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


Devin Townsend

Experimental/Post Metal

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5 stars A brief review would be the following statement: "Album of the year - 2006".

Needless to say anything more. This is the proggiest album from the Canadian madman/genious, an excellent cohesion of the floating nature sound of Terria and the real heavy(devy) songs from Infinity or the Strapping Young Lad albums. The battle of the Beauty and the Beast. The sound is the familiar "wall of sound", someone does not like when every instruments roar from everywhere is the same time, but it definitely fits to the music. Let it Roll is a peaceful intro that leads into the maniac extremity of Hypergeek. Triumph and Babysong were written in the same vein as the songs of Terria, but the real madness starts with Vampolka which is followed by the most outstandig tracks of the album such as Vampira, Gaia, Pixillate or the ending song Notes From Africa which I consider as the best one after a couple of listening.

Sink on your knees before Devin and listen to Sychestra!


Report this review (#61237)
Posted Thursday, December 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars It starts with 'Let it Roll'. A song depicting how you can often screw up in life, but just to 'let it roll'. It's starts an soothing acoustic riff, slowly building up with added synths and guitars to the song Hypergeek -essentially the second part of a long intro. Hypergeek is an instrumental, an interlude between Let it Roll to Triumph, it's purpose to get the mood started. Next Triumph. Triumph is the first 'real' song on the album, and what a song! I cannot give it credit through words, so i won't. However i will say that Steve Vai guests on this song with a solo which fits the mood perfectly, not over-the-top guitar masturbation either! I was genuinely shocked. The Baby song comes next. It acts as a sober antitheses to the song Posessions of SYL's Alien, dealing with the idea and, i guess, dev's anxieties of becoming a parent. In my opinion this is the album's weak link, but still, it has it's place and i far from dislike. The album then begins to enters it's next progression with the song Vampolka. This is a polka prelude to Vampira to essentially lighten the mood before dragging you down with the themes mentioned in Vampira, and it's hilarious. Vampira is rumoured to be the album's single, and it definitely has that feel about it - a modern metal classic. Almost. It is an over-dramatisation of the negative aspects of life and personifys that as an entity named Vampira. To calm the mood while waiting for the next transition, we have the serene song Mental Tan which serves it's purpose as an intermission between Vampira and Gaia.

Gaia is about the beauty of nature, the world and how we, as humans, have neglected it for nothing more than a load of self-absorbed reasons. This is my personal favourite on the album, rivalling hard with triumph, but i'm sure this will regually change, as do all my favourite songs/albums do. I just love arpeggio section towards the end. Up next, Pixillate. This song askeds questions based on the themes of Gaia: I've been such a cunt, I can't believe what i stand for, aren't i just [%*!#]ing idiot. The answer comes with the song Judgement. Yes, yes you are a [%*!#]ing idiot, but thats ok because you're human, and that's what we are about. A Simple Lullaby comes, and this is the climax of record according to the man himself. A mass celebration. Then things start to wind down, we have two songs - Sunset (an ending credits type song -everything's gunna be alright) and Notes From Africa. These summarise everything. And as Notes From Africa fades out you are left with the lush soundscapes of a rainforest, to leave you in reflection for a couple of minutes in a tropical paradise. Then, just when you think it's all over you get a secret track - Sunshine and Happiness!! which is meant to be nothing but the happiest song in the world, and it lives up to that statement. This album will not be to everyone's taste, but if you decide to give it a go, listen to it all in a sitting a few times through to let it grow on you (almost like the cover suggests), and if you still don't like it, well then this ain't for you! Those of you who do like Dev's signature incredibely lush wall of sound, then it'll fit right into your cd collection.

Report this review (#63236)
Posted Thursday, January 5, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Synchestra is the most intricate, so far, of the albums from the Devin Townsend Band. With production quality similar to that of Terria or Ocean Machine, yet with the song writing quirkiness of Infinity. There is a distinct flow to this album, remaniscent of some of the 19th and 20th century classical symphonies. There is no single track on this album that stands out as the "best" song, but something in listening to it keeps one glued until the very last note (including the hidden track "Sunshine and Happiness"). Similar to a long, epic film that you can't stop watching over and over, Synchestra will most certainly be on my regular playlist for a long time to come. For an extra added bonus, Steve Vai makes a guest appearance on the song "Triumph". -Rich F. York PA
Report this review (#65455)
Posted Thursday, January 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars This really is quite an incredible album. As always he creates a fantastic wall of sound, which despite the density of the mix never feel too overwhelming, each instrument easy to hear on its own.

