1999, Movies

Calculating Infinity (1999) by The Dillinger Escape Plan

I came into this fully expecting to say it’s the “birth of mathcore”. But a little bit of research suggests that many bands had been making music at least somewhat similar to this for a little while, perhaps even years. I don’t know any of those bands, basically, so I have no idea how many of them are closer to “proto-mathcore” than actual mathcore, or what. (When writing history it’s easy to see minor innovations as births of genres.) But this little bit of research has definitely discouraged me from making any bold proclamations.

Musically, though, this is basically the platonic ideal of ’90s mathcore, as far as I know. It’s extremely loud and aggressive while being knottier than any metalcore band that I’ve ever heard by miles. For me, this is one of the places metal went in the late ’90s that is really exciting. Had I been a metal fan at 18 I would like to think I would have been getting bored by albums that are just trying to play one preexisting subgenre really well. (Those tend to bore me now, anyway.)

I tend to pay very little attention to metal lyrics, in part because in many metal subgenres (such as this one) they are often indecipherable. But, moreover, metal has a long tradition of having shitty lyrics, either just because they’re not well written or because they are offensive (either on purpose or because the person writing them is an asshole). I haven’t read the lyrics included in albums since I was in my early 20s and I usually only look up lyrics online if I want to make sure I’m hearing something correctly. In a genre where I can hear every word, I pay attention. When I can’t, I am usually fine with the sound of the voice. But I read hear that some of the lyrics are super problematic. And there’s a part of me that just doesn’t want to look them up, because I know that what I will find. Does telling myself that they switched lead singers (and lyricists) later make it better? It helps me stay in denial, anyway. The only thing I can say in meek defense of lyrics like these is that the purpose of art like metal is to allow people to express socially inappropriate emotions in a safe way. Unfortunately, there are always some in society (including many artists) who take this stuff seriously and think that song lyrics are an endorsement of the content. (And some are, obviously, but plenty aren’t.)

If I completely ignore the presumed content of the lyrics, I really, really like this. The only criticism I have against it, which isn’t fair, is that the band would get far more musically ambitious and interesting on later records. That’s not so much a criticism, given this is the first album, so much as a statement of fact, really.

8/10 as long as I don’t look up those lyrics

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