CAMBRIDGE - It was hardcore, all right. The sound filling every crevice of the almost sold-out Middle East Downstairs was as brittle as burnt sugar. Those brutal anthems were coming from Dillinger Escape Plan, whose hourlong set fit the tag hardcore (both the genre and the adjective) perfectly.
But DEP doesn't play pure or simple songs. Indeed, with its blurring of heavy metal and hardcore, this New Jersey quintet is easily and often misunderstood. DEP spins a web that also includes tricky prog-rock pretensions and avant-garde jazz ambitions. But then, this is a band whose full-length debut, released in 1999, was called "Calculating Infinity."
With its brilliant high-tech lights, the band also put on a visual spectacle. During "Lurch," a new song from the group's latest, "Ire Works," several small screens filled with LED lights that kept time with the staccato beat, creating a muted strobe effect. It enhanced the silhouettes of the band members as they darted across the stage with speed, grace, and menace.
The movement on the shadowy stage matched the chaotic musical dynamic. "43 Percent Burnt," from "Calculating Infinity," was tuneless, but not heartless. Its choppy rhythmic assault was interrupted for a jazzy guitar noodle, which was technically incongruous. It should have sounded ridiculous, at best pretentious. But it fit perfectly, a natural and meaningful addition.
Another older song, "Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants," began with the immediacy of a hard garage-rock song and then slowed for a passage of seemingly random guitar chords and flurries of notes. It was anarchic, and somehow it seemed meant to be.
In one of the opening slots, A Life Once Lost issued a straightforward sonic assault that blended metal and hardcore. It was relentless and barely scintillating, with an occasional groove. Very occasional. Ghenghis Tron added cool synth lines to hard metal, creating a futuristic blend and bringing a little melody into play. Still, anyone looking for a simple good tune on this night went home hungry.