Progressive Rock

Black To The Future Tour: Ghost w/ Purson

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Date: September 23, 2015
Ticket cost: $27.60 ($40.30 with Ticketmaster’s asshole-ish convenience fees)
Merch purchased: None

By: Kris Kotlarik

I think it’s about time for a pre-review rant about concert ticket prices. Shows that are at Alrosa Villa or Ace of Cups and/or promoted by Columbus Events Group are very reasonable in terms of cost with minimal advance fees. But then there’s Promowest Live and Ticketmaster. How do they think that adding a 50% markup on ticket fees is acceptable? Why even bother working with the evil empire that is Ticket[ass]master in the first place? There are plenty of good shows both at the Newport and the LC Pavillion, but these fees price me (and probably others) out of their shows.

That didn’t stop the Newport from nearly selling out last night, easily eclipsing the Decibel Magazine 2014 tour stop for the largest crowd I have seen at this venue, approaching upwards of 1,700 strong. With more than a handful of audience members dressing up in their Papa Emeritus garb, Ghost put on a stellar show that engaged the entire crowd. But was their performance worthy of an all-time favorite designation? What about Purson? Read on, together as one.

Purson: 3.0*
Set length: 40 minutes

This might be one of the few occasions where I can say with a straight face that the opening band sounded better than the headliner. …why are you chasing me with pitchforks? At least give me a chance to explain.

Perhaps it was because they had one less member to work with; they had pretty much the same makeup as Ghost, running two guitars (with founder Rosalie Cunningham handling the lead vocals), one bass, the drums, and a set of keys. Having even one less person to mix can make all the difference in terms of sound quality; I took my usual perch on the balcony towards the center of the venue*, and their take on 70’s style psychedelic progressive rock sounded pristine. It was like I was watching them play in their practice space. The only issue I had with their sound was with the somewhat soft backing vocals, and half the time, it just looked like the person who would be singing backing vocals just had their mouth up towards the mic while playing his instrument, which brings me to my next point:

While that kind of intimate feeling in a large venue can be a good thing, the drawback here is that Purson lacked any semblance of stage presence, spending less than a minute talking to the audience over the length of their set. The band didn’t move around on stage and, with a few exceptions, showed little visible energy. The lighting was consistently dark and brooding, and their song selection was also puzzling; their last song, even with a brief uptempo section, was easily their slowest of the night. All of that adds to listener fatigue, at least from my perspective.

Two audience members who were more familiar with Purson than I was told me that they heard the band’s full studio releases and felt indifferently about them, but said they sounded significantly better live than on tape. After taking another whack at their music, I can’t help but agree. Their latest EP, In The Meantime, is solid, but the sound on stage is vastly superior. Even so, I’ll be looking forward to their next release, Desire’s Magic Theatre, when it drops in the near future.

They could also stand to lower t-shirt prices. I have a hard time paying $35 for a t-shirt for any reason, but that goes double for a band that I’m not especially blown away by. They’re good, but not “$35 for a t-shirt” good.

All that said, Ghost picked an ideal touring mate for their jaunt around North America, as Purson is a great complementary counterpart to Ghost.

Ghost: 4.0*
Set length: 110 minutes

Ghost has the art of stage presence down to a science. With Papa Emeritus leading the five Nameless Ghouls, the band’s performance took on a life of its own. Even before the set started, anyone who was, for whatever reason, unfamiliar with Ghost quickly got their answer as to what they got themselves into; with a large satanic alternate cover art banner in full display and church choir music blasting on the speakers, everyone knew they were in for a night of occult counter-culture shenanigans. And for those still confused, the crowd was chanting “Satan! Satan! Satan” shortly before they started.

Once the band took the stage and roared into the spooky “Spirit,” it was all smiles from the audience, and rightfully so. And while I greatly enjoyed their set, I had a few nitpicks with it. The obvious first complaint is that the band was a little bit too loud across the board. One of my favorite features of Ghost’s studio albums is the subtle mix of the drums, but that is nixed here in favor of a straightforward drum blasting. This was especially noticeable on “Con Clavi Con Dio,” arguably my favorite Ghost song.

Papa Emeritus III, meanwhile, was somewhat flat on his lower notes on occasion. And while all of the new tracks they played (the only one that wasn’t played was “Deus In Absentia”) sounded great, I was shocked at the largely ignored Kansas-esque keyboard riff in “Absolution,” and further puzzled by the use of a keytar on “Mummy Dust” instead of the former.

