#13: BEN WEINMAN (THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN)
MetalSucks recently polled its staff to determine who are The Top 25 Modern Metal Guitarists, and after an incredible amount of arguing, name calling, and physical violence, we have finalized that list! The only requirements to be eligible for the list were that the musician in question had to a) play metal (duh), b) play guitar (double-duh), and c) have recorded something in the past five years. Today we continue our countdown with The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Ben Weinman…
When I was a kid, one of the reasons I loved metal, hard rock, and punk was because it felt legitimately dangerous. By and large, I do not get that feeling very much anymore. Maybe that was just youthful naivety, but somehow, I don’t think so, and the reason I don’t think so is this: The Dillinger Escape Plan still sound like an incredibly dangerous band to me, both as a performance act and as a creative force. Every time I hear a new DEP album, I think, “Boy, people are going to be pissed.” And every time I go see the band live, I think, “Holy shit, one of these dudes is going to die right here in front of this audience.” And I know it sounds weird, but those are both invigorating feelings to experience. They make me feel like I’m ten years old again.
And Ben Weinman, as the most consistent and driving creative force behind the band throughout their entire career, obviously has a lot to do with the band’s seemingly limitless ability to induce these feelings.
During the Minakakis era, Weinman and company were obviously trying to do nothing less than re-write the rules of the game. They were operating at eleven at all times, pushing the limits of hardcore and tech metal to their greatest extremes. Just to call it “music” would be a provocative statement to the Normals; to those of us who are anything but, it was a delightful challenge, a puzzle box to be examined and solved, something to tickle our brains while we ran around and punched each other. But even then, Weinman had a firm grasp of the importance of song craft; there’s a reason the now-classic riff that kicks off “43% Burnt” suddenly comes back for the conclusion of the song. And its second appearance has twice as much power, too — as though all that came before it beefed it up. Even through all the experimentation, narrative cohesion never went out the window. Weinman was more Godard than Spielberg, sure, but he definitely wasn’t Brakhage.
So the fact that Weinman has evolved into one of the finest writers of epic, multilayered, catchy-as-all-get-out hard rock is really only surprising if you didn’t realize what a multifaceted artist the guy is. It’s easy to get pissy about a band changing their sound when that change leads them from “Blackened” to “The House That Jack Built,” but I don’t know how anyone can begrudge a songwriter his artistic evolution when the songs are as life-ruiningly guaranteed to get stuck in your head as “Dead as History” or “Parasitic Twins” are.
‘Sides, it’s not as though Weinman has lost the fire in his belly. Seen DEP live recently? Like the rest of his bandmates, Weinman will typically be jumping off amps, doing solos while balancing precariously on rails, diving from the stage and into the pit, showing no regard for the safety of instrument or his own physical well-being (just this past weekend I witnessed him finish a set even as both he and Puciato were bleeding from their respective skulls). Like I said, every time I see him and the band live, I think one of them is gonna die right there on the stage. It would be a noble death, though, and they’d probably be happy to go out that way.
The bottom line is this: Ben Weinman is never anything less than capital-“E” Exciting. He’s already been at this for more than a decade, and not only does he still feel relevant, it feels like he’s still leading the pack and bucking trends. I hope he continues to do so for years more to come.
THE LIST SO FAR