The word ‘infernal’ refers to Hell. When someone is a nuisance, irritating or tiresome, they can be an infernal nuisance thus representing a hellish experience for you, and thus any hellish experience can be described with the word ‘infernal’.
So too can a particularly boring and insufferable experience. I’ve often thought of grinding through heavy games such as Diablo in this vein. Apparently Diablo III is super easy in this respect. Who knows. I’m confident I’d still find it boring.
Infernal Machine feels like a machine that spat out ideas without any focus, stuck in it’s own hell of second-hand parts. There are moments when you hear good ideas – surf rock’s lead slides and rhythm track chromatics (‘Tracks Over Carcosa’) – but these good ideas never go anywhere or become more interesting, and the productions not big enough to drive home dynamics that seem to just happen without any build up or force.
‘The Forever War’ is aptly named because it takes forever to get anywhere, and if you can allow yourself to be dragged along for the first five minutes, I’d be impressed if you make it another four at which point the guitar finally breaks out of its annoyingly picked chord figure, lasting a mere fraction of the time and making you wonder where the rest of that lead break went.
Maybe a black hole.
Neither the rhythm nor the lead work is interesting or catchy enough to sustain attention – and at least one of those needs to be to allow the listener greater pleasures. Most tracks will pass without you even noticing them, which, in one respect, could make great background music you don’t have to pay any attention to.
‘Tachyon Deep’ focusses more on a bongo rhythm which is a great enjoyable contrast without diverting from the band sound. Passing the halfway mark, bigger drumming seeps in and the guitar distorts away from the sustained notes, but the song never reaches any true climax, and the final chord stabs aren’t convincing enough.
In many ways this is my kind of music – stoner rock via prog and space rock with some sprinklings of surf rock. It all sounds like it’d be a good, if not interesting, mix. It is a good mix, it’s just that the ideas never rise above bog standard. I can honestly say that I like what the band is attempting, but if anything, the shortest ‘song’ (tracks are mostly instrumental with some dreary vocals moaning here and there) at a mere two minutes displays aptly what they can’t do with the simplest of ideas. ‘Escape Aleph Minor’ and the following tracks want to invoke Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma but without any of the crazy. There’s a sense of serenity at times, and there are moments of doom, but neither feel like they’ve been created through the shear abandonment of the soul towards musical ends. It all feels too safe at times.
This album has more of the feel of a band exploring music without solidifying or editing any ideas. It’s almost what I imagine Tool might sound like during rehearsals when they first start rehearsing riffs. The difference of course is that Tool spend time (actual time within the space/time continuum) working on and developing those ideas; Infernal Machine sounds like neither of those two events took place and New Keepers of the Water Towers just shrugged their shoulders and said “yeah, that’ll do.” It’s not like any of that’s particularly bad, I just can’t imagine someone who actually enjoys this album would come back for extended periods of listening.
Maybe you need to be stoned out of your brain to enjoy this music, or surfing on an acid trip; I don’t know and I don't do drugs anymore, and I'm not going to either just so I can get more out of this album.