The Dillinger Escape Plan playing a venue this size is like a hundred rhinoceroses running rampage in a shoebox. A cast iron shoebox.
Even though there is an escape, past the sound desk at the back and into the normal bar area – a route that plenty of people take throughout the New Jersey five-piece’s set – it’s one taken only as a last resort. And there are a lot of last resorts. Just three songs in, during Milk Lizard, a figure drenched entirely in sweat careens out of the mosh pit, bouncing off people and trying to grab onto them in a desperate attempt to not pass out and fall over. Here’s hoping he made it. Because from then on, it just gets even more intense. The heat inside the tiny room is as insufferable as the energy is extreme, a fog of sticky sweat that’s a physical embodiment of just a fraction of what’s happening. But then again, it’s impossible to tell exactly what the fuck is happening.
Slow everything down ten times and you still wouldn’t have much of a clue. You’d hear these lightning speed blasts of ultra-heavy and mathematically impossible noise are played pretty much on point, even when guitarist Ben Weinman is getting swallowed by a gulf of arms in front of him or, during the (relatively slow) swamp sludge of Room Full Of Eyes, when he stands balanced on the bodies beneath him. You’d hear the subtle nuances of new song Happiness Is Just A Smile and the technical insanity of 43% Burnt, which burns with effervescent fury. Throughout, ever-imposing Greg Puciato conducts the ceremony like a beefed-up preacher man gone crazy, prowling the stage and looming over those right at the front before lunging at – and sometimes in – to them with all the rage and aggression.
It’s thrilling and exhilarating and exciting, and it’s also one hell of an endurance test, for crowd and band alike. Before the band launch into closer Sunshine The Werewolf, Puciato looks, unsurprisingly, exhausted, but still better than most of the audience switching between the rooms to escape from the heat. It’s awesome, but it’s almost too much frenzy, to the point that you’re not quite sure whether you’re enjoying or just surviving, or if that’s actually the same thing. That’s not a criticism. That’s the nature and the point of the band. It’s meant to be extreme as fuck, and that extremity is intensified by the small confines of the room, its walls constantly buckling under the ferocious pressure that builds constantly throughout the set, the intense, insufferable heat. It’s a war, full of casualties, that keeps raging, an hour and five minutes of masochistic torture that feels like a lifetime. It’s amazing to watch – as much, if not more so, because of what it is, not how good it is. It is good, but at the same time, war is still war.