The first thing thay struck me about 'Synchestra' is how varied the tracks are. For example, the sinister lullable of 'Babysong' suddenly breaks into the strange polka-dance of 'Vampolka', which in turn transforms into the hyperbolic, yet wonderful metal track Vampira. Frankly, it sounds like Devin's gone even more insane than normal! It works brilliantly well though.

For me, this is also the most emotional album I've heard from him. Although the lyrics seem a little bonkers at first, when you sit and listen with the booklet in hand, the emotion of the material shines through, and you realise just how much effort and feeling has been poured into each track.

The variance in the tracks is less evident on the second half of the CD, but when the music is so good it never matters. The album does get progressively more sinister, at least in sound, and it really is quite something to take in (even more so when the hidden track completely changes the tone at the end!).

Overall, this has to be Townsend's finest album yet. You really do need to hear this very, very soon. This may well have tied up best album of 2006 already.

Report this review (#67650)
Posted Tuesday, January 31, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars A little early to review this? No, I've been listening to it for the past month since it leaked. So sue me. I bought it already, I have the t-shirt, I've paid my dues to one of the best albums I've ever heard.

Indeed, it is definitely one of the best records I've ever heard and another brilliant Townsend record. Count another five star rating for Devin Townsend from me. This man just cannot be stopped in his brilliance. His sound has evolved from the more straightforward atmospheric metal found on Ocean Machine, to the sounds of divinity themselves on Infinity, to straight forward atmospheric SYL-lite, to the song of the earth, to straight forward heavy rock from heaven and now...finally, the culmination of all the sounds, all the sights and smells of Devy's crazy career, here on this record. It's all here, catchy hooks, brutal walls of sounds with screaming vocals, catchy poppy songs, pure prog metal, pure prog rock, beautiful melodies and segments, all of it, and it's all awesome.

Let It Roll opens with a wonderful acoustic guitar and nice vocals from Devy. A very nice relaxing intro. When the drums come in it's real inspirational, and the album's strongest point hits you for the first time: this is an album to cheer you up and set you right in life. This is in album you put on after something awful has happened, and by the end you are emotionally drained of anything except a fuzzy warm feeling. Hypergeek is exactly as the title suggests: insane and off-the-wall with some strange as hell sound samples. Not ambience, but just weird. There's an ok melody going on... until the double bass hits and there's a crushing guitar riff and now the album has begun. There's another inspirational section with an uplifting melody, then the song ends, fast and furious.

It leads into the first big standout of this album, Triumph. Not to say the first two songs weren't amazing; they were. But Triumph is where it all really kicks off and grabs you and doesn't let go. The vocal lines are infectious as hell, I was saying, "And they said it was this, and they said it was that" and "hooray for Doctor Young... hooray for earth born and son" or whatever the lyrics are for weeks. The "One word ...collective! Mankind...collective!" section is awesome. There's a shirt folk country interlude, a sublime guitar solo from Steve Vai, an amazing build up with some terrific Devy vocals, this song has it all. Awesome. Triumph leads into Babysong, which is a strange one. It's like a heavy metal lullaby. Bludgeoning yet precious. Lyrics are strange, but the whole song pulls itself off pretty well. Not the strongest offering on the album but no slouch. A formidable song.

Then comes Vampolka. This one is a really strange one, a joke by the band revolving around organ and trombone and sounds and a "surfs up" style guitar, I forgot what the song was that popularized it. It takes the melody of Vampira and twists it. Meh, ok, I'll listen to it. Vampira comes...the single of the album. Some good vocal work by Devy...pretty great, actually. The rest is simply ok. Overall, Babysong, Vampolka and Vampira are probably the three low points of the album, but the fact that they are contiguous is good so they don't destroy the flow of better songs. And...they really aren't all that bad, especially Babysong. Just not as good as the rest of the album. However, 99% of music out there isn't as good as this album, so that's not saying much.

