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Devin Townsend - Ocean Machine - Biomech CD (album) cover

OCEAN MACHINE - BIOMECH

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.98 | 305 ratings

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Wicket
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Ok, so perhaps the sound, the quality, the speaking samples, and the artwork are a bit 90's, but still, even on his first album, Devin Townsend loved his reverb.

"Seventh Wave", the album's opener makes that loud and clear after a brief but poetic spoken monologue, and while the track isn't entirely busy or overwhelming like some of his later works, even here DT's composition has led to some memorable and even catchy lyrics, as "Life" is a brilliant example of. Hell, it's probably Townsend's catchiest song ever written.

But even by now, there is a major contrast from his first work and his later ones. 1) It is a bit serious, even though he's capable of being serious or not whenever he feels like it and 2) Although the reverb is present, I don't ever get that complete "Drowned out by an orchestra" feeling. Perhaps it's because of the 90's recording quality? Perhaps, but even though it's a slight niggle on the album itself, it doesn't diminish the compositions at all.

Perhaps the interesting thing, though, is that here on his first serious solo work, all these songs are perhaps his most accessible Townsend has ever made, and will forever be, since people who listen to DT's music now will know of that humorous background, that some people might not even take his music seriously sometimes anymore. I know I don't from time to time.

But because it might have been better to play it safe on his first solo album, all of these songs are happy melodies (charged by reverbed guitars, of course), and while they're very lovely song, great driving songs in fact, there is one flaw. Yes, he uses lots of vocal and speaking samples and recordings and dabbles in other electronic wizardry, but there is one thing that is severely lacking: variety.

Now, of course at this point I'd be a fool to call a Devin Townsend album "predictable", because none of them are, and never will be. However, on certain albums ("Terria", "Accelerated Evolution", "Ghost" come to mind, great as these albums are), the repetition factor can kick in fairly early and almost dull the excitement for the remainder of the album to come. After "Hide Nowhere", the album does take an interesting left turn to the ballad "Sister" as the music slows down and fades into "3 A.M." where even the guitars fade out to just Devin calmly singing over a seascape of noise, synths and samples, right before the album kicks into a happy groove again with "Voices In The Fan".

Even here, though, glimpses of DT's eccentricities shine through, particularly the choral spot at the end of "Fan", and even "Greetings" starts with sch an enthusiasm that very few of Townsend's songs have ever matched, despite its fairly short length. "Regulator" though is unusual, his heaviest song so far on this album, complete with a few screams. It's rather surprising there's any screaming on here at all, really, considering DT is still with Strapping Young Lad at this point, figuring he'd want a change of pace with his musical style, and of course it doesn't take long before "Funeral" sounds like the beginning of a mid 2000's indie rock song. Despite that, though, it's fairly mild compared to the rest of the album's offerings, and takes a break from the traditional synth-overloaded reverb-fest, definitely one of the softer sides of Townsend revealed, and one of my favorites on the disc.

Now we get to the two juggernauts, even though "Funeral", at this point in the album, was already the longest at 8 minutes, "Bastard comes in at a little over 10, almost picking up where "Funeral" left off at the same leisurely drum pace. This track is one of his classic "reverb soundscapes" as I call them. "Accelerated Evolution" has a number of this such as "Deadhead" and "Away": no tempo changes, fairly slow speeds and plenty of reverb, reverb and noise. Not in a deafening way, but in a multi-layered fashion. It's that typical sound he's after, with the reverb leaving echoes behind and creating these ethereal wisps and trails of music and noise behind, laying chords on top of chords and leaving the drums to create a big, full, thick backbone behind these gargantuan monoliths as they trudge along with synths blaring and Townsend's power chords continuing to strum away for another 7 or so minutes.

The longest song, "The Death Of Music", clocking in at over 12 minutes, is also is most experimental of the lot, creating an eerie soundscape of dissonant piano chords behind whispers and sound samples, and the first words he sings still behind this atmosphere almost remind me of Roger Waters behind a trademark Pink Floydian soundscape. Almost. Still, this is by far the most experimental of the albums songs, and it fairly remains static and predictable for the most part, sounding more and more Floyd-like as you near the end, and even the intro strums of "Thing Beyond Things" almost has a Floydian quality to them, as if the band is ready to break out into a 50 minute long jam behind wailing guitar solos and synth-backed soundscapes. Except it's less interesting, as it's basically a ballad.

Still, not bad at all for Townsend's first effort. The latter half of the disc is fairly forgettable, with "Funeral" and maybe "The Death Of Music" being exceptions, while the first is filled with catchy, reverb-tastic power tunes. It may not be entirely sophisticated as his later albums, but for a Townsend fan, it's still going to be an undeniable sound.

Wicket | 3/5 |

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