The Living Infinite (Nuclear Blast)
By Mike Delano
In the battle of quantity vs. quality, the video game community has it all wrong. Sure, the big games cost $60 nowadays, but if a company tries to push onto the gaming public a game that takes, say, less than 100 hours to fully exhaust, then it’s committing commercial suicide. It doesn’t matter if 99 of those 100 hours consist of simulated lawn mowing, gamers want value, dammit, and too often they measure it in hours.
Meanwhile, consumers of music and film are slightly more evolved. A double album or a three-hour movie will more than likely elicit a condescending eye roll. Couldn’t they have edited this down? Who dares present this artistic diarrhea? Who among us doesn’t wish the editing axe was used swiftly on Star Wars: Episodes I-III, or doesn’t have a single cassette tape filled with the best songs cherry-picked from Use Your Illusion I & II?
Despite the notorious concept of a double album, and its track record of failing more often than succeeding, I like it when a band spreads out and indulges its tendencies toward grandeur. A double album of melodic death metal may seem like a headscratcher at first, but Soilwork actually fired a warning shot with their last album, 2010’s The Panic Broadcast. Even though it weighed in at a relatively lean ten songs, everything felt bigger and busier on that album, from the more ferocious heavy material to the more dramatic clean choruses, and even some more bombastic stabs at pseudo ballads (“Let This River Flow”).
The 20 tracks on The Living Infinite extend the sound of the previous album in a natural way. There aren’t any crazy sonic detours or wild new sounds here, no sense that the band is interested in using this extended palette as a vehicle to try out some long-suppressed song or musical urge. So it’s a safer approach than one might expect from a double album, but since the material is so strong, it works. This is just a great Soilwork album, doubled in size. “Spectrum of Eternity” is a fittingly monstrous lead-off, and “This Momentary Bliss” recalls the filled-to-the-brim sound and memorable guitar riffs of the standout Broadcast track, “Two Lives Worth of Reckoning.” Back-to-back tracks “Vesta” and “Realm of the Wasted” make a killer one-two punch on the first disc, and the second disc ends strong with an impressive string of songs highlighted by the plaintive “Parasite Blues.” Unlike other double albums that are conceived as a huge piece to be consumed all at once, The Living Infinite doesn’t require or benefit from that approach. Throw in either disc, power through the whole thing at once, make a mixtape of your favorite tracks: Any way you choose to tackle this thing, it’s a worthwhile endeavor.