There was also the small issue of Papa Emeritus taking off his anti-papal cloak during “Cirice” midway through the show and leaving it off for the rest of the show. I’m not sure if that’s normal, as this was my first time seeing Ghost live, but it was baffling to see him perform without that garb. But that doesn’t take away from how great of a live song “Cirice” is.

Minor shortcomings and/or question marks aside, this was a pretty special show; most notable was the debut acoustic performance of “Jigolo Har Migiddo,” adeptly showing off the skills of the Nameless Ghouls. Papa Emeritus III also gave several small percussion instruments to fans for them to play during this song.

Watching “Year Zero” was a spectacle in and of itself, and I was thoroughly pleased with “Ghuleh/Zombie Queen,” a song that I was already highly fond of and is currently stuck in my head. “Ritual,” “He Is,” “Stand By Him,” “Per Aspera Ad Inferi,” and “Mummy Dust” also stood out among their best songs as tracks that translate extremely well into a live setting.

Closing out the show with “Monstrance Clock” was simply masterful; it seems like an odd choice until you realize that there are few things better in a concert setting than having a huge crowd singing along with a backing track choir as the band exits the stage: “Come together; together as one. Come together, for Lucifer’s son.” Fucking genius.

Above all else, Ghost is right up there with Devin Townsend in terms of personally engaging with fans during the set. I counted at least ten instances where Papa Emeritus singled out a specific fan who said something to him, and there were nothing but smiles coming from those fans. It was a high-energy set that should be considered a must-see for any metal fan.

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*If you go to the Newport and are looking for the best possible sound quality, stand as close to the sound booth as possible, located behind the main concert floor and next to the bar. 

Review: Amadeus Awad – Death Is Just A Feeling

Location: Beirut, Lebanon
Genre: Progressive Rock
Released: August 20, 2015
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Recent Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

I needed this.

It’s been a long summer; my writing pursuits have been hindered by a series of internal and external tribulations combined with standard 20-something existential malaise. It’s hard to feel inspired when life bears down on you.

Few people know this better than Amadeus Awad, who has repeatedly been dubbed as “the Arjen Lucassen of the Middle East.” I don’t buy that; I think Awad’s music better resembles that of Steven Wilson, and Death Is Just A Feeling draws a direct comparison to the latter’s most recent album, Hand. Cannot. Erase.

The lyrical concept for Death revolves around Awad’s personal experiences with attempted suicide and the death of several loved ones. This might be the best-executed example of using personal experiences as a concept for an album I have ever come across. Lyrically, this works in a way that few concept albums can claim.

Awad brings with him a marquee lineup that brings together a number of Awad’s influences; the most important (and best) guest contribution is Anneke van Giersbergen delivering another powerful vocal performance. It’s not quite the powerhouse display she put on The Diary by The Gentle Storm, as well as on Devin Townsend’s recent albums, but it doesn’t have to be; Anneke’s vocals are still quite evocative here.

Not far behind her is drummer Marco Minneman (The Aristocrats; Necrophagist; Steven Wilson), who particularly shines during the instrumental sections of “Monday Morning.” Arjen Lucassen also jumps on board as a cameo vocalist in the closing track. Elia Monsef, meanwhile, takes the male lead vocals on “Tomorrow Lies.” His vocal delivery reminds me of a combination of Pain Of Salvation’s Daniel Gildenlow and Katatonia’s Jonas Renske, and his performance here makes me want to look into more of his own music.

Now, back to my original point of comparing Death to Hand. Both albums deal with death and life’s hardships, although Wilson tells his story through the lens of another real person. Both artists use expositional narration to fill in story gaps (whereas Arjen has his characters sing in dialogue). And although they go about it in different ways, both artists effectively make their point, with Wilson opting for a more nuanced approach as opposed to the direct shelling dealt by Awad. So how do these two albums stack up against each other?

The short answer is that Steven Wilson wins by a slight margin, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. I reviewed Hand. Cannot. Erase. when it first came out and gave it a lukewarm 3.5 stars because it came across as robotic to me. I took some flak for this and I stood by it at the time, but Awad’s work inspired me to revisit it. I can now say that I was wrong, and Hand deserves all the praise it has been given by fans and critics alike. Consider this an official revision to 4.0 stars.

In reality, Hand. Cannot. Erase. is a slow builder that took about ten additional listens after that review to really grow on me. To Awad’s credit, the fact that his work made me want to revisit Steven Wilson should put him in high regard. Lyrically, I would rank the two albums in a dead heat with each other, with the exception of a section of album opener “Opia,” in which Awad has Anneke break the fourth wall by singing:

You might be wondering why I wrote this song/
It’s not a lullaby for the broken/
It’s a breathless gasp from the depth of the weakest lung/
My nightmares, unspoken.

