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Devin Townsend - Infinity CD (album) cover

INFINITY

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.69 | 241 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

lukretio
4 stars Released in 1998, Infinity has been dubbed by its creator Devin Townsend as the "parent album" of the two records he had released in 1997: his solo debut, Ocean Machine: Biomech, and Strapping Young Lad's City album. It is a fitting description, as Infinity borrows the sublime taste for catchy melodies from the former and the gusto for heavy sonic assault from the latter. But Infinity is much more than the sum of these two sides of Devin Townsend: it is a record brimming with fresh, exciting ideas, full of adventure, where the listener can never know which direction a particular song may take. It is a progressive album in the truest sense of the adjective, and for this reason it deserves to sit in the collection of any lover of progressive rock and metal.

The core of the record revolves around the amalgamation of catchy vocal melodies into a thick wall of sound created by layers of heavily distorted guitars and swathes of psychedelic keyboards and sound effects. Meanwhile Gene Hoglan and Christian Olde Webbers form an exceptional rhythm section, extremely technical, frenzied and inventive, but also clever enough to know when to tone it down if the song needs it. The listening experience is quite unique, as the listener gets bashed on the head by a heavy barrage of sound and at the same time lulled and enticed by heavenly vocal melodies and multi-layered choirs. It is the "Devin Townsend's experience" - one that the Canadian artist has repeated and refined time and time again with each subsequent album.

A remarkable aspect of Infinity is the large amount of left-field ideas that are incorporated into the record. Often these are ideas that, on paper, should not possibly work in the musical context in which they are inserted, yet unbelievably they do. The big-band swing of "Bad Devil" is exhilarating when contrasted with the savage assault of distorted guitars and Devin's frenzied screamed vocals. "War" is a heavy affair that suddenly turns 1950s rock ("doo wop boddum?") before descending into an anarchic madness of noise that is eventually interrupted by Devin shouting "God, quiet! Just a little bit of quiet please! Just stop the noise for once... please!!", which is exactly what the listener is thinking at this specific point in the song. A country fair waltz unexpectedly tears through the otherwise dramatic ballad "Wild Colonial Boy". Meanwhile, "Ants" is an incredibly technical piece that builds on odd time signatures, nervous riffs and wacky vocals to achieve near cacophony, which makes it repellent and mesmerizing at the same time - like watching a massive anthill, I suppose. The whole album is constellated with these sudden changes of direction and incongruous contrasts, which makes for an adventurous, fun and exciting listening experience, as one can never be sure where a particular song might end up to.

The sheer amount of ideas, music and sounds condensed in the 47 minutes of the LP is astonishing and witness to the great work done by Devin in the production phase of the album (which is sonically excellent: clear, detailed and immersive). Indeed, Infinity was not an easy album to write and record and the process nearly had the best of Devin Townsend, as he found himself obsessing on every detail of the album and devoting his whole life to it (the famous anecdote is that during the recording of the album Devin used to sleep on the studio floor). At times, one can feel the strain and distress emerging through the notes of tracks like "War", "Soul Driven Cadillac", "Life Is All Dynamics": angular, unsettling songs that have rough edges and give us a peek into what Townsend may have experienced during the recording process. Elsewhere, however, the music opens up, the atmosphere relaxes, and gorgeous melodies emerge, like on "Christeen", "Wild Colonial Boy", "Unity" and "Noisy Pink Bubbles". It is a fascinating contrast that runs through the whole album and indeed through much of the music Devin Townsend has written throughout his career.

Infinity is an immersive album that is best experienced as a whole, with its peaks and valleys of tension and release. It is not an easy album to get into, however, because of its complexity and the multi-layered nature of the arrangements. Moreover, the heaviest, most exasperated parts can be difficult to digest and almost uncomfortable. I also feel that the record slumps a bit towards the end, with the 13 minutes of "Life Is All Dynamics" and "Unity" feeling slightly overwhelming and repetitive. Nevertheless, Infinity is a very good album that is not afraid to push boundaries and carve an original path in the dense forest of progressive metal. It is one of the quintessential Devin Townsend's records - heavy, frenetic, highly inventive and intensely melodic -, and it is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in prog rock/metal.

lukretio | 4/5 |

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