Anyway, next is Mental Tan. It introduces a lovely melody and is quite pretty, but nothing happens. I really like it though. It goes into Gaia, which comes in full steam ahead, all band members pounding away. A lovely melody, lovely keyboard work to give a earthy-windy feel to the song, I really can't describe it. This is another big song on the album. Amazing stuff. It goes into Pixellate, which is the longest and biggest (Devy's wall of sound) song on the album. The different emotions and feels it goes through is amazing, and is overall a breathtaking song. That's three perfects in a row now...and Judgement doesn't disappoint either. It's probably the most powerful song on the album and has some truly colossal yells from Mr. Townsend. It brings that that lovely melody from Mental Tan at the perfect time, after a brutally badass yet really cool and pretty section with Townsend screaming.

Next is A Simple Lullaby, which is anything but simple or a lullaby. It's pretty simple in concept, and revolves around the same melody, but I find this song passes the quickest on the album. It's just a really interesting listen if you get engrossed in it. Fun to listen to. That's now five aces in a row. Can it continue? Yes! Sunset, while simple like Mental Tan, is no less pretty. In fact it's got some of the prettiest, most inspiring and genuinely happy moments on the album. Six in a row. Notes from Africa? Well...great melody? Check. Lovely layering? Check. Reference to SYL's 'Love?'? Check. Great vocals and lyrics? Check. Make that seven aces in a row. THAT'S HALF THE ALBUM. Unfortunately that spree is broken by the last song Sunshine and Happiness, which, as it suggests, is stupidly happy. It's a fun listen once or twice, but it offers no real depth. I usually stop the album after the rainforest at the end of Notes from Africa, cause S&H offers nothing to the album and even mars the experience.

What can I say? It feels weird giving a THIRD five star rating to one artist. King Crimson only has one (possibly two in the future), Yes has one, Porcupine Tree has two, Pain of Salvation one, Dredg one, Opeth NONE...I don't like to give out five star ratings. But to give this less is a travesty. This is a complete masterpiece of progressive music.

I'm almost afraid to review this and get it more attention, lest some conceited old- school proghead comes in and reviews it poorly because they don't enjoy the heavier sounds, the wall of sound, Devy's none-too-friendly vocals or something stupid like guitar tone. But I will, and be satisfied with the fact that those too close-minded to enjoy Townsend's work are missing an amazing bit of music, stuff to change your life ...temporarily at least.


Report this review (#67871)
Posted Wednesday, February 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Indeed, Devin Townsend's Synchestra really is a worthy 5 stars album. I wasn't expecting that much from Devin Townsend this time, but he managed (once again) to surprise me.

Everything works fine here (2 tiny little exceptions: first, the "Secret Track", which simply seems not to belong on this release. I'll consider it that way, and I won't take it into account; and second, "Vampolka" - which, I think, is only meant as an introduction to "Vampira", and which - in my opinion - does not really fit here, as well ).

The album has 2 strong sections:

- the first one starts with "Hypergeek", followed by "Triumph" (which is the first great, solid track of the album) and ends with the next track, "The Baby Song" (which is also good, but maybe not as solid as the previous). These 3 are followed by "Vampolka" and "Vampira" - which are part of a somehow weaker section of the album. "Mental Tan" is also here, but it's quite a nice soft instrumental track.

- the second section starts with "Gaia" and it goes till the end of the album, to "Notes From Africa" (excluding the "Secret Track"). It's a really solid, great 6 track section ("Gaia", "Pixillate", "Judgement", "A Simple Lullaby", "Sunset" and "Notes From Africa").

Let It Roll - ****; Hypergeek - *****; Triumph - *****; The Babysong - *****; Vampolka - ****; Vampira - ****; Mental Tan - *****; Gaia - *****; Pixillate - *****; Judgement - *****; A Simple Lullaby - *****; Sunset - *****; Notes From Africa - *****

Great one! Recommended! 4.77 out of 5. which means 5!

Report this review (#67935)
Posted Thursday, February 2, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Devin has done it AGAIN.

His 2nd Masterpiece. (Tierra is the other)

What the Devin Townsend band is quite unique. They play atmosphereic metal with a mix of emotion of musical range. At times heavy and angry, at times soft and soothing, and at times quirky and humerous.

Great transistions from song to song.

The music is awesome- Classical touches- Heavy- rockin!

Interesting lyrics, as always!- The vocal range is awesome- anything to soft singing to some intense growls. (The Growls are limited)

Synchestra is quite beautiful. If your a fan of progressive metal- this is a no-brainer to pick up. 9/10.