I get the approach that he was trying to make here, as this album is autobiographical in nature, but there is something about people writing themselves into their own lyrics in this way that drives me nuts whenever I come across it. With that said, Anneke sounds fantastic, her vocal delivery soaring over the melancholy melody.

The main reason I award this fictitious battle of the bands to Wilson is his superior use of dynamics. It’s hard to fault Awad here; Wilson was doing this before I was even born, and put out the first Porcupine Tree album when I was just a wee toddler. However, In “Lonesome Clown” (which is an amazing song title, by the way; Awad could have easily made this the title track, but didn’t, and I appreciate that), which serves as the album’s climax, there is a particularly beautifully-written bridge that builds tension. The way the bridge picks up steam, it should explode into the final chorus, but it’s a bit of a letdown. It could have benefited from a heavier production mix or a different drum pattern. Whereas in Hand, “Ancestral” serves as that album’s climax and nails it in every way imaginable. It’s only 50 seconds longer than “Lonesome Clown” but packs a dynamic range that should knock anyone out on the first punch.

“Temporary” closes out Death with a slightly more upbeat anthem about the temporary pains of existence than I would have expected, but with Arjen Lucassen on the vocals it wouldn’t have worked if he tried to do it in an overly serious way. I like the way the ending dialogue loops together with the beginning of “Opia.” The ending to Hand leaves you with tears in your eyes (that is, assuming that you’re not a robotic critic who doesn’t get it), sticking to the album’s overall tone, which is something I would have preferred to see here as well. But the ending loop is a nice touch as it also lines up with Lucassen’s portrayed character.

At this point, however, I’m just nitpicking. Death Is Just A Feeling is a powerful album with solid songwriting and a series of great performances from amazing musicians. At roughly 46 minutes in length, it’s nearly perfectly timed and doesn’t overburden the listener, giving it higher replay value than Hand. Cannot. Erase., which is significantly longer in addition to being an emotionally draining album. Awad also included two bonus tracks from a prior EP. And while both of those songs, especially “Poetry of Time,” are good, they serve as a reminder of how much of a leap Awad has taken in his songwriting prowess with this release.

Overall: A must-own for prog enthusiasts and fans of Anneke van Giersbergen.

Rating: 4.0*

Buy the album here

Behind the scenes clip

Video for “Monday Morning”

Live Show Review: Rush

Location: Columbus, Ohio
Date: June 8, 2015
Venue: Nationwide Arena
Cost: $104
Merch purchased: None

By: Kris Kotlarik

Way back in 2008, when Rush was on tour supporting their penultimate release, Snakes & Arrows, I had the pleasure of seeing them in Milwaukee with my dad. It was my first real concert experience, one I will probably never forget. The set contained a fairly definitive list of Rush’s greatest hits, along with the best tunes from Snakes & Arrows (“The Way The Wind Blows” among them).

With word spreading that Rush will be significantly scaling back their touring, it seemed like as good of a time as any for the band to significantly change up their setlist and play some songs that haven’t been played in a significantly long time. Fitting the title of the latest album, Clockwork Angels, they also played their set from most recent to their oldest, a theme that I found to be quite interesting. It’s a bold approach that might alienate some of their fans who just want to hear “the old stuff.” Indeed, some of the great classics were left out. No YYZ, Freewill, Limelight, or A Passage to Bangkok. It’s hard to picture seeing Rush play an entire show without busting out YYZ, the legendary instrumental, but that’s what we got.

We also got more of the epic 2112 than in the 2008 show, as well as the marathon track “Xanadu” from A Farewell to Kings. Both of those tracks were on my personal list for Rush songs I would like to see live, as well as Red Barchetta off of Moving Pictures and the incredibily long (and fun-to-watch) Cygnus X-1 tracks, so I am hardly complaining.

What else has changed over seven years, you might ask? For one thing, Neil Peart’s kit is slightly less insane than it was back then. It is no longer surrounding Peart (although the chimes are where the remaining battery of percussion pieces used to be) and it no longer revolves and does other crazy shit. By and large, the concert experience remains the same; Peart is as stoic as ever, Geddy Lee can say anything and the crowd will get fired up, and there are some cool sketches that feature Jason Segel and Stephen Root, among others, that lighten the mood. That includes the South Park spoof of “Tom Sawyer,” one of my favorite segments of the 2008 show.

