Some people think of Dillinger Escape Plan as a hardcore punk band, others consider them metal, while most people probably don’t consider them music at all, but regardless of your opinion of the New Jersey band, their impression on modern heavy music is impossible to ignore. If you never got a chance to see them live, I feel sorry for you as there was truly nothing like it. However, you should also feel thankful because you likely avoided shattering your pelvis. Just as impressive as the band’s record sales are the thousands of dollars in medical bills accrued for both the members of the band and their fans. I’ve never been to war, but I imagine it’s a lot like a Dillinger show. There’d be more guns and less guitars but an equal number of detached limbs and dislodged teeth. Though guitarist Ben Weinman was the only constant presence for the groups 20-year history, they produced an immaculate discography that saw the group mold and evolve their sound across several different lineups. This is the authoritative ranking of the said discography. If you disagree with me, fight me. You’ll have to take my word for it, but I’m just as buff as Greg so watch out.
PS: We’re only doing full-length LPs here so all you Mike Patton Stans can zip it. Yes, we know “When Good Dogs Do Bad Things” is the best song ever written, but we’re not talking about that right now.
6. Dissociation (2016)
Sadly my editor wouldn’t let me put every album in a six-way tie for first, so here’s the band’s final album in last place. While it features all of the trademarks of a late-period Dillinger album – a mix of mathcore hissy fits, soaring rock choruses, and virtuosic instrumentation – it never truly shocks you with something you’ve never heard before from the band. Granted, with it being their final release, looking back into their two-decade history and mining it for inspiration makes it an apt swansong. There are some quirky left turns like Mahavishnu-esque strings and a trippy IDM detour that sounds like a rejected Aphex Twin B-side. There’s also that scream in “Honeysuckle.” You know the one.
Play it Again: “Honeysuckle,” “Limerent Death,” the second half of “Nothing to Forget.”
Skip It: The first half of “Nothing to Forget,” “Symptom of Terminal Illness,” “Fugue.”
5. Miss Machine (2004)
Replacing a beloved frontman isn’t easy. However, when Dimitri Minikakis left the group after only one album, Dillinger knocked it out of the park with the addition of human bicep Greg Puciato. Not only could he deliver a deranged scream like his predecessor, the Italian stallion can croon like a lounge singer with a martini in his hand. His clean vocal chops are showcased most notably on “Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants” and “Unretrofied,” two tunes that have more in common with Faith No More and Nine Inch Nails than anything else in their catalog at that point. This pissed off a bunch of cranky metalcore dudes and set the precedent for future Dillinger material that would resemble actual music.
Play it Again: “Panasonic Youth,” “Highway Robbery,” “Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants”
Skip It: “Phone Home,” “Crutch Field Tongs”
4. One of Us is The Killer (2013)
“One of Us is The Killer” answers the question “What if the Dillinger Escape Plan made another record that’s just really fucking good like their previous ones?” “Prancer” and “When I Lost My Bet” might be the best opening duo of the band’s career and the whole record masterfully blends their more melodic tendencies with the chaotic hardcore of their early days. Killer also features one of their better token instrumental songs in the wonderfully janky “CH 375 268 277 ARS” (rumor is that if you can guess what the title means, they must reunite). My money’s on Billy being the killer, by the way. It’s always the unassuming ones.
Play it Again: “Prancer,” “When I Lost My Bet,” “One of Us is The Killer”
Skip It: This is when Dillinger albums start getting into “no skips” territory but “Crossburner” is a bit of a bore.
3. Calculating Infinity (1999)
There are several dudes out there who smell like garbage and have Man Is the Bastard neck tattoos who will tell you that this is the only good Dillinger Escape Plan album because it’s the gnarliest. There’s no clean singing, no quasi-radio-rock bangers, and the instrumental interludes feature looped samples, squelching noise, and grinding machinery. Is it Dillinger’s best album? No, but is it their most important album? Absolutely. It kicked off a legendary career with one of the most deranged and unique debuts in the history of punk and metal. “43% Burnt” is also a great song to put on at a party when it’s 3:00 a.m. and the only people still there are three weird guys doing key bumps in the kitchen and you want them to leave.
Play it Again: “Sugar Coated Sour,” “43% Burnt,” “Clip The Apex…Accept Instruction”
Skip It: “Weekend Sex Change”
2. Ire Works (2007)
While every Dillinger Escape Plan album is varying degrees of weird, this is the weirdest one by a significant margin. While Miss Machine introduced some new flavors to the Dillinger recipe, “Ire Works” swung the fridge open and started throwing everything into the pot (I shouldn’t write these when I’m hungry). There are straight-up pop-rock songs, Warp Records-style electronics, Indonesian gamelan bells, Latin percussion, and all sorts of other silliness. “Ire Works” can be a bit of a jumbled mess at times, but that’s what makes it so compelling considering it’s from a band known for its robotic precision. The promo cycle for this album also yielded Greg singing on Conan O’Brien’s desk which gives it substantial bonus cred.
Play it Again: All of it.
Skip It: Okay, maybe you can skip tracks 4-7 if it gets too zany for you. But it’s Dillinger so I hope you’re here for zany.
1. Option Paralysis (2010)
Very fitting that this record is called “Option Paralysis” as that’s what I experienced when deciding what to put at number one. In revisiting the discography, it was this record that made me go “Wow, that was fucking cool” more than any other. While albums like “Ire Works” and “Miss Machine” tracks can be organized by the heavy songs, the pretty songs, and the weird songs, the bulk of “Option Paralysis” blends all three vibes seamlessly within the same compositions. It stuck a middle finger to the rearview and firmly told anyone hoping for a “Calculating Infinity” Pt. 2 that they would never get what they wanted. It’s the heaviest, catchiest, and most adventurous album by a band that does all three things better than anyone else.
Play it Again: You could probably play “Farwell, Mona Lisa” 10 times in a row and find a new favorite part each time. And that’s just the first song.
Skip It: Nada.