'Hardcore' and 'underground' are two words that seem to have been virtually married to each other for some time, and with the release of 'Miss Machine,' even the Dillinger Escape Plan (subjects of global critical acclaim and clear inspirations to a stream of bands in a still exploding rock scene), are still being spoken of in this sense.
Admittedly, underground is a subjective term, and some could argue that any band not played on prime-slot commercial radio fits in this billing. And so DEP remain for the time being, theirs' being a credibility and sound that rests uneasily with mainstream peddling and convention. But in 'Miss Machine' the band has unleashed a record that will surely, sooner or later, sweep them into a space where underground will seem an empty term.
An even more inappropriate term to dish out to DEP at this time would be 'sell-outs', because this agonisingly awaited follow-up to 1999's 'Calculating Infinity' is superb. Stylistically, it is obviously different from the band's influential debut, with more definable harmonic choruses and electronica sound effects refining those brilliant hardcore thrashings, and this naturally does make the album sound more accessible.
But it's that rare kind of newfound accessibility that is laced with integrity and ingenuity through the sheer quality of the songs. A collection of massive variety, those new to the band will be gob-smacked by its class, while existing fans will be left impressed, and perhaps occasionally questioning, its slightly less-heavy leanings.
New singer Greg Puciato's impressive vocal range makes a clear impression, and 'Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants', accompanied by a catchy fast-paced chorus, both raises eyebrows and underlines this, with a creeping 'Phone Home' further emphasising this diversity.
Opener 'Panasonic Youth', 'Baby's First Coffin' and closer 'The Perfect Design' all embellish DEP's trademark brain-hammering sound. 'Unretrofied' - the other jaw-dropper in terms of direction, is also one of the finest efforts on the album, an accomplished blend of strings, synthesised effects, guitars, and a sing-along chorus; a sound hitherto unidentifiable with DEP.
This is the record the Dillinger Escape Plan deserved to release, it's what the world deserves, and is likely to be remembered as one of, if not the, year's best rock album. It will force further distance from the 'underground' tag, but hey, when you're this good, the music screams its integrity all by itself.
Writer: Tim Newbound