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Devin Townsend - The Devin Townsend Band: Accelerated Evolution CD (album) cover

THE DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND: ACCELERATED EVOLUTION

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.88 | 251 ratings

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The Genre Spanner
3 stars In 2002, Devin Townsend felt compelled to form a band with local musicians to bring Accelerated Evolution to life, while simultaneously having to create the more financially promising third album with his well-established metal band Strapping Young Lad. This was out of response to a few factors:

Devin has admitted resentment towards SYL at the time, as it was this successful platform taking the limelight away from the kind of music he really wanted to do. So he sought to spitefully prove he could quickly establish another band (hence 'Accelerated Evolution') and produce music just as, if not more, meaningful, with comparatively inexperienced musicians. It would also be an opportunity to stick it to his management who were skeptical he could possibly do both. In addition to that, Devin wanted to play with fans of his solo work who could bring fresh perspectives.

The goal with Accelerated Evolution was to strip back the more abstract and layered elements of the previous album Terria, (because some listeners were criticizing these for some reason), to create a basic band-oriented album with a very minimal focus on overdubbing. It was to be akin to the tone of Devin's solo debut Ocean Machine but 'more simple and blunted' as Devin would put it. The resulting sound is a mid-tempo progressive metal / hard rock hybrid with some pop sensibilities.

This is quite an enjoyable and accessible album. It's certainly the most commercial album Devin had done at the time, with catchy hooks and mostly positive vibes; only 'Deadhead' and 'Suicide' darkening the tone a little. The vocals are performed to an incredible standard - Devin seamlessly blends soft vocals, epic vibrato, and screaming into the songs; 'Storm' being a perfect example. And while I wouldn't usually welcome screams in this kind of melodic music, Devin's feel like they come from an authentic place and naturally fit with the music.

While the production has been stripped back regarding instruments and sounds, Devin's trademark reverby wall of sound is still present, but done in relative moderation. I can recall a time when after listening to the almost overbearing, dense production of the more recent Z2 albums, coming back to this felt like I could breathe again.

There's a real consistency to Accelerated Evolution. Every song is loud. Every song has the vocals, electric guitar rhythm, bass, the drummer constantly riding the crash cymbal, synth pads... and that's about it. While this brings uniformity to the album, this is the main issue I have with it - Every song is the same colour, so to speak. There's not much to differentiate them regarding texture, tempo, and volume. (This is something the Devin Townsend Band will address on their next album Synchestra.) As someone who gravitates towards dynamics and variety, this prevents me from revisiting Accelerated Evolution often.

There are however some standout moments. 'Away' is a favourite of mine as it's (almost) instrumental, with Devin's creative voice shining as an 8 minute lead-guitar performance. It provides a holiday from 'Singer-Songwriter Devin Townsend' so we can hear the less-common but very skilled 'Guitarist Devin Townsend'. The moments in his albums where he allows himself to indulge in guitar wankery is always a treat. Additionally, 'Sunday Afternoon' feels very inspired, especially the chorus, and one cannot skip past how iconic the live-favourite 'Deadhead' is, despite me finding it a bit tiresome at this point.

Accelerated Evolution's loud, positive and commercial tendencies are something Devin would revisit a decade later with Epicloud. 'Slow Me Down' is even referenced in the Epicloud track 'Hold On'. But Accelerated Evolution is an album Devin now considers fairly uninteresting, despite a couple of great tracks. And given his heart was fairly absent from the SYL album, it was a lesson for him in splitting the efforts as such. (For the record I think SYL is a pretty kickass metal album.)

A special edition of Accelerated Evolution came with a bonus EP called 'Project EKO', a foray into instrumental electronica. Synths, pulsing beats, samples, and reverby twangy guitars provide an interesting departure from Devin's usual style, and it's a welcome one. It's the kind of experimentalism I'm always happy to see from him. But I'm not confident it has aged well - it reeks of 'early 2000s' and would fit perfectly on a Playstation One racing game menu. Interestingly, Devin has said that Project EKO had his peak interest during this creative period.

7/10

The Genre Spanner | 3/5 |

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