02. When I Lost My Bet
03. One of Us is the Killer
04. Hero of the Soviet Union
05. Nothing's Funny
06. Understanding Decay
07. Paranoia Shields
08. CH 375 268 277 ARS
09. Magic That I Held You Prisoner
11. The Threat Posed by Nuclear Weapons
2013 Sumerian Records
by Derek Rydquist
As one of the most recognizable and diverse acts in extreme music, it's hard to talk about The Dillinger Escape Plan without discussing their long history and place in the music world as a leading act. Admittedly, I stopped actively following DEP after Miss Machine (2004) but have remained moderately interested since, so I will avoid discussing the evolution of their catalog and just focus on this album.
As you can expect, One of Us is the Killer is a good album that has exemplary musicianship and vocal performances, great production, and will end up being on a lot of people's year-end favorites list; but is that enough to really matter at this point in the band's career? Another, maybe even more important, thing to consider is if we should expect anything too new from a group that basically invented and defined a style of music (one which they still only truly inhabit by themselves).
From the first note of the first song, you know what you're getting yourself into. "Prancer" opens up with some staccato high notes and punctuating percussion, then dives headfirst into a dizzying, odd-timed, dissonant mid-paced section. We're quickly thrust into DEP's signature blasting "mathy" (as the kids have deemed it) section and, yep, we have an awesome song on our hands. All good things must come to an end though, and we are hit with an awkward attempt at a chorus, hook, or whatever you want to call it. It's a moderately obnoxious, grating stab at being catchy, and really draws you out of the song's prior mood. Sure, the track goes on and has more cool parts and a nice structure, but you're left with a sour taste from the previously described section. This isn't only a problem on "Prancer," but my chief complaint with the entire album.
There are parts in almost every song that just seem forced, and essentially dismantle what could have been true songwriting genius. In their slower songs "Paranoia Shields" and "Nothing's Funny," they feed you overly complex parts that draw you out of the spell being woven for you, and as mentioned, the faster chaotic songs are injected with poppy filler that detracts from the overall menace. Generally speaking, DEP is a pretty difficult band to listen and definitely isn't for everyone; I doubt that sprinkling a little pop sensibility into their inaccessible songs is going to get someone hooked on their sound. Ironically, the bad catchy, cheesy parts do their job and get stuck in your head and at the end of the song you're left only remembering the part you didn't like. It's rather unfortunate because the album really has a lot going for it. In songs like "Understanding Decay" and "Magic That I Held You," Dillinger shows that they can indeed craft sections where they utilize singing and "catchy" parts without having to adhere to some notion of "pop"; these really show the personality of the band that we want to hear.
Over the years, DEP have proven that they are able to write great songs from all ends of the extreme music spectrum, and the title track of One Of Us Is the Killer is no exception. It's a perfect example of the band bringing their signature sound to a song that doesn't have any of their signature parts. They're able to convey chaos through attitude, not by using random sporadic moments to remind you that you're listening to DEP. Vocalist Greg Puciato is really given a chance to display his range and talent on this song, helping me to realize that I haven't been giving him enough credit for the large role he plays in shaping DEP's sound. By allowing him an open song structure and room to sing, we are really able to appreciate the band in another light, rather than being forced into another claustrophobic, wanking riff.
I recognize that I haven't said the most positive things about this album, but that's not to say that it isn't good. This is DEP we're talking about here. You know that the instrument and vocal performances are going to be next level. You know the songs are going to be crazy as shit. You know the album is probably going to be good, and even if you don't like the band, you'll be able to respect that no one else can do what they do. At this point in their career I can't say anything new about how good they are; it's much easier for me to lend my criticism. I just wish that they would keep their very technical songs very technical, and their slower and smoother songs slower and smoother. They have proven that they can write (not to mention perform) great songs in both of these styles, so one can only hope that they'll focus primarily on strengthening the traits of each. Perhaps then they will be able to push the boundaries of extreme music even further than they have in the last 15 or so years.
Bottom Line: Do you like DEP? If yes, get this album. If not, I doubt this one is going to sway you into becoming a fan. One of Us is the Killer is a solid album, but the Dillinger Escape Plan still haven't been able to find the perfect balance that will make everyone a believer.