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Devin Townsend - The Devin Townsend Band: Synchestra CD (album) cover


Devin Townsend


Experimental/Post Metal

4.08 | 368 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
4 stars The band-oriented feel of Accelerated Evolution hits its peak here as it combines with the full force of Devin's abstract creativity.

Short of Terria, Synchestra is Devin's masterpiece. It's progressive and off-the-wall at times, mellow and straightforward at others. It's got atmospheric ambiance. It's got crushing metal. It's got heart-wrenching singing and throat-biting screaming. It's got wicked drumming, it's got wicked guitar work (yes, some from Steve Vai), and the production and mastering is absolutely splendid. What we have here is, in a way, Terria mark 2, without plagiarizing the first at all. What's best about this album, though, is that Devin does not shut himself in a box in any way. He clears his slate of all usual compositional tendencies and makes a totally new album.

The difference is instant. Instead of an explosion of wildness or weirdness, we have the gentle acoustic Let It Roll. That segues into Hypergeek, which still does not kick into gear. At least, not at first. It builds layer by layer for the first half, and then rips into crazy metal mode for the second, without featuring any real vocals except as background instruments. Some crazy picking and a few blast beats later, the first song proper enters the stage, Triumph. This track builds slowly over crescendoing drums, turning a metal piece into something much different with a highly harmonized chorus--almost creepily harmonized, as they're singing about mankind being a collective. Some banjos and bluegrass enter in the middle, and a rather pretty guitar piece from Steve Vai ends it.

The cynical Baby Song plays next, revisiting some themes from Infinity and Strapping Young Lad's Love?. Carrying the mood, Vampolka plays like a creepy mobile for a baby, preparing the listener for the first real stand alone track on the album, Vampira. This plays like a single from Hell, with way over the top verse vocals and wonderfully long chorus screams. Of note is the official video for the song, performed by a dancing Devin Townsend in a tacky Satan suit. Never seen anyone knee-kick and scream their head off at the same time. Certainly something to experience. Mental Tan slows down the pacing, calming the listener after the adrenaline-pumping Vampira.

Gaia is the album's other single sort of track, featuring much more mellow vocals and a nice chugging riff in the background. While I like this track, it's not particularly remarkable. The next one is, though. Pixillate features some of the album's heaviest moments, also introducing a riff that will play out through the next couple songs as they flow into each other. Judgment is also very heavy, with some nice screaming and some crazy vibrato. The end references Mental Tan, as well, right before it becomes A Simple Lullaby. At first, this track was my least favorite. But then I listened to it loud on a good sound system, and I realized that Devin was right when he said it was about 500,000 screaming and cheering. With a good system, this is probably Devin's most impressive song ever, making for a terrific climax.

Sliding off that climax is the quick instrumental Sunset, a cheerful and mellow song. Then we hit Notes from Africa, a complicated and many-layered tribal sort of piece. The vocal melodies are all odd but fit together really nicely. The drumming is absolutely out of this world, though. My hands have never once held still through listening to that whole song. The music fades out, part by part, until all that's left are jungle noises. After a few minutes of quiet, the bonus track, Sunshine and Happiness, enters. This is probably the most cheerful and happy song not only that Devin has written but that is present in the realm of metal ever. Almost impossible not to grin while listening.

In all, a powerful, moving, fully developed album with some sort of deep concept. I would highly recommend this to any fan of metal, progressive metal, or good music in general, though the small amounts of screaming can be turnoffs for many.

LiquidEternity | 4/5 |


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