01. Hollywood Squares
02. Pig Latin
03. When Good Dogs Do Bad Things
04. Come To Daddy
2002 Epitaph Records
The Dillinger Escape Plan and Mike Patton; the very thought made us feel giddy, as rumors of Patton possibly joining DEP to replace the departed Dimitri Minakakis at the time floated about. One of extreme music's most prominent technical-metal outfits, headed by one of rock's most versatile vocalists. In the end, they were only rumors, but out of it came a "meeting of the minds" between the two in "Irony Is A Dead Scene," a four-song collaboration on Epitaph Records.
The first track, "Hollywood Squares," kicks off with a whirlwind of discordant guitar chords, heavy support from the rhythm section, and Patton's distorted vocals, which vary between singing, whispers, yells, yelps, and maniacal staccato-like phrases. As expected, Dillinger throws in countless twists and turns musically, as the track transitions through more straight-forward beats and music, complicated riffing and finger picking, and stop-and-go rhythms. For each musical segment, it seems as if the vocals undergo a change stylistically, which should come as no surprise considering it is Mike Patton.
A quirky, yet clean guitar line opens up for "Pig Latin," the EP's second song. As the measures progress, percussion, keyboards, and vocals enter and build up to a head, where Patton screams some gibberish ("Chinga!"), followed by verses. The song itself is in a standard 4/4 time signature, but the guitar line and riffing give it a "math," or almost off-time feel. Following a brief harmonic transition, the tune begins to speed up with some standard power chord riffing. Another change takes place, where the song slows down while Patton sings (with several vocal track overdubs for harmonization purposes) along with drums, keyboards, and sparse guitars. Everything finally returns to the original guitar line and verses from the beginning. Of the three original tracks, "Pig Latin" is probably the least technical song of the bunch.
"When Good Dogs Do Bad Things" begins with Patton screaming "I'm the best you'll ever have," followed by blistering dissonant riffing and percussion that is classic Dillinger. Things slow down a bit, only to lead into bizarre vocals that sound like a cassette recorder playing a tape on fast forward, yells of "Mommy," and yells of "Uh's" and "Ows." It's clear that Patton uses a myriad of filters and vocal effects throughout the album. A calm, but eerie peace then overtakes the track with singing and light music, setting up probably the most melodic moment on the EP. Dual guitar picking and harmonization with keyboards accompany Patton's crisp vocals that are borderline deep spoken word. These segments seesaw between high-pitched screams and distorted guitars. The drums do an admirable job of anchoring everything down, and just when you think the track is over with its keyboards and what sounds like a film reel coming to an end, the music and vocals come in for one last hurrah.
The final cut of the CD is a cover of Aphex Twin's (a.k.a. Richard D. James) "Come To Daddy." Honestly, Dillinger and Patton do an excellent job covering this song. The vocals and music are all on cue, and Dillinger even adds a little of its own flair into the track with some complex muted guitar riffing in selected areas. My only complaint would be with the drums. I guess I was expecting something even more complex given Chris Pennie's incredible drumming ability, but who am I to complain He does an excellent job with the intricate percussion of the original tune, and doesn't overdo the presentation.
Being one of hardcore and metal's most outstanding bands, it's expected that Dillinger Escape Plan bring the highest level of musicianship. This bar, that they set, is raised even higher, considering Patton is involved. Fear not, for both have heeded the call. The music is tight, and the musicianship is first-rate.
The production of the album is smooth and not overdone. In terms of the record's mix, Patton's vocals stand out the most. But this makes sense considering he's at the vocal helm, and given his talent and flexibility, you'd want to write music around Patton to accentuate his singing. That's not to say that Dillinger loses anything musically. Indeed, the music is just as complex and mind-boggling as always, but the record is a joint effort and, therefore, will work around the vocals while still retaining the band's unique sound. This is evident by the greater use of repetition, whether it is a chorus or verse. Further, the utilization of keyboards and noise is emphasized even more than in the past, and is almost reminiscent of Faith No More at times.
Lyrically, Patton pens some interesting phrases that conjure up strange and twisted visual images. I'm not even going to attempt to analyze what he's thinking. Visually, the layout of the record, on first look, is almost identical to "Calculating Infinity" in terms of the color and scheme. An orange insert has a collage of images that include a young child, a hunting knife, and gears. The back is also predominantly orange, but also contains other earth colors. Meanwhile, the black insert that wraps around the orange insert includes lyrics typed over a drawing of an amp tube. It would've been nice to get a little more from the layout in a form of a booklet, but a brief video montage of the band in the recording studio makes up for that. Within the clip, you'll be able to see each member doing their thing in the studio, as well as Patton going over several song versus, the gadgets he uses to achieve his vocal effects, and general clowning around.
Bottom Line: This is an excellent collaboration between Dillinger and Patton. To be honest, it took me a few spins to truly appreciate this CD, and I would consider myself both an avid Dillinger and Patton fan. The music is top notch, the vocals are insane, and both combined will take listeners on an interesting ride. For those unfamiliar with Dillinger and Patton, or if you've just recently gotten into Dillinger, I'd advise you to take the extra time and look into Patton's other works before delving into this EP. And to everyone, take your time when listening to this release. Throw all your Dillinger expectations out the window. This isn't going to be "Calculating Infinity: Part II," or Mike Patton singing Dillinger Escape Plan songs the way Dimitri Minakakis used to sing them. This is a joint effort written together by both parties, and will display unique elements from the two. Also note that this is no indication of what is to come for their full-length. This is a one shot deal and as mentioned before, the music was written with Patton's vocals in mind. In the end, this EP just makes me want to hear what Dillinger has in store for us going forward. Hopefully, you'll feel the same.