Andrew Cowen discovers a band that has not been held back by adversity.

Friedrich Nietzche once said that what didn't kill you only made you stronger. He died in 1900 after a mental breakdown, which would make him a lightweight in Dillinger Escape Plan's eyes.

The acclaimed metal band from northern New Jersey have taken enough knocks to make them superhuman.

Just weeks after the band's first ever North American tour, original bass player Adam Doll became paralyzed from the chest down after a minor car accident. That tragedy was followed by the departure of original guitarist John Fulton. Still, in the months that followed, Dillinger wrote and recorded Calculating Infinity, the landscape-changing extreme music album.

At the height of Calculating Infinity's popularity, shortly after finally shoring up their line-up with bassist Liam Wilson, original vocalist Dimitri Minikakis left the band. Dillinger emerged with Irony is a Dead Scene, a groundbreaking collaboration with Mike Patton and, later, with vocalist Greg Puciato, one of the most talked about and imposing frontmen metal/hardcore has ever seen.

Despite losing the services of guitarist Brian Benoit due to nerve damage in his left arm/hand - although he has a home in Dillinger if/when he's ready to resume playing - and guitarist Ben Weinman's continual abuse of his body against numerous doctor's orders, Dillinger still continue to consistently deliver violently energetic and unpredictable live performances around the world.

At the same time there have been contract renegotiations, lawsuits, major labels lurking in the wings and unstoppable multi-month-long tours. All the while, Dillinger have remained a self-managed, DIY entity, retaining more artistic integrity and independence than any other band racking up six figure sales totals.

Recently, another hurdle - one that many would assume to be the most insurmountable of them all: the departure of drummer Chris Pennie.

However, those proclaiming the death of the band in light of this latest line-up change should know better.

The incendiary Ire Works, the band's latest album, proves that even if diverging life plans, the limits of the human body or the cosmic forces of the universe try to stop them, their only response is to not only come out on top, but raise the bar ever higher.

Some call Dillinger a metal band, but they're much more than that. For many years they operated on an underground level, a million miles from the poodle-permed Spandex head-bangers of the time.

Always flaunting an experimental edge, the band's stop-start complicated songs, vicious lyrical edge, embracing of dissonance and powerful riffery has made them favourites of many who wouldn't be seen dead at a Judas Priest show.

The position of drummer in Dillinger Escape Plan is one of rock's toughest gigs. The holder needs to play twice as fast and twice as intelligently as the average drummer. He is the driver of the band.

Gil Sharone now occupies the drum throne and his joining the band has completely reenergised them.

I spoke to sole-remaining founder Ben Weinman as he was getting ready for a gig in Nashville and he confirmed what many had suspected on hearing the new album.

"Gil played on the new record and there's obviously a stylistic difference. Live, he shines in the hardest way, you've just got to see it.

"We have kids coming up to us every night after the show, just going 'wow'. There's something about it you can't quite define, but it's obviously better."

It's been a couple of years since the band came to Britain and they feel at home here.

"When we first started touring in Europe, England was the place that was most familiar to us. It feels like it's been too long since we were last here and we're really excited. This is our best line-up ever and we can't wait to see how people react."

A forced hiatus for 18 months due to the problems mentioned above has only made the band stronger and there's a real hunger in the Dillinger camp to get out and play.

Said Weinman: "The lay-off may have helped us in a way. People may have been getting sick of hearing about us. We still have that appeal for kids who are looking for that underground thing.

"Bands have come and gone in the past two years, but we're stronger than ever.

"We made it through the nu-metal thing unscathed, we always distanced ourselves from that, we never played Ozzfest either. We simply refused to take that route. Now we sell out good-sized venues and we did it without compromise."

The band are currently on tour in America with Killswitch Engage, an acclaimed but more conventional heavy rock band. Weinman finds the alliance to be productive.

"We have tried to play with diverse bands and this was a great opportunity to rreach a new audience. We're winning over a whole new bunch of fans from Killswitch, we live what we do."

Weinman also manages Dillinger Escape Plan's career. So far the band have resisted signing to a major label, dearing a loss of control.

"We like to keep a tight ship and always put on a good show. The wrong label will always get in the way.We know what our fans want and by doing it ourselves we can provide it."

* Dillinger Escape Plan play Birmingham Carling Academy on February 20. The album, Ire Works, is out now.