Report this review (#68776)
Posted Wednesday, February 8, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wowwwwwwww! This man never stops! And gets better and better.. Personally, I think "Synchestra" is not the best work of Devin but one thing is clear: THIS IS PURE MUSIC!- And that´s all it matters.

To the newbies to Devin, I think this album is a bit risky to start out (but if you can, take a listen of course ;) and the best way to know its sound is listening to the full albums "Terria" and "Infinity".

If you know these albums and/or more: Are you still here? Go buy it!!! And if you can catch it, buy the Limited Edition with Bonus Dvd! It´s super-very-awesome!

Report this review (#70522)
Posted Sunday, February 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
2 stars I've listened this album so many times in this month and now i think i'm ready to review it! First of all this album s quite disappointing to me! I have to say that Synchestra is the demonstration that Mr. Townsend is a good composer but unable to renew himself! Infact here there are some good compositions but nowadays it's impossible to be astonished by that because it's always the same thing that started with Oceanmachine! The acoustic passages are probably the best part of the album and particulary the opening "Let it roll" was a little bit surprising to me but songs like "Triumph" and "Vampira" becomes quickly boring. "Vampira" is a quite funny tunes but after two listenings it becomes tedious!!! Anyway the production is absolutely excellent and the musicians ability and performance is superb (as in every Townsend's album!). Even if i'm disappointed this is not a bad album but if you don't know anything of HevyDevy please start from his true masterpiece "Terria" or from anpother great album that is "Accelerated evolution" if you like those ones very very much so give a chanche also to this "Synchestra"... 2 stars Collectors/fans only!
Report this review (#70809)
Posted Wednesday, March 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Simply put, this album is the embodiment of brilliance. It really hasn't left my players since I've bought it. The sound of it sucks you in, you feel like in an incredibly bizarre movie or on your pick of psychedelic drug trips. I find it hard to describe to friends and fellow musicians. Most times I just tell them to quit being bastards and actually buy a legit record and give the artist the due they deserve, ya know? DT is somewhat of a musical-modern "Dr Jekyll and Mr Hide". That kind of diversity stems from comparing, or at least attempting to, SYL to DTB. Genius. Keep fans interested! If there was a particular section of this epic it's got be the track "Vampolka", a polka rendition of the successing track "Vampira". It reminds me of Tool's '96 release "Aenima". On this album they lead into the track "Jimmy" with a carnival-esque skew of the actual song itself. They call it an Intermission. Off the point, so back onto it. The fact is: I am never un- impressed by Townsend, and to me this is his solo gig's best effort to date. But knowing DT, much like Reznor or Ministry, each album brings it's own sarcastic-step child-deaf dumb and blind, element. You never what to expect and when you do, you laugh, feel moved, and ironically, are dead-dumb and blind to that fact is that this is some of the greatest music. You find it difficult to hear the intricacies and delicasies thought into this record, it's hard as hell to even comprehend the Vai-like guitars and the fact they're much different, and intriguing, than the hyped Vai or Malmsteen, and you're blinded with that fact that actual humans could make this music. This record sounds like it was made from some futuristic robot with unlimited musical capability and tenacity. THIS RECORD IS DEFINITELY A MUST-[%*!#]ING-BUY!!!!
Report this review (#71070)
Posted Saturday, March 4, 2006 | Review Permalink
The Crow
5 stars Yes, Devin Townsend has made another masterpiece after "Terria". I always thought that the incredible levels of quality of "Terria" were imposible to reach again. Maybe this album doesn't reach these levels, but it's very very close... And sometimes even surpases it.

But the main thing is that "Synchestra" is different of all the other Devin Townsend's works. While "Terria" is very much soft, melancholic and with a lot of ambient sounds and passages, "Synchestra" is very much direct, revitalizing and happy album. It's like taking the best of "Terria" and "Accelerated Evolution" and mixing it in a perfect way, with some pieces of all his other albums, included Strapping Young Lad's ones. And the result is an album that sounds completely fresh and original...

Here you have killer metal acts like Hypergeek (just amazing), Gaia (outstanding sound in rythm guitars) and Vampira (the best song of the album? The Devin's voice here simply rules!). But here are also very beautiful tracks in a melodic and ambient way like Mental Tan, Sunsent, A Simple Lullaby (this track is an evident tribute to "Terria") and Let it Roll (very catchy song perfect to open this album). And of course, the experimentation and new ideas of this masterhead of metal in songs like Triumph (incredible Steve Vai's solo at the end), The Baby Song (very interesting song with a killer ending), Vampolka (just amusing), Pixillate (this arabian feeling is great), Judgement (very complete track) or Notes From Africa (very original track with great choirs, with a wink to the SYL's song Love).

