Dillinger Escape Plan

The punk heavyweights rip up the Spring & Airbrake – as if we expected anything less

We Are Knuckle Dragger are more clever than their troglodyte name suggests. They are an apt choice to support New Jersey’s acclaimed mathcore lunatics, Dillinger Escape Plan on their much anticipated return to Belfast’s Spring & Airbrake.

Two thirds of the three-piece are bare-chested, in true metal fashion, and they work their way through a set of chugging riffs and off-kilter time signatures, clearly influenced by tonight’s headline act.

After their second track, the front-man announces something eagle-eyed members of the audience will have noticed already: the drummer is playing one-handed, after injuring himself earlier in the week. The audience responds with massive applause, and expected cries of 'Def Leppard!' (who’s drummer tragically lost his arm, but continues to play with the band to this day).

This is the icing on the proverbial cake from a relatively new band already demonstrating admirable dedication and enthusiasm.

As the audience waits for Dillinger Escape Plan to take to the stage, there is a palpable air of nervous excitement, along with a little plain nervousness. After all, this is a band with a live show so infamously ferocious it would make performers like GG Allin tremble in their boots.

The band’s last visit to Belfast saw singer, Greg Puciato, break his finger (and receiving a mighty ticking off from security) after swinging from the light fixtures. Countless other tales of smashed bones and trashed venues follow the band, quickly becoming the stuff of metal legend.

A low bass rumble fills the room, evolving gradually into a cacophony of distortion comparable to gunfire. The stage is pitch black, but there is evidently some shuffling in the shadows – something powerful is brewing.

In a microsecond, the stage explodes into life – the lights flash on, the first power chords are struck and insanity ensues. Before he has even finished bellowing the first syllable of his screaming vocals, body-building singer Puciato launches himself into the thrashing crowd, soon to be followed by the lead guitarist. Not once do they hit a bum note as the maniacally gleeful audience toss them around like rag dolls.

This sets the tone for the evening, of course, which is full of similar on and off stage antics. The band throw themselves around wildly and at any one, members can be found amidst the crowd, swinging from the rafters or climbing into the sound technician’s booth (much to his surprise).

Whilst this display is intense, it would be worthless if not backed up by musical prowess. Luckily, Dillinger have it in abundance. The band seamlessly flow from weird jazz breakdowns and technical twin-guitar fret-tapping lunacy, to out and out primal rage.

Puciato demonstrates tremendous vocal dexterity, screaming in blind rage one moment, then singing on a piano driven quiet(ish) number the next. On one occasion he sings in falsetto, although not in the vein of power-metal squealers Bruce Dickinson or Rab Halford – this is altogether a more disturbing, jarring affair.

The influence of seminal hardcore punk acts such as Black Flag and any number of avant-garde metal bands could be discussed at length, although to pigeonhole or compare Dillinger to other acts is at best fruitless and at worst insulting – they really are in a league of their own.

Longtime fans of the band aren't disappointed, as they play plenty of material from their hardcore punk roots, as well as staples such as '43% Burnt', 'Sunshine the Werewolf' and 'Milk Lizard' – the closest track the band have to a commercial single.

The show lasts just shy of an hour, although the band members are seen outside the venue hours later, signing autographs. This is typical of a band who evidently show fierce dedication in every respect.