My two biggest disappointments of the show would be the following items:

  • At the end of the show, there’s a funny video in which the Rush members attempt to get to their dressing room, only to find that the room has been taken over by a clown puppet bouncer who says they’re not on the list. It seemed like a perfect opportunity for another encore; after all, the show’s not over until the band hits the dressing room, right? But then the lights were turned on.
  • The merch prices were fucking ridiculous. I’m sure that the demand is high for their shirts, and rightfully so, but there is no way in hell I’m paying $50 for a t-shirt and $100 for a hoodie. That’s just absurd.

And for a show in which there were supposedly no cameras allowed in the (massive) venue, you would think that somebody would be searching people for weed. Sure enough, a couple of Cheech & Chong wannabes decided to blaze it up during the first set and were nowhere to be found during the second set, resulting in what may very well be the single-dumbest act of stupidity I have ever encountered at a concert. Yes, even dumber than pit ninjas. Dumber still than the woo-girls screaming for no reason at a local show. Who goes to see Rush and doesn’t even bother staying around for the whole show? By all means, blaze it up on your own time, but not in a goddamn arena. The security in general was rather lax; they barely showed any interest in searching people for anything, most likely because they probably already saw all the weapons they ever wanted to see during the Chris Brown Valentine’s Day show (aka the definition of irony).

Overall: If you’re debating on whether or not you should go see Rush on this tour, I would definitely recommend it, assuming you can get around the douchebag scalpers who have completely hijacked the secondary market. The band sounds as tight as ever. You may not hear everything you want to hear, but there will also be pleasant surprises for those who are open-minded. With that said, be prepared to give up your spleen for any souvenirs. Already lost your spleen? Well good news! They also accept kidneys, testicles, and aortas.

Rating: 4.0*

Review: Steven Wilson – Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Location: Hertfordshire, England, UK
Genre: Progressive Rock
Released: February 27, 2015
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Uprising – Recent Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

I have an immense amount of respect for Steven Wilson; he is a highly talented musician capable of fusing many genres together to create a solid work of art. He has been a maestro of his craft since 1987, and has taken it upon himself to remix some of the most classic progressive rock albums of all time from bands like King Crimson, Yes, and Jethro Tull, among many others. Chances are, if you have any interest in progressive rock, Steven Wilson has probably had something to do with it.

And yet, I can’t really say that I love his own work. I tend to find his work to be precise to the point of it sounding robotic and devoid of emotion, even if the concept is one that should evoke emotion merely from talking about it. Hand. Cannot. Erase. continues this trend of emotional desolation for me.

Per Wilson, the concept is about a young woman from the United Kingdom who died in 2003, but was not found for three years. He also describes it as an album that warns of the false promises of social media, which makes a lot of sense. I have a lot of “friends” on social media that I barely communicate with anymore. For all I know, they could be just like Joyce Carol Vincent.

Purely from a production standpoint, this is a fantastic piece of work, and one shouldn’t expect anything less from Wilson at this point. It runs a gamut of different styles and even includes ambient and electronic features. But I have given this album ten listens (hence the long wait for the review) and I simply can’t get into it from start to finish. It does become more captivating as it gets closer to the end of the album, and the immensely long “Ancestral” is a meisterwerk of a track that rewards the listener with the most dynamic songwriting on this album. Unfortunately, it’s not enough to salvage the rest of the 66-minute album.

As a whole, this is a tough album for me to rate, as I can legitimately see how some would view this as an absolute gem. Ultimately, however, I consider work like this to be in a group with Tech-Death albums. It’s impressive work, but hard to fully digest because of the lack of dynamic range, especially (in this case) on the vocal tracks. That said, if you’re looking for a modern Pink Floyd, look no further. This should be heaven for you.

Overall: Too good for a 3.5, but not engaging enough for a 4.0.

Rating: 3.5*

Review: Ayreon – The Theory of Everything

Location: Waalwijk, The Netherlands
Genre: Progressive Rock/Metal
Released: October 28, 2013
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Traveler In Time

By: Kris Kotlarik

In the review for The Gentle Storm’s The Diary, I made a funny about how The Theory of Everything (the movie) ripped off the plot from the Ayreon album of the same name. Honestly, I don’t think that is much of an exaggeration. The story revolves around a genius prodigy with a mental impairment and features a smart but neglectful and self-centered father, a caring mother, a love interest, an asshole of a rival who eventually works with the prodigy, and a teacher who guides the prodigy through the toughest of life’s problems. It has all the cliches for a blockbuster movie, right? The rival drops some especially cornballish lines that only someone like Arjen Lucassen could/would pull off. And yet, at least for the most part, it works.

