It’s a Wednesday night in Birmingham and Academy 2 has fallen into absolute chaos. The two security men down the front struggle to control the constant stream of bodies hurling themselves over the barrier. And that’s just members of the band heading into the crowd!
The Dillinger Escape Plan have something of a reputation. That reputation includes stories of fire breathing, Justin Timberlake covers, on-stage excrement, but most of all they have a reputation for being one of the best live bands around. And tonight, in front of a packed room, they prove that their reputation is entirely justified.
Before that though, there are two support bands to get the evening off to an healthy start. California’s Stolen Babies have admitted their inspirations come more from theatre and film than they do from music and, looking towards the stage, their theatrical troupe background is fairly obvious. Utilising an array of costumes and props, the five-piece, fronted by the charismatic Dominique Persi, have been dubbed “Oingo Boingo meets Cradle Of Filth”. Tonight their darkly playful imagery and trash-punk metal has the crowd transfixed but maybe not completely won over.
North Carolinas’ Between The Buried And Me fair far better and obviously have a few fans of their own in attendance. Ravaging through every imaginable sector of the metal genre, the technical abilities on show are massively impressive and, as one song seamlessly segues into the next, the musical scenario changes umpteen times. Bluesy guitar passages transform into raging death metal attacks before easing beautifully into haunting, almost peaceful, soundscapes and then back into shredding grindcore riffs and Tommy Rogers’ bestial growling.
Over a decade in the making, New Jersey’s Dillinger Escape Plan have become a force to be reckoned with. Their technically proficient, blistering take on the hardcore genre, combined with manic live performances has seen a steady rise to legendary status and there’s a palpable sense of excitement in the air as they casually wander onto the Academy 2 stage. But that’s where casual ends!
Within seconds of launching into opener “Panasonic Youth” two band members simultaneously launch themselves into the crowd, complete with guitar, and for the next hour the energy levels rarely subside. It’s hard to comprehend how the band’s guitarists could manage the simplest of chords, never mind Dillinger’s ridiculously complex time signatures as they thrash the life out of their instruments. “43 Percent Burnt” sees beefed-up frontman, Greg Puciato back out amongst the audience before climbing above them to the lighting rig and hanging upside down as he continues to bark out the lyrics.
Musically, DEP are pretty much as in-your-face as it’s possible to get. Furiously fast sonic assaults delivered with intensity and abandon, only letting up for the infectious hooks of “Black Bubblegum” from last year’s brilliant “Ire Works” album.
“Sugar Coated Sour” sees the pit and, of course, the band, go suitably ballistic, Puciato again being carried across the crowd as his bandmates continue to rip it up on stage, as brutal and precise as they are on record and yet far more dynamic in a live setting.
Finishing all too soon with the pulverizing attack of “Sunshine The Werewolf”, there’s simply no need for encores. They’ve proven their worth and delivered what I can honestly say is one of the best performances I have ever seen. Incredible!
Words & Photos – Steve Gerrard