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

SYNCHESTRA (THE DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND)

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.04 | 272 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

Negoba
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Another Great Outing for Devy

Synchestra and Accelerated Evolution, in retrospect, have the poor fortune of being placed between Devin Townsend's career defining works, Terria and Ziltoid. Both are extremely solid, fully developed examples of Devy's wall of sound mash of extreme metal, pop, new age, and zaniness. Where AE was heavy both in sound and emotional content, Synchestra is a little more mature and eclectic. AE has higher highs and lower lows. As I owned AE first, Synchestra gets lumped in my mind with its predecessor. But as I listen for this review, there are so many grand moments that I believe I'll do a track by track.

1. Let it Roll - Gently beginning with a strummed guitar and simple melody, Devin eases us in for what's going to be quite a ride. "Come on in, don't be a stranger." As the song builds, so does the excitement. It feels like we're in for another masterpiece.

2. Hypergeek - And it comes. Croaking frogs accompany and proggy, on-top-of the beat intro that is pure glee. At almost exactly 1:00 we get a blast beat crash that then integrates in the previously introduced themes. This is going to be good.

3. Triumph - This song contains almost all of Devy's career in a single song, the first full composition on the album. It starts with a throbbing fuzz guitar and a naked vocal that follows a signature melody. The song builds perfectally, with a banjo!! Break, multiple themes, and climaxing in a solo by none other than Steve Vai, the guitar god that launched Devy's career. Interestingly, he is extremely restrained here, going for texture rather than flash. In fact, it's one of my favorite solos of Vai's career, and I've followed him long before I knew of Devy.

4. Babysong - a sing-song silly lullaby that serves its purpose as a relief in the intensity of the epic preceeding it. It features some nice Devy mega-tracking and melody. The second reprises some ideas from "Terria" and builds to an intense conclusion. A perfect album song.

5. Vampolka - A short humorous intro to the single that follows. Quirky but it works.

6. Vampira - Of all of Devy's hamming it up, this song is one of the few that's right on the edge of not working for me. The songwriting is very solid, the performance perfect, but the theme of the song is actually too straight to justify the mugging that Devin does. The video's ultra-camp shows just how cheesy it was intended to be. Solid fun, but not too memorable. It's here that I'm losing the ecstatic glow that had built during the first three songs.

7. Mental Tan - Another short transition piece, this time airy and atmospheric. The ending is almost orchestral.

8. Gaia - This is the poppy single from the album, following in the tradition of "Life" from Ocean Machine and "Christeen" from Infinity. It's a solid, pleasant listen and Devy's still playing it live now in 2010. Great bridge section, nice effects in the multi-track wash. It's not "Storm" or "Life" but it's better than "Traveller" and "The Fluke."

9. Pixillate - This is probably the highlight of the entire album. Opening with a raw bass riff and Devin moaning in a middle eastern tonality, the song slowly develops into an exotic grinder that is unique in the Devy catalog. Along with the Vai solo, this is the only place on Synchestra which I get the tingles I've come to expect from Devin Townsend albums. As hard as putting together a DT's greatest hits album would be, this would be on it.

10. Judgment - This song features some strong vocal performances, and the typical Devy intensity, but the song itself isn't that memorable. There's nothing wrong with it, but we've heard Devy do this many times before.

11. A Simple Lullaby - Unfortunately, more of the same. No lyrics, though vocals do act as one of the instruments. There are a few nice pieces of composition, (dramatic stops, a few composed lines) but the track is way overlong. Hate to use the word filler, but this is soundtrack music.

12. Sunset - This is another instrumental, much shorter, whose title fits it perfectly. A nice musical sketch that says what it needs to and moves on.

13. Notes from Africa - Starts with the best riff of the album, some snappy bass, and immediately my head starts bopping where I'd been nodding before. The song has a little melodic skip up and a background vocal riff that distinguish the song from all the others. There are odd time breaks, anthemic chants, a great send off.

My overall feeling is that this album needed a little fat trimming. Simply cutting tracks 10 and 11 would have left the album still at 50 minutes and a much tighter piece of work. I think that album would have been a masterpiece that would have left me salivating for more. As it is, I'm exhausted by the end, and lost attention a few times.

This album, like Accelerated Evolution before it, starts brilliantly and loses steam. But there are some brilliant moments and it never truly disappoints. Easy 4/5 star rating.

Negoba | 4/5 |

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