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Devin Townsend - Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud CD (album) cover

DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT: EPICLOUD

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.92 | 353 ratings

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The Genre Spanner
3 stars EPICLOUD

Come for main album - stay for the bonus disc!

From 2009 to 2011, The Devin Townsend Project (DTP) was originally intended to be just that - a Project. It was to be 4 albums, each a different style and line-up, and the overall goal being to separate and focus on the many sides of singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer Devin Townsend, from extreme symphonic metal to new age. To me, it was a success.

Afterwards, with the influence of listening to mainstream radio - which was apparently a side effect of raising a young child - Devin would see his interest in his pop side return after having already explored it with the second DTP album Addicted (one of my favourites of his). As a result Epicloud was born and would see the next stage of the DTP moniker going in a more commercial creative direction with a consistent band - the fellas from The Devin Townsend Band, who appeared in and out throughout the first four DTP albums.

Epicloud picks up where Addicted left off with energetic pop metal and Anneke van Giersbergen's angelic assisting vocals, but now with some developments to the sound. Firstly, the tone has shifted from an industrial, punchy, 'cool' vibe, towards a more emotional, lovey-dovey and uplifting tone, both in the music and lyrics. Epicloud is just bursting with positive energy. Also, now there's a choir! Secondly, the album dives into the pop realm with more conviction, especially through the use of certain chord sequences that, in my ears, would point to a musician losing artistic credibility. But for Devin this is clearly about letting go, having fun, and giving in to the catchiness. Lastly, as the title might suggest, Devin doubles down with the massive reverby in-your-face wall-of-sound production that a lot of his earlier work had to a lesser degree. This is EPIC and LOUD - a sound that would continue on subsequent DTP albums.

For me, these developments from Addicted are a step backward in enjoyability. The generic pop elements and dense production can be a bit much, and it feels a little less authentic. But there's still some effervescent quality to be found.

After an a cappella intro straight out of left-field we begin with 'True North'. The intro to this song is breathtaking with an infectious melody and Anneke's celestial reverberations that burn into your brain for all eternity. This is probably why I revisit the album often. Other decent tracks are 'Where We Belong'; a softer uplifting track, 'Save Our Now'; a super catchy dancy tune, 'Lessons'; a calm instrumental breather, 'More'; the most Ziltoidian track on the album (at least on the first disc), and 'Angel'; the powerful closer. There are also some worthwhile bonus tracks on the Vinyl and Itunes editions of the album, most notably the pleasant 'Take My Ego', which could easily be an Abba song with different instrumentation. It's the only song on the album where Anneke has full lead vocal duties and there should have been more.

I must give special mention for the very memorable and impressively sung 'Kingdom', a pre-existing track with a new facelift. It's a prime example of 'happy metal' in case you need to show anyone who doubts the existence of such a thing. The song has gotten a lot of traction in recent times with many reaction videos popping up on Youtube, displaying people's jaws drop when Devin unleashes the mighty vocal vibrato. It's become a modern staple of Devin, ushering in the newer generation of fans.

The remaining album is a bit ordinary. 'Lucky Animals' and 'Liberation' I can do without. 'Divine' and 'Hold On' are too generic-pop. And I'm sorry but 'Grace' is a bit lame with Devin screaming NEVER FEAR LOVE atop the blasting monotony of awe.

Epicloud is decent, but to me, perhaps one of the lesser albums of Devin's discography.

Now... let's talk about that superior bonus disc...

EPICLOUDER

Following the bonus DTP album Stuff That Was Almost Stuff from the Contain Us boxset, Devin once again proves that bonus material can actually make for a more interesting experience. With the Epiclouder tracks it's clear there's just as much love poured into them and the only reason they were left off the album was that they didn't quite fit the uniform. As a consequence there's now a level of freedom that allows more variety and experimentation. The mishmash of different styles nod to all the original DTP albums, but still somewhat keep to the emotion and accessibility on Epicloud.

What's great is that these tracks aren't given the same overproduced, 'fill-every-frequency' audio treatment like the main album, so it's more listenable. I can breathe. While they are called 'demos', they sound like slick finished products, as do all of Devin's demos in the latter part of his career.

Epiclouder is my favourite DTP album of the 'commercial era'. There's a healthy mix of dreamy rock and metal songs, Anneke's shining voice, and more ripper guitar solos. Some standouts are the beautiful 'Happy Birthday', the metallic dreampop of 'Love Tonight', and the theatrical 'The Mind Wasp', which sounds like if a Disney villain were to sing a metal song. Then there's the prog metal masterpiece Socialization... now this track...THIS... is what Ziltoid 2 SHOULD have sounded like.

Epiclouder is playful, inspired, and eccentric. It is through this bonus album I've introduced many people to Devin Townsend.

The Genre Spanner | 3/5 |

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