Litigation’s a tricky process, and when you’re a band just trying to do your thing, the last thing you want to happen is for someone to threaten you with any kind of legal action. Our heroes in Infinity Shred, then Starscream, the brainchild of Damon Hardjowirogo and George Stroud (and now with guitarist Nathan Ritholz), found themselves in this situation several months ago when nu-metal outlaws StarSkream contacted them (through lawyerriffic comm lines, of course) with a cease and desist on their name. (Hey guys, Korn called from fifteen years ago – they want their unnecessary, misused, and boneheaded “K” back.)
Not ones to try to fight ridiculous and pointless battles where there was no obvious victory, the duo Starscream decided to call it quits – and rise like twin phoenixes from the ashes as the mighty Infinity Shred. I’m not going to belabor this any more than I already have, but I gotta be honest: Infinity Shred’s a way cooler name. But I’m not the moniker police, so it’s time to move on. (Although check out that picture of StarSkream!)
The duo’s (now trio’s) triumphant return comes in the form of EP 001 (Gnar Dream), a sprawling, synth-driven blastoff into uncharted quadrants of the universe, places where earthbound scientists can only dream of one day even beginning to understand. Vapor trails from rocket boosters wisp through these tracks, and each triumphant synthesizer melody echoes the singing of the cosmos. To paraphrase Maryland blues/sludge/metal gods Clutch (appropriate/not appropriate? You decide), listening to Infinity Shred is perfect for sitting back and watching the universe expand. (Doesn’t hurt to have some spacegrass on hand too, I’d imagine.)
The tracks fluidly transition from one to the next, with huge drums and soaring synthesizers the main focus, and guitars, er, shredding in and out of the mix. Each tune is a deeply realized wordless tone poem to galaxies that humans will never reach, no matter how hard we try. Or maybe we will – the future is unwritten. But the boys in Infinity Shred take these two notions – the joy of discovery and enlightenment, the heartbreak of falling short of joy and enlightenment – and repurpose their inherent emotions into space-age anthems. You heard their equivalents in the modern science-fiction film scores of Blade Runner, Legend, and Labyrinth (OK, not the David Bowie parts), and it’s not a coincidence that these are all 1980s films – quasi-futurism hit its peak in that decade, when synthesizer experimentation and exploration went mainstream.
It’s not a coincidence either that two tracks here – “Pathfinder,” “Wayfinder” – are practically synonymous with one another in their connection to investigation and discovery. These M83-esque anthems (think Dead Cities era) are perfect soundtrack fodder for the budding astronaut or scientist, each filled with a sense of capital-I Importance, but not overwrought or overbearing. The seven-and-a-half-minute centerpiece “Hologram” acts as a summary of the emotional weight and balance sought throughout the EP, and expands and collapses throughout its runtime as a distillation of Gnar Dream as a whole in miniature. And “Untitled 001,” the most emotionally charged solo synth excursion Infinity Shred is likely to write (I almost called it a “power ballad”) is probably best experienced watching the universe age rapidly in time-lapse, expand into nothingness, and re–Big Bang itself, as if it were on a time loop stretching billions upon billions of years. I guess in that case I’ll have to paraphrase (or maybe quote, who knows) Philip J. Fry: So long Earth, thanks for the air and whatnot.
There’s a remix of “Wayfinder” that rounds out my extended version of the EP, and it’s a nice counterpoint to the original. To reference Blade Runner again, the remix sounds like it would be blaring from a discotheque specializing in post-Italo (that’s what Infinity Shred calls it, I’m not making up genres!) as Deckard wanders by in the rain. It’s almost too somber to be danceable. Almost, but not quite.
Hopefully the silliness of the circumstances surrounding the band’s name change won’t overshadow the stellar (er, interstellar?) “debut” Gnar Dream. This is music that deserves to be heard and enjoyed in a vacuum, because, even though I’ve just slathered my critique with it, you don’t need any comparison or frame of reference to enjoy this. The emotional heft and pleasing composition speak for themselves. Infinity Shred is, after all, human, and we can all tap in to a little bit of that humanness, can’t we? (OK, maybe not all of us…)
RIYL: M83 (particularly Dead Cities, Red Seas & Lost Ghosts), God Is an Astronaut, Jatun, Vangelis