Review Summary: Have they “calculated infinity”?8 of 8 thought this review was well written
Being able to create a mathcore record that “spews forth anger and venomous misery in a way that is comparable only to spontaneous combustion” while also being “deliciously technical” (as proclaimed by Jason Hundey, AllMusic.com
) and “a work of art that is an experience, rather than just a bunch of crazy songs with f**ked up riffs” (Chris Morgan, TrebleZine.com
, the 4th of August, 2008) is hailed as quite an achievement in the music industry. And why shouldn’t it be? Any band who can take on the technicality, musical violence and brilliant artistry of a genre as delicate yet as powerful as mathcore is more than worthy of a title as prestigious as “musical legend”. Among those who have claimed this title stand hardcore-metal juggernauts The Dillinger Escape Plan.
After three inconsistent months of recording and production, The Dillinger Escape Plan emerged from Trax East Studios during the spring of 1999 with a masterful thirty-seven minute metal landmark, Calculating Infinity
, released that very same year to an audience of frustrated teenagers who couldn’t wait to mosh their rooms to pieces while listening to this impressive piece of music. Compiling destructive vocals, frequent tempo shifts, inhumanly-hyperactive drumming and an unstoppable, chaotic guitar duo, Calculating Infinity
is a brilliant record that, after digging through mind-blowing instrumentation and wild screamed vocals, is clearly a masterpiece that stands among the best of the mathcore genre.
While Calculating Infinity
’s mathcore style is presented with clarity, the album also incorporates more subtle elements of such unorthodox styles as progressive rock and free jazz into a number of areas of the album, accompanied by an impacting grindcore approach that renders catchiness a void area, replacing it with exhilarating, chaotic hardcore passages and sophisticated experimental sections that set the blueprints for the album’s successor, Miss Machine
breaks free from the titles “repetitive” and “generic” that so many metalcore bands have been given; one such trait being the demonstration of the union between dissonance and harmony; the coupling of Ben Weinman’s almost constant, virtuosic melodies played simultaneously with Brian Benoit’s complex, bizarre D. Boon-cross-Matt Fox chords, forming an angst-ridden piece to be held in the highest regard among those who are able to contemplate its brilliance. This instrumental aspect is accompanied effectively by Dimitri Minakakis’ screamed vocals (somewhat more intense, aggressive and malevolent than that of his iconic successor, Greg Puciato) and Chris Pennie’s mind-blowing drumming that may even rival such legends as Dave Lombardo.
While Calculating Infinity
may not be considered the band’s magnum opus, The Dillinger Escape Plan demonstrate the full extent of their amazing songwriting on this complex, extremely deep record. The band’s ability to weave almost anything into their songs, whether it be a couple of girls screaming frighteningly (“The Running Board”) or largely jazz-influenced areas (“Calculating Infinity”), and use them effectively with complete absence of a comedic effect change what might seem like a throwaway track into a piece of creative genius.
In spite of the fact that aggression dominates the forty minute time span of Calculating Infinity
, a large amount of baffling and unique areas lie within this record. As the album begins, “Sugar Coated Sour”
immediately shows listeners that the record isn't just another collection of repetitive, pointless hardcore songs. The song immediately initiates with a compelling introduction, leading straight into extremely inconsistent mathcore passages that shift from vocal-dominated sections to guitar-dominated sections. “43% Burnt”
sees an intense build-up of epic guitars and Dimitri Minakakis’ slowed screams (following the song's blasting metalcore opening) that leads into a rather strange, completely unexpected bridge in which Weinman and Benoit utilize clean melodies with extreme complexity in a fast-paced, almost indescribable passage alongside a clear, audible, and equally technical bass, as well as an effective polyrhythmic drum beat. I consider the third track, “Jim Fear”
, to be the album's vocal highlight, due to the song's use of two screamed vocal tracks (possibly the only place on the album that it is done so) that provide a more atmospheric effect for Dimitri's already amazing vocals. I also instantly fell in love with the chugging outro, in which the song's time signature becomes 4/4, and listeners enjoy a simple, chugging thrash metal outro along with Weinman's quirky riff. The eerie, sampled interlude “*#..”
leads into a monotonous (but by no means dull) instrumental compilation of a simple chord played intermittently to a complex time signature, coinciding with an underrated, palm muted guitar melody, a moderate bassline, and a brilliant, repeated drum pattern that is bound to astound fans.
is quite a highlight, featuring an abrupt transfer at the thirty five second mark into a fascinating interlude that continues until about the 1:05 mark, where a build-up begins in which a section extremely similar to that of the aforementioned interlude of “*#..” is played, accompanied by Minakakis’ quiet screams of “scratched out my eyes” that bursts the band into flames, directly leading into “The Running Board”
. The tense bridge of the song; a compilation of a catchy guitar riff, cool drumming, some effects and a mood emphasizing rhythm guitar and bass, display this particular section as easily one of the highlights of the album. “Clip the Apex…Accept Instruction”
is quite a standard track, aside from Weinman’s frantic, distorted melodic passages, while its successor, the instrumental title track, “Calculating Infinity”
, is clearly one of the most unique tracks of the album; its jazzy chord based riffs and mild melodic middle section culminating into a rather flabbergasting, masterful song.
The 1:20 mark of “4th Grade Dropout”
sees the song take a drastic change of course, descending into a primarily instrumental post-hardcore section (Dimitri’s vocals become more of a harmonic than leading element in the second part of this section) that holds out until the song’s end, in which it returns to its mathcore style. The album’s penultimate track, “Weekend Sex Change”
, begins with a drum/guitar section in which Chris Pennie performs an unbelievably skilled solo while accompanied by Weinman’s fade-in/fade-out melodies. The track enters a long sample section accompanied by various electronic effects before returning to a section based upon the initial introduction of the song (though this time, bass guitar has been added) until its closing. And so the album’s final track, “Variations on a Cocktail Dress”
begins, closing the album with sections shifting frequently from strong hardcore passages to palm-muted riffing/intermittent chord based passages, effectively finishing the album with a final hardcore burst.
Truly amongst the best albums of all hardcore and its subgenres/fusion genres/etc., Calculating Infinity
stands proudly as one of the most creative, volatile and unpredictable works ever to grace the ears of listeners. The album is perfectly balanced between aggression and artistry, and, in my opinion, is The Dillinger Escape Plan very best work.
“Who will appreciate [The] Dillinger [Escape Plan] then? The eclectics and musicians who understand the complexity of the band and genius chaotically held within.”
--Jason Hundey, AllMusic.com.
- “Sugar Coated Sour”
- “Destro’s Secret”
- “The Running Board”
- “Calculating Infinity”