Happy 25th Birthday, Infinity

Editor's note: last year, Devin Townsend's Infinity turned 25. In celebration, InsideOut Music released a wonderfully remastered version of the album. Seeing the milestone, I knew

16 days ago

Editor's note: last year, Devin Townsend's Infinity turned 25. In celebration, InsideOut Music released a wonderfully remastered version of the album. Seeing the milestone, I knew I had to reach out to frequent Heavy Blog collaborator and friend, Dan Wieten, who is also the heart behind the excellent The Omega Experiment.

Then, life intervened and I got busy, which is why we're only running this piece now. But who cares, right? Infinity is just that; timeless in its impact, one of progressive metal's greatest accomplishments. Please read on below for Dan's crucial and elucidating thoughts on history, music, pain, and creation. Thank you Dan, and thank you Devin.

Those who know me at all, or know of my music, know that Devin Townsend is my favorite artist of all time. If you’re close to me or follow my social media, you know that Infinity is my favorite album of all time. I make no apologies for trying my best to recreate the timeless keyboard sounds and explosions contained therein, and hopefully make them somewhat my own. It was a monument to audio production when it was released, and forever influenced mine and many other musicians’ approach to layering, mixing, and just pushing every level and frequency to the extreme while still maintaining a shimmer uncharacteristic of any album before or since. There has never been another album like it. Devin took every risk imaginable musically and mentally, having to be hospitalized because of the self-inflicted pressure. Pain for art, personified, and the world is a much better place for it.

My journey with Infinity starts roughly in January 1999. I’d already been obsessed with Strapping Young Lad’s City since summer 1997 when I saw them open for Testament and Stuck Mojo. My best friend Ben ordered the Ocean Machine CD at some point in 1998, and it floored me. It was as if I’d heard every one of those melodies before, like they were seared into my veins in a past life and that same ancient blood was still flowing through my current brain, providing an instant feeling of nostalgia. It was as if music itself was a fever dream my whole life up to that point, and now it had finally arrived and I was awake. Ocean Machine may still be the BEST album I’ve ever heard, in terms of its flow and sense of completeness. Ben subscribed to Devin’s fan club and started getting newsletters, and once we heard about Infinity, it was on. Ben ordered it, and the rest is history. I’ll forever be grateful to him for being the responsible one at the time, and for being willing to put in the effort to make sure we kept up with Devin’s music.  

Infinity took every feeling Ocean Machine instilled in me and amplified it exponentially. It was the literal and metaphoric explosion I felt inside at all times. It was the embodiment of the twisted sculpture of love, lust, spiritual/mental confusion, emotional immaturity, aimlessness, and excitement that was swirling in my mind and body at the time. I was just about to hop off the wagon into a nearly ten year battle with drug addiction, but boy was the beginning of it elating. I spent a few years posing as a raver, dressed head to toe in obscenely bright colors with bracelets up to my elbows and visors with blinking lights attached. I’ve been clean for over fifteen years now, and definitely don’t condone drug use, but the particular drug associated with that scene helped me become vulnerable and reveal myself to the world. It also tremendously impacted the way I heard music, and Devin’s music was the soundtrack for this entire period, with a particular emphasis on Infinity. The best that music has ever sounded to my ears was on the ride home from Slipknot’s Tattoo the Earth festival in the summer of 2000, high as the clouds on the rave drug and sitting in the passenger seat with Infinity cranked on a hi-fi sound system. I had never crawled inside of a mix before, and haven’t been able to the same way since. It was and still is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard. I chased that feeling for years.

Like all timeless albums, my experiences with Infinity aren’t limited to one period of my life. It was my gospel, and I sang its praises to every new friend I made from that point on, or anyone willing to listen. It saw me through the darkest depths of my addiction, and revealed itself in new ways when I got clean. Though I’m not always in the mood to listen to it, I never tire of it. It is so dense and driven that nary a second goes by without an aural assault of layers, so there’s always something new to latch onto. At times, some of this is perceived as more than the sum of its parts because of the way Devin layers noise. Cartoon audio, voices, distortion, and various samples all filtered through heaps of delay create a kaleidoscope of sounds that build upon themselves. There are things in there I’ve only heard once and never heard again. Even drug free I still hear new things, and am always searching. 

As the years wore on in my addiction, I somehow managed to accrue some equipment and start recording my own music, but I never quite had the level of perseverance, tenacity, or hardware processing power to get to the level of layering I wanted to experiment with like Devin achieved on Infinity. This would all change when I got clean. Turns out if you’re not wasting every penny you have and borrowing money you’ll never pay back to finance an addiction, there is much more to go around. With the help of my cousin, best friend, and keyboardist/sampler Ryan Aldridge I harnessed my newfound creative energy and focused it to pinpoint precision on the first full album I would ever finish, the self-titled The Omega Experiment. I’ll never forget the first playback after spending hours layering keyboard tracks. I couldn’t believe what we created. We were just emulating those dense, ethereal layers on Infinity, but it sounded so damn cool that we didn’t care! 

After spamming our music everywhere we possibly could on social media, it gained some traction and even caught Devin’s ear, to which he had nothing but encouraging words. We accomplished a few things—signed to a label, did press, toured. Best of all though, we made connections with people around the world and changed some of their lives for the better. Ryan has since moved on, and I’ve been tucked away by myself, agonizing over the finest of details on the follow up to The Omega Experiment debut; not unlike the hair-pulling, mentally draining, and obsessive experience Devin references when discussing Infinity. It has been a long road, but it’s not all bad. Far from it. I am so immensely grateful for the gifts I’ve been given to be able to continue my creative process, and I wouldn’t have been able to do any of it without Infinity as my inspiration and soundtrack. It is the gift that keeps on giving. Happy 25 to my favorite album of all time. Pain for art, indeed.

Eden Kupermintz

Published 16 days ago