Depending on how you feel about occasionally cheesy lyrics, there are two other possible weaknesses that could detract from your enjoyment of this album. The first is the over-the-top nature of the vocals; there are so many high-pitched climax-sounding notes that it’s often hard to tell where you are in the story. The second is that this album is long. About an hour and half long, spread out over 42 “tracks.” These tracks are more like segments of a significantly longer track, of which there are officially four. The continuous flow makes this feel overwhelming; even now, I still have a hard time listening to this in its entirety. Part of that stems from the expositional nature of the first disk, which takes its time in establishing the characters and the plot.

Like most Ayreon albums, a singer is cast as a singular character. There isn’t all that much star power here, at least in comparison to previous albums; Tommy Karevik (Kamelot, Seventh Wonder) does a sensational job in the prodigy role, while Marco Hietala (Nightwish, Tarot) goes toe to toe with him as the rival. Sara Squadrani (Ancient Bards) and Christina Scabbia (Lacuna Coil) play the girl/love interest and mother, respectively, but sound too similar to each other and often have to be deciphered based on their lyrics instead of their sound. Scabbia, however, is a star on the second disc, especially in the closing tracks. She also belts one for the ages at the end of “The Argument 2.” Yes, there are two “arguments.” But the first argument, which is on the first disc, isn’t that much if an argument. Maybe that’s exactly what Arjen was going for; the second disc has much more intensity than the first.

Since there are so many tracks to listen to, if you’re short on time and want to just listen to one song, I would pick “Collision.” It’s basically a vocal dual between the prodigy and the rival with strong energy to it. There’s also “Progressive Waves,” an instrumental that I am fairly certain was included only to showcase the godly synth talents of Keith Emerson (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), who plays the most ELP-esque solo ever recorded, as well as Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater). Also making a cameo appearance is Rick Wakemen (Yes) on “Surface Tension” and guitarist Steve Hackett (Genesis) on “The Parting.”

Those who know what Ayreon is all about already know what they are in for: A lot of classic prog melodies in the form of a rock opera. That said, this feels different from albums such as 01011001 in part because of the realistic nature of the story. There aren’t any space aliens here; no crazy extraterrestrial trials or tribulations that the main characters must face like Into The Electric Castle; and no time traveling using a dream sequencer from which you drink the fluid from the left terminal. We may not all be scientists (I sure as hell am not), but Arjen poses what could have been an impossibly complex story into something that most people can connect to. This may take several listens to get into, but it’s worth the wait if you give it time.

Overall: In the higher end of Ayreon’s albums and one of the best from 2013.

Rating: 4.0*

Review: The Gentle Storm – The Diary

Location: Waalwijk, Netherlands
Genre: Progressive Rock, Acoustic, Folk
Released: March 23, 2015
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Global Conquest – Upcoming Releases

By: Kris Kotlarik

Arjen Lucassen is at it again! To which I say, “thank goodness.”

This is a unique album, even for Arjen, a man who has written many a rock opera about everything from space sci-fi to a story about a scientist that was later made into a movie.* The closest comparison that can be offered is to Ayreon’s Universal Migrator albums; it is widely known that he believed that his fans were divided into two camps: The light, progressive rock camp, and the metalheads. So he put out The Dream Sequencer for the former, and Flight of the Migrator for the latter, releasing both albums at the same time. Although fans, myself included, generally liked both albums, he did figure correctly that some people would prefer one album to the other. I’ve had a draft typed up for a while for my review of Flight of the Migrator, which might make my Top 50 all-time list. The Dream Sequencer would probably rate in the 3.5 range if I were to review it today.

My rambling about these albums is important because The Diary is the same album done twice in two different styles. The Gentle version is very folk-oriented and should be regarded as a treat for those who enjoy modern folk rock bands. There are even some lounge jazz elements in “Heart of Amsterdam” and “Brightest Light.” Meanwhile, in “Shores of India,” Arjen makes use of traditional Indian instruments, making them sound authentic in the process.

The Storm version, in contrast, is significantly heavier and makes use of a choir, as seen in “Endless Sea.” The title track, if it can be called that, is full of symphonic metal goodness mixed with the occasional electronic effect (as seen in “Age of Shadows” from 01011001), and is probably the heaviest track here, like an Epica track written by someone with a significantly better ear for melodies. And yet, this isn’t a “metal” album. It’s a fun listen, but (and this is going to sound strange coming from me) I believe the “Gentle” version is the better disc.

