I haven’t written a review in a long time, and the negative responses to Ire Works angered me enough to write a retort of my own. I can only put it this way – those who criticize this record for not being like Calculating Infinity, quite simply, are not artists. You may play music, but you are not an artist. I’m not necessarily saying I am a great musician, or an artist at all, but I think I understand the creative process well enough to “get” what Ben and company are doing here. This band, first of all, is not the same lineup as the one that created Calculating Infinity. And secondly, the one person left, Ben Weiman, is an absolute genius. He definitely has the capacity to create another Calculating Infinity. I’m sure he’s got all sorts of great riffs, solos, and spazzy jazz guitar runs milling around in his head. No one writes music like him. And all he did on Calculating Infinity was put a bunch of riffs together, and have someone yell incoherently over it. I’m a fan of the record, the energy and technicality are quite frankly mindblowing – and many, many DEP fans were made on the basis of that record. I know I was. However it takes maturity to recognize it for what it really is, a band with tons of ideas quickly getting something creative out there. Miss Machine, and Ire Works by extension, have made DEP into something much more than a niche extreme metal act who specialize in one “trick.” Metal can be so limiting, which is why 95% of extreme metal acts just make the same record over and over again for their entire careers. There are only so many different combinations of bass/guitar interlocking riffs and screaming vocals out there. Dillinger Escape Plan has made a complete work of art with Ire Works. They have established themselves, in my opinion, as the Radiohead of this kind of music. That doesn’t mean they’re the best extreme metal band out there (I think that is Mastodon) but I make the Radiohead comparison for a reason. Radiohead and DEP (on Ire Works) make music that reveals itself differently over hundreds and hundreds of listens. To achieve this kind of artistic pinnacle, you must be firing on all cylinders. There must be great lyrics, great riffs, great melodies, great instrumental performances on every song from every player, and there must be an unparalleled attention to detail. There must be that something extra. Both Radiohead and DEP (on Ire Works) hide little surprises in the mixes, electronic blips here and there, a tambourine mixed deep on a track, atmospherics, swirling guitars you never noticed, a buried haunting vocal scream you never heard until the 50th time, and on and on. And they’re not superfluous, they are part of the song in an important, if not immediately accessible, way. The songs on Ire Works have revealved themselves to me gradually over the course of dozens of listens. I can speak only for myself (though I’m sure other reviewers will agree) but this is what makes an album an “experience.” This is what makes captital A “ART” in my humble opinion. Ire Works, Radiohead’s In Rainbows, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue – these examples are not just great musical recordings but statements that have transcended “popular music,” at least for myself.
The criticism comes from lame scenesters and angry kids, or angry kids at heart, who cannot stomach “their” band achieving this kind of SUCCESS – it is simply beyond their comprehension. This same old song and dance is repeated every year, a band grows, and their old fans reject the new sound. But this situation, I feel, is slightly different. Dillinger Escape Plan still traffics, by and large, in the same kind of extreme, jarring, very difficult heavy metal-hardcore music. Your average pop fan or average hard rock fan would think much of this record – even Milk Lizard – is unlistenable. Pucciato’s grating yells and abrasive vocal attitude, not to mention the screaching guitars and perverse time signatures would be enough to turn most mainstream music fans away from this record, even at its “poppiest” moments. Some of the most aggressive songs on this record would have been right at home on Calculating Infinity, except that they’re even better. They ebb and flow even while the rhythms perplex – this is called great heavy metal songwriting. No one can pull it off like this band. The attention to detail in the recording and mixing process, again, reminds me of Radiohead. It’s absolute headphone perfection. So again, if you don’t at least appreciate the strides this band has made from the days of Calculating Infinity, then you do not understand what art is. It is a process, a metamorphasis, a gradual awakening. You might prefer other Dillinger records (though for my money this is far and away their best) but if you do not at least understand that Black Bubblegum is an incredible pop rock song, that When Acting as a Particle is a great slice of ambient music, and that Dead as History is spectacular progressive rock – whether or not you like these genres – then you are not a sophisticated listener. I hate to be judgmental, or proclaim my opinion as fact, but this is how I see it. Dillinger Escape Plan have launched themselves into waters where few bands have dared to tread. This record deserves to be seriously approached and respected as great art and not just as a good ole headbanging time (though it certainly can be both, and is!). There are thousands of groups of that provide thrash riffs and screaming. There are only a handful that demand and command so much from the listener. Don’t have it from these lame scenesters, experience this transcednece – over and over again – for yourself, in your own way. Dillinger wouldn’t have it any other way. Also, this album rocks amazingly hard.