Review Summary: No "sophomore slump," for sure, Infinity deserves more recognition as one of Townsend's finest achievements.
Following up to Ocean Machine
was never going to be an easy task – even for an artist with as wide and undeniably brilliant a musical vision as Devin Townsend. Often held as the best album the man has ever made, Ocean Machine
was nothing short of a masterpiece; and, also being Townsend’s debut solo album, the dreaded “sophomore slump” stereotype was always going to hang ominously over people’s expectations of Infinity
. As it turns out, Infinity
is anything but a “slump,” yet for one reason or another it tends to dwell amongst the most under-appreciated of Devin’s releases. It’s insane and extremely difficult to understand and just plain weird in parts, but Infinity is as wonderful as it is wacky and deserves at least a little more acknowledgement from Townsend fans and critics alike.
In some ways, Infinity
retains a lot of Ocean Machine
’s best qualities; it’s big, soaring, epic and full to the brim with remarkable songwriting, all of which is polished over with Townsend’s sublime production. It’s got the irresistible pop melodies that dot Devin’s other releases too, heartwarming and alluring as always, if in much larger quantities than ever before. And, if you let it be, this uplifting album can be every bit as immersive as its predecessor was. But things have changed, too. To put it simply, Infinity
was on a whole new level of crazy, even for the “mad scientist of music” himself, and it may come as a bit of a shock to the system at first. One minute, it’s soaring high with epic melodies and stunning instrumentation (“Truth”), the next it’s drawing you in with perfectly crafted pop tunes (“Christeen”), but then all of a sudden it descends into what seems at first like outright ridiculousness (“Bad Devil,” anyone").
So what is it that this album is all about" The truth is, it’s about all of those things. As I previously mentioned, Infinity can be as immersive and utterly distracting as anything else Townsend has released, but it doesn’t have to be. If you want to, you can lose yourself in the beauty and elegance of tracks like “Soul Driven Cadillac” or “Truth,” or ponder the thought-provoking lyrics of “Life is All Dynamics,” or lie adrift in the soothing soundscapes of “Unity.” Alternatively, you could just have a one-man party and rock the Hell out to “Bad Devil.” And that’s what makes Infinity so special. It’s as driving and inspiring a musical journey as any if you take the time to envelop yourself in its entire 45-odd minute duration, but it can also just be shedloads of perfectly-written fun if you’re in that sort of mood.
But that’s not to say Infinity
is a perfect album. It does start off at the exact same quality level as Ocean Machine
left us with, bursting into existence with the soaring vocal melodies of “Truth,” elegant and graceful enough to almost sound religious. “Christeen” follows, a thoroughly infectious and enjoyable pop tune – but, admittedly, Townsend’s come up with better pop melodies before. The noisy riffs of “War” begin to ramble towards the end of its lifetime, although the falsetto that segues into “Soul Driven Cadillac” quickly spices things up again. “Life is All Dynamics” and “Unity” provide a stunning finale and perfect resolution to this already epic album, while “Noisy Pink Bubbles” is something of a bouncy, poppy afterthought to send the album off. The jazzy instrumentation of “Bad Devil” also deserves a place amongst the album highlights. For the most part the whole album is consistently brilliant; it’s generally a lot less heavy (both musically and emotionally) and a lot less moody than most of Townsend’s other releases from this “era,” using pop melodies and soaring, epic climaxes to craft thoroughly uplifting tunes.
And there you have it. It may be crazy, and it may not be perfect, but Infinity
is as straight-up beautiful as it is enjoyable, and deserves a listen from everyone; and a second chance from every Townsend fan who dismissed it as nothing more than a “post-masterpiece flop.”