Saturday night began in August with the announcement of the Dillinger Escape Plan’s imminent breakup. There was much weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth here at Metal Lifestyle, but the announcement of Dissociation and a final tour cycle around the U.S. that would hit both New York and Connecticut, the two states across which our team is currently spread, gave us reason to prepare rather than wallow in abject misery. Dissociation dropped in October to the same thunderous acclaim that meets anything from the Dillinger camp, but pitched to a more feverish, more pained frequency with the morbid understanding that this was it. Eleven songs and done.
Dillinger seemed tuned right into that. The album ends with the words “Finding a way to die alone,” and then deafening silence.
On October 15, our own Alex Brown had the chance to see them play the Webster Hall in New York City, and took it. His review was an omen of things to come, and it wasn’t the first. No joke: right up until doors opened at our own Webster (Theater, not Hall, but isn’t it kind of eerie?), the entire world seemed to be converging on this cold night in November. Footage emerged of Ben walking on crowds, of Greg surfing them, of the crowd and the band swapping places on the stage and the floor. Dillinger being Dillinger, but for the last time. Their tour photography became increasingly ethereal as the Hartford date approached, transforming them into silhouettes wreathed in fog and light, or capturing them in midair as if they belonged there. Dakota and Alex both dreamed about the show the night before. Alex Brown nearly missed his train to Connecticut. We met a group of Chicagoans in the venue as we waited through a handful of some of Connecticut’s best locals.
Every set was charged with anticipation. Every band shouted out Dillinger’s name at some point, often multiple times throughout. Cyperna, as always, played their moshy brand of metalcore with heart. They’re a gem waiting to be discovered, a reminder of everything that was fun about metalcore in the early-to-mid-00s. Dream of Scipio surprised us all with a tight, mature thrash sound that moves through several distinct segments per song. I was reminded of bands as diverse as Lamb of God, Lich King, and High On Fire, with whom Dream of Scipio share a honed sense of groove. Although there isn’t too much variety in the way of vocals, it was more than made up for by the sheer energy of the performance. It’s pretty clear this band should be playing much bigger stages than the Webster Underground.
In Depths & Tides incited the largest pits up to that point in the night with their deep, dark, and immediately identifiable atmosphere. Once fronted by Ben Duerr (Shadow of Intent), they’ve brought on Jake Maki to fill the void after Duerr announced his departure earlier this year. Maki proved himself a more than capable successor in seconds, riding IDAT’s massive, kinetic grooves like a pro. I’m not as familiar with them as I should be, but I was impressed enough by their performance to dive into their most recent album, Shroud, reviewed by Dakota a little while back.
Cryptodira put on an exciting, energetic performance, foreshadowing the mathcore histrionics to follow later that night. We caught them opening for Within the Ruins back in February, when they were a bit of an anomaly on the bill and played to a lukewarm crowd. Not the case here. While they’re a little less -core than the preceding acts, their twisted progressive metal borrows a lot from the unpredictable structures of mathcore and doubles up on the driving aggression. The response was much more enthusiastic this time around, and they concluded things on the second stage in winning fashion, garnering more applause than any of their predecessors.
The main stage opened shortly after Cryptodira wrapped up. We poured in. The energy was up in the venue, and the massive Dillinger Escape Plan flag looming behind the stage only heightened that feeling, reminding us of where the night was headed. For now, though, it was partly covered by a Cult Leader flag that signalled what was right in front of us. Acius got on and got off - “Please clap for us” - clearing a path for Cult Leader.
They turned off the lights and laid waste to the room. Lit from below, frontman Anthony Lucero filled the stage with his howls, flashing a Cursed backpatch to the crowd. As intense as they are on record, there’s no substitution for their live show. I don’t think I’ve seen a more pissed off set this year - like swimming upstream in a glass-crusher, there’s no escape from the all-consuming violence of their set, even for the band. Lucero tore up his jeans in a fit of rage and threw the pieces into the crowd. One of those has disappeared into Alex’s collection of show memorabilia, and will probably never emerge - it’s maybe the most appropriate reminder of the tension buzzing through the Webster’s main room, the sheer impatience.
Car Bomb plugged themselves into that energy and cranked the pits Cult Leader started to maximum frenzy. That thing seemed to fill half the room. Their drumkit looked like a small metropolis on stage and the music out-denses Dillinger at times, so much so that the band has to remain generally stationary, bent over their instruments to keep their musical Jenga tower together. This would normally bother me, but I was too busy trying to snap my neck to about fifteen odd-time riffs per second. We were close to exhaustion at this point, but the best was still to come. The Dillinger flag loomed. We soldiered on.
O’brother, without a doubt, was the surprise of the night. They threatened to steal the show right out from under Dillinger. I came across “Endless Light” earlier this year but was lukewarm on their “psychedelic Thrice” sound at the time. Who knows why. I was expecting to use their set as a breather, just hoping that it wouldn’t turn into the slog Tera Melos became when that band took the same penultimate spot on Dillinger’s last run through Hartford. O’brother took my reservations and tossed them out the window. They’re the kind of band that can make any sized venue feel like an acoustic set in your living room despite some apocalyptic volume swells, and while I could describe the highlights of their set - the driving grooves, the stunning falsetto notes, the bass guitar played with a bow (!) - it’s all something you should really experience for yourselves. If you see tour dates for O’brother in your state, go.
O’brother cleared out, and for the first time, the Dillinger Escape Plan flag was fully visible on stage. Fog billowed over the crowd, so thick up front that I could have lost sight of Dakota standing right next to me. LEDs flashed like lightning from somewhere deep on stage. The lights dimmed. The crowd pressed forward. Every shadowy movement drew screams and applause from the room. A low bass hum swelled over the next twenty minutes as the lights began to pulse, steadily at first and then faster, faster -
Then they were there.
“Limerent Death” started, the crowd surged forward, the rest of the show plays like a dream. Amid the acute claustrophobia; the flying bodies; the overwhelming stench of sweat and bad breath; the screams shorting out my ears; the elbows in face, my sides, and my neck; the terror of finding myself in the middle of a moshpit the size of Indiana with no idea how I ended up so far away from where I began; the giddiness of running into all my friends only to lose them again and again….
There are moments like the desperate chorus of “Symptom of Terminal Illness,” when I was sure I was going to die pinned between people twice my size. I remember “Hero of the Soviet Union,” when I took an elbow to the throat and had to mouth the words - “You smear your filth across the world!” - as I fought for air. I remember “Farewell Mona Lisa,” and people surfing over me in an endless stream of arms and legs. I remember Billy Rymer smashing the cymbals for about a minute straight before “Prancer” launched out of nowhere. It paused - and then that main riff hit like a missile. I remember the storm-calm of “Mouth of Ghosts,” Greg seated on an amp and belting those notes like Dean Martin in black denim. I remember the all-out war of “Sunshine the Werewolf,” watching Greg disappear behind Ben before he reappeared somewhere in midair and crashed down into the crowd. He disappeared again - I pushed someone out of my way - and there he was, resting on dozens of backs and arms. I grabbed the back of his head and together, we pushed him across the room and back. I remember the annihilating blow of “43% Burnt,” the way everyone in the room seemed to be swinging at something or going down.
Then they were gone.
Prisms is where Brian, Alex, and Dakota give their unique, unfiltered perspectives on shows they attend together.