The Dillinger Escape Plan - Calculating Infinity
Relapse Records
Experimental Hardcore
11 songs (32:37)
Release year: 1999
Relapse Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

I've always been rather annoyed at bumbling attempts to sum The Dillinger Escape Plan up, mostly from mainstream music journalists convinced they've stumbled upon some sort of underground holy grail, yet unable to think of words to describe it. Still, even if you couldn't get away from Miss Machine in 2004, it doesn't mean that The Dillinger Escape Plan aren't one of (if not the) most forward-looking and -thinking Hardcore bands in existence, gaining Mike Patton's noble respect enough for Mr Bungle to take them on tour and even providing vocals for the Irony Is A Dead Scene EP. Whether it's Hardcore, Prog Metal, Jazz or Grind, the band mix genres freely and do it damn well, the resulting blurry technical fusion repelling the uninitiated and rewarding repeated listens in ways that most music is simply incapable of.

Calculating Infinity, the band's debut full-length and the only one to feature original vocalist Dimitri Minakakis, deserves mentioning in the same breath as latter-day examples of brilliance like Miss Machine and Ire Works, yet is often forgotten by fans. It's a pity, as there are more similarities between the three than you'd think. The songwriting is just as good, if lacking the outright catchiness of Unretrofied or Milk Lizard, and once you've given Calculating Infinity enough listens the seemingly pretentious title makes much more sense. Sugar Coated Sour's deranged widdly technicality and the epic, Jazz-infested structure of 43% Burnt (probably the only track on the album which remotely approaches catchiness) are a wonderful opening pair, the solid Jim Fear following with a violently careening assault on the senses - yet it's from the odd *#.. onwards that the album really takes off in my view. *#.. itself is something of an interlude, distant guitar riffs slowly becoming louder under tribal drumming and spooky ambient keyboards, before Destro's Secret jumps back into the violence, albeit with gorgeous chillout Jazz sections.

One of the most frequent complaints about The Dillinger Escape Plan is that they're "just noise", which is a silly complaint - noise is certainly a part of their sound, listen to the end of Clip The Apex... Accept Instruction, but the band's instrumental skills are certainly much more in evidence, the following title track more than proving that. Anyone that enjoys Progressive Metal of the heavier kind should be more than capable of appreciating the technicality shown off, and fans of bands like Ephel Duath should be in familiar territory. It's worth taking a moment to mention that the band have had their fair share of lineup troubles, original guitarist Derek Brantley leaving suddenly and never being heard of again, whilst bassist Adam Doll was involved in a car accident shortly before the recording of Calculating Infinity which left him paralysed from the chest down - Ben Weinman played both bass and guitar, although Doll was still credited in liner notes. I won't pretend that you can hear the frustration and sorrow in Minakakis' screams, but knowing the history certainly makes Calculating Infinity a more engaging and emotion-packed listen.

It's difficult to say in conclusion exactly what it is about The Dillinger Escape Plan which makes them so enjoyable. Certainly, the Jazz influences help with that strange sense of aural freefall which the most avant-garde can push the listener into, yet Calculating Infinity is far from a peaceful drop. The band seem to scoop you up and drop you over and over again - it's not really like that old cliché of falling very precisely down a flight of stairs. Instead, imagine yourself walking downstairs, taking two steps at a time with extra big strides, your feet slipping dangerously from the edge, your balance in constant doubt. That's what The Dillinger Escape Plan do with their music, and whilst later albums give you a Pop-infused handrail to guide you past the especially steep drops, Calculating Infinity is raw and principled in withholding help. It's the deep end of the swimming pool, for sure, making it a challenging album to start with for those new, but veterans will enjoy the chance to release their inhibitions and take a dive. I've heard this album a great number of times now, and it's never quite the same each listen - exactly the kind of musical phenomena which makes a poor music reviewer bumble (deliberately, I assure you) into the trap which they laid themselves. The Dillinger Escape Plan demand acknowledgement from all, whether you admire or despise them, and even if you're reading this with a sneer on your face at how easily duped the modern Metalhead can be, it's impossible to ignore this band.

Killing Songs :
All, esp. Sugar Coated Sour, 43% Burnt, Jim Fear, *#.. , The Running Board, Calculating Infinity, Weekend Sex Change
Goat quoted 90 / 100
Other albums by The Dillinger Escape Plan that we have reviewed:
The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us Is the Killer reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
The Dillinger Escape Plan - Option Paralysis reviewed by Goat and quoted 91 / 100
The Dillinger Escape Plan - Ire Works reviewed by Goat and quoted 85 / 100
The Dillinger Escape Plan - Miss Machine reviewed by Nathanael and quoted 92 / 100
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