Dillinger Escape Plan - Miss Machine (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Dillinger Escape Plan

Miss Machine (2004)


After listening to what feels like a thousand different records - all of which led me to wonder how many of these bands employ Adam Lazzara - I was becoming increasingly cynical about the ability of recent music to affect me in any meaningful way. And certainly, I count Calculating Infinity among my absolute favorites, so I approached this long awaited release with a mixture of anticipation and skepticism. The addition of a new singer, the third (of sorts) for the band, as well a five year delay between full lengths left me a more than a little nervous about the future of one of my favorite bands.

Of course, the first and most noticeable difference between Calculating Infinity and Miss Machine is the addition of Greg Puciato, and I must confess that as much as I loved Dimitri's contributions to the bands first EPs and full length, Pucciato more than adequately fills his role, adding more versatility than Dimitri ever attempted. From the undeniable power and rage on "Panasonic Youth," and "Van Damsel" to the melodic and dynamic range he demonstrates on the Latin-inspired "Unretrofied," Greg manages to both impress with his mastery of both Dimitri's scorching scream, as well as his contribution, a powerful and dynamic tenor. Any doubts I had about his ability to function as a replacement were quickly quashed as I progressed through the eleven song disc, only his first record with the band.

Despite the bands reputation as progenitors of "math-core" - a reputation they could easily have rested on for the next decade - Miss Machine is possessed of an unmistakable progression and once again demonstrates why the band is one of the most innovative forces in modern music. While their potent combination of hardcore, grind, jazz and industrial music was already incredible, the addition of melodic elements and further progression down a variety of new avenues leaves this record as a unique experience. The rhythm and explosive power of "Highway Robbery" progresses seamlessly into a burst of a melodic chorus before breaking down into a pseudo-drum and bass bridge; while "Phone Home" takes The Downward Spiral's "The Becoming" and morphs it into a dark and addictive tour de force.

But all this technical mastery could become a dry academic exercise into music theory in the wrong hands; Don Caballero's instrumental noise, jazz and metal make for a unique and influential mix, but the result is often sterile and impersonal. Luckily, The Dillinger Escape Plan never falls into the "noodling" trap, allowing its considerable instrumental and vocal prowess to serve as a vehicle for the songs, not as the songs themselves.

While some may complain that Patton's contribution with the band (the wonderful Irony is a Dead Scene) had too much of an influence on the band, I'm not clear on why the influence of arguably the best vocalist in contemporary music would be considered as a strike against the band. Greg certainly takes some cues from the multi-faceted vocalist, most certainly in the melodic chorus of "Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants" which sounds like Faith No More filtered through progressive hardcore, but ignoring the singular influence that Patton's projects like Mr.Bungle and Fantomas undoubtedly had on the band would be a missed opportunity.

If nothing else, Miss Machine has renewed my faith and all but erased the auto-tuned annoyances of those other bands from my memory. And while bands like the Dillinger Escape Plan rarely receive the mainstream success of those bandwagoneers - usually having to make do with the adulation and admiration of musicians and critics - Miss Machine is that special kind of record which rests precariously on the apex of accessibility and importance. Without a doubt, one of the finest records released this year, and almost certainly the best heavy record since, well, their last one.