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Devin Townsend - Casualties Of Cool: Casualties Of Cool CD (album) cover


Devin Townsend


Experimental/Post Metal

3.90 | 205 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars Welcome all. Welcome to a story about a traveller who becomes trapped on a barren moon that feeds off his fear. A traveller who discovers and old radio with which he can hear old songs played. He becomes enamoured by the voices and from them he gains the strength to overcome his fears. He becomes aware of a woman's spirit here, too, and with his strength, he frees both her and himself. Yes, a bit weird, I know.

What began as the next installation in the Devin Townsend Project became a project of its own. Casualties of Cool, featuring Devin Townsend and Ché Aimee Dorval sharing lead vocals, is in the words of Devin himself, 'like haunted Johnny Cash music.' Indeed the first few songs will surprise anyone acquainted with Devin's usual brand of work, even if 'Ghost' is the only album you've ever heard. Devin has recreated that lonely but rugged soul feeling of old Johnny Cash so well that it often feels as though the guitar and drum parts (supplied beautifully by Morgan Agren) were lifted directly off old albums and neatly slotted in with Devin's soft, low whispering vocal and Ché's sultry and dusky voice. Add some eerie space effects and haunting wind sounds, a bit of saxophone and some wooden flute courtesy of Kat Epple off of 'Ghost', and not to forget the background radio voices, and you've got nearly all of the album summed up.

As with 'Ghost', there's no hint of heavy metal on here at all. The songs are this gentle quick-paced shuffle of drums and reverb-steeped, 50's clean electric guitar and sometimes spacey effects style, or slow and gentle and moody. One of the highlights for me is the third track, 'Flight', which is simply a wonderful example of her vocal prowess, which is saying a lot as she really shines in many songs. Her performance is beautiful, and listening to it I feel like I would want to see and hear her perform this live and I would be transfixed to her. If I could compare her vocals to anyone it would be Dusty Springfield. Ché Aimee has that same allure. At times I can see her on stage in a small club, a tight-fitting dress that goes from her neck to her ankles, her hair tied back in a neat bun, her eyes closed before the old Sinatra-style mic, and her arms at her sides, her body swaying gently to the music with a motion that goes from the subtle motion of her knees, and not her hips. Ché Aimee appeared on Devin's album 'Ki' but she was not nearly well-enough used for her talent as she is here. Though small club jazz is not my usual preference, if she were singing I would want to hear it.

This is a fairly mellow album even when it is upbeat, and there are plenty of ambient music moments, particularly on 'Pier' and the latter half of 'Deathscope'. 'Hejda' and 'Pure' give us more of Kat Epple's wooden flute and are the closest moments on this album to 'Ghost'. I find that tracks 1 to 9 keep that spacey country rock sound throughout most of the songs, but from track 10 the atmosphere changes to more acoustic guitar mostly. 'The Bridge' is another standout moment with over 8 minutes of incredible music that is quite different from the rest of the album. It has Devin and a choir singing along with acoustic guitar and strings. The music ventures into a 'Kashmir'-type of eastern sound at times and the voices of the choir sometimes rise and build and then ease back again. As I was walking home listening to this yet again the other night, I felt as though a strong invisible hand had pressed supportively against my back, lifted me slowly off the ground a few centimetres, and gingerly set me down again. When the voices and music reach their most powerful moments, it almost sounds like this was intended for 'Ziltoid: Dark Matters', but the swell of energy subsides once again.

I bought the double album disc which features a second disc of alternate versions, outtakes, and material intended for 'Ghost 2'. I have actually only listened to that CD once through. It was simply too much music along with several other Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad albums that were piling into my mailbox at that time. So, I can't comment honestly on that. But the digipak is very artistic. The CD booklet is mostly several double-spread pages illustrating the landscape of the barren moon, which is only rocks, bone, and dust. We also see the feet and hands of our traveller as he sits looking at photos he found in a wooden box. I found the bones and dust interesting because at the end of 'Ziltoid: Dark Matters' narrator Bill Courage mentions a lone moon of bones and dust.

It is incredible to think that Devin released three albums in 2014: 'Casualties of Cool' and the double album of 'Zed Squared' with 'Ziltoid: Dark Matters' and the Devin Townsend Project's 'Sky Blue'. Add the Casualties bonus disc along with 'Epicloud' and the bonus disc 'Epiclouder' and 'Ghost' and 'Deconstruction' plus the two discs of bonus material on the 'Contain Us' boxset and you can see that Devin has been exceedingly prolific in the studio between 2011 and 2014. His latest post on his website mentions a few other projects he wants to do if he can arrange the time, including, 'a bass-driven apocalypse record, a meditative record, a symphony, more Casualties, more DTP and a kind of big band thing.' I also read something about an Icelandic choir somewhere, too. Whatever it is he gets around to doing, I'm sure it's going to be a well-crafted piece of work. As for 'Casualties of Cool', if you are in the mood for this it is really out there.

FragileKings | 4/5 |


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