Fans of technical yet aggressive music are drawn to the genre by a variety of factors: the wizardry required to pull off much of the instrumentation, the feeling of belonging to an exclusive club of aficionados who can truly appreciate what they are hearing, and the sheer brutality of the whole thing, which separates truly aggressive bands from their milder mainstream counterparts.
The Dillinger Escape Plan don’t lack in any of these categories, but what separates them from a crowded landscape of technically proficient but often-forgettable contemporaries is their dynamics. There is something to be said for a relentless barrage of chaos for the entire length of an album, but The Dillinger Escape plan is not that band, and One of Us Is the Killer is not that album. In fact, One of Us Is the Killer is an ACME powder keg owned by Wile E. Coyote: you never know just when it’s going to explode, and the result is rarely what you expect.
To fans of The Dillinger Escape Plan, none of what I’ve said above is news. There is a larger point to be made here, however: for those who are scared away by tags like “mathcore” or “avant-garde metal” (as Wikipedia calls the band), this album could be your gateway drug into a world of odd time signatures and jazz breakdowns behind screeched and often incomprehensible vocals. Never has such weird music been more palatable for the average metal fan (although one could make a strong argument for Converge or Mastodon in this category). I’m seriously tempted to track-by-track this bad boy, as there is just SO much going on here, but I believe that method to be the laziest form of music review this side of “For fans of <more popular similar band>”. Let’s hit some highlights instead.
The first track is predictably engaging and high-energy, if not frantic. It’s called “Prancer,” and it’s got enough guitar chugging to satisfy the head-bangers while not disappointing those looking for spastic bursts of lead guitar insanity. “Understanding Decay” is the most “typical” Dillinger song on the album (if there is such a thing). A funky little intro gives way to shift after shift, and even at less than four minutes, it’s a vast and almost exhausting journey.