Even though it is seems like an ordinary Tuesday evening in The Hague, Paard van Troje has booked an amazing package for every fan of qualitative heavy music. With performances of Belgian sludge youngsters Steak Number 8, British post-rock hipsters Maybeshewill and the uncrowned kings of mathcore, The Dillinger Escape Plan, the visitors’ ears are bound to leave the building abused, mutilated, but completely satisfied.
First up are our southern neighbours Steak Number Eight with a well balanced mixture of accessible sludge and post-metal (who knows the difference anyways?). Building up their first song with almost post-rock like quality, the band makes subtle transitions from softly whispered vocals and other atmospheric elements to intense eruptions of heavy grunting and pounding riffs. With this they immediately blow away the handful of visitors that came in early. And not only are the songs of excellent quality, the sound is remarkably clean which adds up to the intenseness of the whole. After a couple of songs, however, it seems as if the band loses some of its momentum. From amazingly intense, the band transforms to simply being very decent. All in all, the band has been able to display their great talent for quality song structures and for playing it very tight, therefore certainly leaving the audience, which is properly filled by the end of the set, with a craving for more.
Whereas I mentioned Steak Number Eight’s post-rock like qualities, Maybeshewill is simply all out post-rock. Dwelling at the heavy ended side of the post-rock spectrum, they leave little room for subtle build-ups, but prefer to put the emphasis on drawing out their ecstatic climaxes, not unlike a band as And So I Watch You From Afar does. As epic and intense as it might sound at first-hand, it is difficult to keep such a formula interesting throughout an entire set. For Maybeshewill, the addition of a keyboard player, that actually has a large part in defining the sound, is a good choice of spicing things up. Unfortunately, this does not take away from the fact that after a while, a solid chunk of the crowd noticeably loses interest. It is hard to deny the talent of Maybeshewill’s musicians, but playing straight forward post-rock like they do is still very much a hate-it-or-love-it thing.
After having to look at The Dillinger Escape Plan’s impressive backline all night it was finally time to put these bad-boys in use. As is usually the case with fast, technical and loud bands, however, it is a difficult task to get a clean sound. Especially with a band as The Dillinger Escape Plan, where the nuances define so much of their sound, it is important that everything is clear, but even though the sound improved as the set rolled on, this was not really the case. (Admittedly, I have experienced a lot worse during other Dillinger performances, especially on festivals).
Front man Greg Puciato is a professional though so he does not seem to be bothered by any of this and immediately start screaming his ass off the moment he gets on stage. With some of the older songs such as ‘Sugar Coated Sour’, ‘Black Bubblegum’, ‘Milk Lizard’ and ‘Fix Your Face’, the band wins the crowd over with great ease. After a while they start to dig into the material of their two latest records, which, even though it is incredibly decent, lacks some of the intense over-drive insanity that the older material possesses. Without trying to sound too cliché, and keeping in mind that we’re still talking about mathcore which is musical hysteria per definition, there is no denying that the sound of the band is slightly changing into a more refined (I hate to say it, but perhaps even mature) direction. Also the stage performance seems to be a less extravagant than a few years ago. Admittedly, guitarist Ben Weinman still climbs up balconies and he has spent a great deal of time playing on his amplifiers rather than the stage, but especially Greg does no longer pull of the insane shit he used to do. (e.g. crowdwalking, barfing in towels, fire breathing). Instead, the physical madness is replaced by a lightshow that contains enough stroboscopic lamps to make an entire country blind.
After approximately an hour, the band leaves the stage briefly to return for the obligatory encore. Old school fans are happy they have stayed because the encore is a very nice treat. The treat starts off with the Aphex Twin cover ‘Come to Daddy’ that was originally recorded when Mike Patton was singing for Dillinger. It’s nice to see how they turn this already creepy song into an even weirder experience. After that the band closes with ‘43% Burnt’, an all-time classic that they play in practically every show, because it is possibly the most frantic material they have recorded. With such an ending we can happily conclude that even though Dillinger might be getting older and wiser, there is still enough energy and power left to make their intense shows a one of a kind experience.
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