“Don’t Cry Because It’s over; Smile Because It Happened”
Sure, it’s a bit of a cheesy, overused quote, but I feel it’s appropriate when talking about the mighty Dillinger Escape Plan. 2016 was a year that was bittersweet for fans of New Jersey’s math-core pioneers, with the band releasing one of the most accomplished albums of their career but also announcing that it would be their last. They’re here in Birmingham for one last time, as part of their final European tour, one last chance for fans to celebrate the existence of one of the most influential heavy bands of the last 20 years.
It must be quite a daunting task supporting Dillinger, a band who’s years of exciting, unpredictable and in some cases, dangerous live shows have cemented their place as one of the greatest live bands on the planet and a must see for any fan of ‘heavy’ music. So, for a support band to leave a lasting impression after Dillinger have done their thing must go down as quite an achievement. But, this is exactly what Ho99o9 (pronounced Horror) did to me and, I imagine, quite a few here tonight. Their unique blend of experimental hip-hop and hardcore punk has been compared to Death Grips, Black Flag and Bad Brains and has to be seen to be believed.
One third of the group enters the stage wearing a wedding dress and a balaclava; it’s quite a sight and just the start of a crazy set. The energy is non-stop, soon both vocalists, The OGM and Eaddy, are drenched with sweat. It’s this kind of energy and aggression that Dillinger have built their careers on, so it’s no surprise that it goes down well with the crowd. Soon, pits begin to appear and Eaddy is revelling in it all, he’s in the crowd at the first chance “if you’re not moshing you’re a pussy” he screams. This onstage presence is captivating, exciting and somewhat disturbing, and though the music might not be to everyone’s tastes, their live show is something that you can’t take your eyes off. Their 30 minute set is closed out nicely with a well executed back-flip by Eaddy and the crowd is certainly warmed up enough to welcome Dillinger.
Opening as they mean to go on, Dillinger launch straight into ‘Limerent Death’ the opening song from Dissociation. It’s the kind of the song that Dillinger are known for; fast, aggressive and complex. But, also demonstrates an underlying groove that their songs have developed throughout their career. The pit is already a warzone, with bodies moving every which way, seen only intermittently as the strobes flash above. What always astounds me whenever I see Dillinger is just how tight they sound live; it’s that tightness that ultimately allows them so much freedom onstage, to do whatever the hell they want. And though there live act might have mellowed somewhat over the years, even now their energy is unrivalled by most. Whether it’s climbing up and jumping off amplifier stacks, running around the stage and generally not standing still for a second. But, it’s not all frantic, convulsive math-core; there are plenty of chances for vocalist Greg Puciato to show off how good his voice actually is. He goes from screeching ‘you smear your filth across the world’ in the brutal Hero of the Soviet Union to demonstrating his effortless falsetto in songs such as Black Bubblegum and the brilliant One of Us Is the Killer.
Though the band themselves sound as tight as ever, the sound tonight certainly left a lot to desire. Both guitarists are often drowned out by the sheer power of drummer, Billy Rymer, meaning Dillinger’s organised chaos on record often became a wall of noise. Nonetheless, the bands energy and the willingness of the crowd to have a good time mean that the sound issues only become a minor distraction and I’m sure the sound engineers are thankful that not every band is as noisy as Dillinger.
There’s plenty of variety in tonight’s set-list, giving the rest of the band a chance to show off an array of different styles that have been added to the bands catalogue over time. I must admit it’s a bit strange seeing people moshing to a full on jazz solo from Dissociation’s Low Feels Blvd. The highlight of the evening was saved for the encore, a stunning rendition of Mouth of Ghosts from 2007’s Ire Works. Lead guitarist Ben Weinman shows off some impressive piano skills as the band embarks on a six minute sprawling, psychedelic, progressive epic which builds up as a crescendo until the release when Greg finally comes in. It seems a risk to a play a nearly seven minute song in the encore, but Dillinger have built their career on risks and even though they’re soon to be no more they still are a band that write their own rules. Closing on 43% Burnt, the crowd and the band give their last ounces of energy and with one quick thank you, it’s all over.
For many this’ll be the last time seeing this innovative, constantly evolving, inspiring and downright brutal band, a band that never failed to give their all, a band that everyone seeing tonight will look back on as one of the best live bands to have existed and a band that I am hugely thankful for.
Reviewer – Francis Sebestjanowicz
Photographer – Steve Kilmister