The Dillinger Escape Plan
Calculating Infinity


5.0
classic

Review

by Brendan Schroer STAFF
March 18th, 2018 | 186 replies


Release Date: 1999 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Control begets chaos.

Calculating Infinity is the perfect example of an album that takes the rulebook of its genre(s) and throws it out completely. It’s the flawless melding of brutality and sophistication, of anger and despair, of hardcore euphoria and jazz-driven mathematics. And the members of The Dillinger Escape Plan were certainly aware of what they were doing too. Guitarist and figurehead Ben Weinman was once quoted as saying on The Independent:

"Calculating Infinity was us effectively ripping up the music theory book; if someone said 'don't harmonise with a second, it just sounds out of tune', then every single lead we did, we'd harmonise with a second. It sounded disgusting, but we did it".

This music is controlled rage, but just because it’s controlled doesn’t mean it’s sterile or edgeless. The complex, labyrinthine arrangements are given plenty of vocal ammunition through Dimitri Minakakis’ tortured, chilling screams. And I’ll certainly give the band credit: they don’t mess around when it comes to storming the gate early. “Sugar Coated Sour” is both a phenomenal thesis statement of the album’s sound and practically a war cry for any listener interested in joining the band for this unique event. The dissonant guitar harmonies, impossibly precise drumkit grinding, and furious wailing are incredible markers of what you’ll be hearing throughout this brief experience. About 90% of Calculating Infinity is a mixture of blinding speeds, jaw-dropping technical prowess, and the rare moment of unsettling reflection. Those calmer sections are a great way for the band to show their vast range of influences as well, such as the incredible polyrhythmic prog-oriented bridge of “43% Burnt” or the avant-jazz chord progressions of the slow melodic (?) section of “The Running Board.” Even more curious are the few interludes that mark the record, leaning more on the avant-garde side of its identity. The title track and “*#..” are enjoyable Meshuggah-esque ditties that rely on strange rhythms and little diminished guitar “pops,” while “Weekend Sex Change” combines sampling, depressive guitar melodies, and incredible drum soloing into one fascinating fusion.

The most impressive thing about Calculating Infinity is that both sides of its bipolar personality are so natural and well-represented. Many of us are aware of the various rumors surrounding the album’s recording, most famously the decision to roll dice to determine each time signature. But it’s strange to think that for something so, ahem, “calculated,” that every bit of hardcore aggression and raw emotion can still come out in full force. Just listen to that utterly insane intro to “Jim Fear.” It doesn’t give us a moment’s notice to prepare for the full-on assault of scorching fretwork and deranged screams, but everything manages to be very planned and pre-staged all the same. That whole song really comes together when you reach the next section and hear the complex runs across the fretboard in unison with the rabid drums, and that concept of “controlled anarchy” comes into play. Wanna know why it all works? Because the insane technicality and the angular “prog-meets-punk” riffing ensure that each emotional catharsis is earned. The Dillinger Escape Plan somehow have the ability to turn technical prowess into atmosphere, weaving in and out of disturbing musical passages; Dimitri is simply icing on the cake with the chaos he spews over it all. But each emotional release works because the band members are incredibly skilled at building us up to those moments. Much like Converge’s Jane Doe, there’s a respect and care that’s given to each weird transition and tempo shift despite the hell being unleashed on top of the songwriting.

At the end of the day, Calculating Infinity is simply a mesmerizing paradox; it combines mathcore, hardcore punk, free jazz, avant-garde metal, and progressive metal, and somehow manages to treat them all as equals. If you want sophisticated songwriting and complex instrumentals, this album is essential. And if you just want to fuck everyone up in the moshpit, then it’s still essential.



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user ratings (3134)
4.2
excellent
other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Koris
Staff Reviewer
March 18th 2018


21096 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

So I'm not gonna be on the site too much for a while... got some things to do in regards to both my Navy and music stuff (keep on the lookout for some material I could be releasing in the near-future!)



Just a heads-up :]

someguest
March 18th 2018


30126 Comments


This was a different band with Chris Pennie. The funny part is he does music for commercials now.

parksungjoon
March 18th 2018


47230 Comments


" It’s the flawless melding of brutality and sophistication, of anger and despair, of hardcore euphoria and jazz-driven mathematics."

in this moment i am euphoric. not because of some phony god's blessing, but because i am enlightened by this band's jazz-driven mathematics.

parksungjoon
March 18th 2018


47230 Comments


for real tho good review, if a bit unnecessary and hyperbolic

mindpos

parksungjoon
March 18th 2018


47230 Comments


is the site "working" like absolute fucking dogshit for anyone else rn?

Insurrection
March 19th 2018


24844 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

nice writeup brendan. album is and will always be the shit

calmrose
March 19th 2018


6749 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

[2]



@Darius: http://fightmannequinsmusic.com/

Wildcardbitchesss
March 19th 2018


11541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I wish I loved this album as much as everyone else :/

Demon of the Fall
March 19th 2018


33493 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

So is the new flagged review? Nice. Album is completely insane, in a good way.

bloc
March 19th 2018


69881 Comments


Crap band

Demon of the Fall
March 19th 2018


33493 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Don't go there bloc, people get touchy. I'd actually say inconsistent band who have some top notch material. This album is wall-to-wall awesome though.

Dewinged
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2018


32013 Comments


Legendary album. Always cool to see new reviews of classics like this one. Nicely done, Brendan.

Wildcardbitchesss
March 19th 2018


11541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

BLOC WHY DO YOU KEEP DOING THIS

bloc
March 19th 2018


69881 Comments


Lmao I was about to be like "oh yeah then why'd you agree with me in the Rolo thread" but then I saw you made a little edit of your own hahaha

Doctuses
March 19th 2018


1914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

great review.

Wildcardbitchesss
March 19th 2018


11541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Ya I caught your sneaky little ass

Koris
Staff Reviewer
March 19th 2018


21096 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Thanks guys

Doctuses
March 21st 2018


1914 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I’m a simple man, I see Calculating Infinity and I five it.

goblinilbog
March 21st 2018


1073 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

I might 5 this, but a 5 requires a strong emotional/personal connection, which lends itself to music not this hard. It's approaching though...

Wildcardbitchesss
March 21st 2018


11541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

^agreed, and that just isn't there for me. I know this album is pretty untouchable for some people but I'd love to hear a version identical to it but with Greg on vocals.



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