The concept is also unique by Arjen’s already-lofty standards; the (based on a true) story revolves around a couple, Joseph and Suzanne, that is torn apart during the peak of The Netherlands’ golden age of exploration. Joseph is called away to visit India, and while he is gone, the two exchange letters to each other, as narrated by the illustrious Anneke van Giersbergen. This is not the first time the two have worked together; she also had parts on Into The Electric Castle and 01011001. But this is a direct collaboration between the two.

And that’s why I consider the Gentle disc to be the better one. The concept, which has a diverse setting, lends itself better to the array of acoustic instruments that Arjen uses in this project. Furthermore, Arjen, who has a reputation for bringing out the best in the musicians he works with, did a great job utilizing Anneke both discs, especially on the Gentle side. While her voice is powerful in nature, she dials it down considerably, and to great effect. Despite that, the Storm version is also a great listen.

Overall: An ambitious project that should wind up on many year-end album lists.

Rating: 4.0*

P.S.: Anneke, if you ever read this and happen to bring The Gentle Storm to the United States, please play “Strange Machines” like you and Arjen did during the European acoustic tour. Or perhaps “Probably Built In The Fifties?” Oh who am I kidding, any song from The Gathering. Actually, I really just want to see this band play live. Otherwise I’m just going to have to move to Europe, and I don’t think Europe is ready for me yet.

*Wait, you mean Ayreon released The Theory Of Everything a full year before the movie of the same name? I smell a lawsuit! All joking aside, that album is also a good one, albeit even more over the top than usual, occasionally to its detriment.

ATF Review: Devin Townsend – Infinity

Location: Vancouver, Canada
Genre: Progressive Rock
Released: October 21, 1998
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: Devin Dissection

Carl King: Briefly describe the contents of the Infinity project.

Devin Townsend: 80 tracks of vocals, chaos, tip o’ the hat to JCSuperstar, 8 tracks o’ guitar, Gene (Hoglan) on drums, 1 yam, 1 trip to fun-ville hospital, 400 happy pills, 8000 strands of hair — in toilet, 300 cups of high-grade jasmine tea, 15,000 Canadian dollars ($174.63 American).

From a hilarious 1998 interview with Carl King, it encapsulates the project so effectively that a review is almost unnecessary. I mean, we’ve all been there: you’re trying to write a big paper, but there is so much fog in your head, or you’re just mentally drained, and nothing seems to be working. But all of a sudden, everything clicks and you turn in something stellar and unique.

This is basically what happened to Devin Townsend; after checking into a mental institution (voluntarily), he received a bipolar disorder diagnosis and everything made sense to him. That led to the creation of Infinity, an album containing many elements while never being completely “metal.” Whatever the fuck that means, right? One of those elements includes Broadway (as mentioned in the above quote), so if that offends you for some reason, run to the hills (and run for your life).

What this record is, as one could guess from the aforementioned vocal and guitar tracks, is a wall of sound. To some, this might be considered overwhelming. As a standing rule of thumb, I tend to like “overwhelming” music; it makes you think and gives you more things to focus on. And Infinity is overwhelming in a remarkable way.

The best track? “War.” It has some great lyrics (“We can see the enemy; they say, ‘Hey! We don’t want your war!'” I take that as a metaphor for your own internal struggles and facing them. The line “You can’t fight a war without losing blood” also points to this), Devin doo-wopping with himself, a burst of sound, and some excellent solo vocals to close out the song. The other absolute standouts are “Christeen” with its hard rocking pop goodness, and “Dynamics” for being the epitome of a wall of sound.

Weak songs? There aren’t any. “Wild Colonial Boy” is the closest thing I can find to a weak song, but it also fits that Broadway motif that works so well on “War” and “Bad Devil,” a demented jazz number complete with brass instruments and a choir. “Unity” is a bit long, but is a good way to decompress following “Dynamics.”

The others range from heavy instrumentals (“Truth”) to short wankfests (“Ants”) to one of Devin’s better goof-off album closers (“Noisy Pinkbubbles”). The main obstacle for people when it comes to this album will probably be its heavy production. If you can get past or even embrace it (like I do), there will be a lot to enjoy here.

Overall: Arguably Devin’s 2nd-best album ever released, making it a candidate for the top 10 albums of all time.

Rating: 4.5*