybe. But if it's a mistake, it's a mistake most listeners will make. The poppier songs are more convincing on Ire Works, but to the album's detriment they are few and far between. The noodly, more traditional mathcore songs were far better on Miss Machine than on this new one, and that's essentially what separates the two. If you must own one DEP album for history's sake, that album is still Calculating Infinity, but Miss Machine was the one DEP album that really clicked for me. Ire Works never clicked the same way. Diehard DEP fans already own this, so I won't say anything either way for them. However, casual DEP fans and those into more progressive stuff should prepare for at least mild disappointment.
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