I wish also to say that the production in this album is outstanding. Every instrument sounds perfect. The bass and drums are powerful and sometimes even give us a little of virtuosity... The keyboards are implemented in a very good way to give different moods to the songs. The guitars have an amazing sound, while maybe I miss more solos... And what can I say about the Devin's voice? Yes, he is the best singer today in rock and metal. His work in this album is simply outstanding. The best Devin's singing I've heard to date.

Conclusion: if you like the music, buy this album. And in the case that you've never heard any Devin Townsend's album, I think "Synchestra" is a perfect point of entry in the career of this amazing musician... Because like the own Townsend said in an interview, I think that "Synchestra" is the end of an era in his music, and after this album the things maybe will be different... But if "Synchestra" is really the end of an era, is the most brilliant and powerful ending I can imagine.

Report this review (#71801)
Posted Monday, March 13, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well, having not enjoyed accelerated evolution not nearly as much as Ocean machine, Terria, or even Infinity i was a bit tenative to purchase this new installment to the Devy catologue. After reading so many rave reviews however, i decided to give it a chance and let me tell you, it was above and beyond anything i could have expected. Completely blew me away and now is competing with terria as his best work IMHO, which is saying a lot for an artist such as Towsend. The CD starts off with the strongest start to any album i've heard in a long long time. the first 3 songs are absolutly divine. the beautifully accoustic intro feeds wonderfully into the abptly named hypergeek, a wonderful, melodic song with spurts of metal magic. Triuph a majestic, gorgeous song with soaring guitars and beautifull melodies. its hard for me not to go on about the majesty and beauty that shines through on that song...

"One word, collective - mankind, connected..." ahhhhhhhhhhhh (you'll be hyperventalating at this point so grab a paper bag ; ) )

babysong doesnt do as well as the first three but hey, they cast quite a large shadow. its a very nice song full of wonderfull keyboard textures and heavyness mixed throughout in the tradition of the "wall of sound" cliche we've all heard about. the only problem for me were the cheesey lyrics, which i soon got over. The following duo "Vampolka" and "Vampira" are the only real weak points on the entire disc. they just dont seem to fit. Vampolka is, like the name suggests, a polka- ish joke. the melody there continues into the single for this album, vampira. Really good vocals here as the otehr reviewers mentioned, but the three and a half minute, pop-esque song really drags the CD down a bit. just a bit. Not by any meens bad, but just only skin deep. only a one or two listen song. the following 3 songs, mental tan, Gaia, and pixilate are all extremely well done and the slow part of the disc is soon forgotten and left behind altogether. Mental tan is a mellow, instrumental with the lush mix of textures again. short and sweet. Gaia is another one of those songs that caought my attention right away. Its a little different from other things townsend has done before. its a "driving-in-my-car" type song that has an earthy feel. Pixilate is in the more typical HEAVYDEVY sound. very melodic and emotional. starts off with a great slow and repeating bass line that the guitar picks up and moves full steam ahead into a beautiful emotional multi facetted landscape of sound, complete with the typical WALL. a very "big" song, if you know what i mean, grand injust that certain way. Judgement picks up where pixilate left off and wow.. another bombshell of a song. Devy never ceases to amaze me. This song is one of the heavier ones on here in terms of the vocals, yet it is very moving at the same time. You can tell Townsend is pouring his soul into this. Another beautiful melody that plays off the mental tan idea. A simple lullabye is anything but simple. its a glorious mix of soundscapes and melodies from a few of the songs on the album coupled with its own unique sound. I believe a felow reivewer said townsend wanted this to be the cimac of the album and it makes sense. it has the feeling of a grand finali, cheering crowds and explosions and bursts of fireworks etc.. sunset is another beautifully textured song built around a great melody. remined me of a peppy Mental Tan... very nice. and finaly notes from africa (i wont review the last song i'm running out of time). Its a great song with another stunning melody. there is a chanting rythm working here along with the rythmic beating of the drums that makes for an African feel hence the name. All in all its a happy, beautifully produced masterpiece of progressive metal. ITs that type of CD where i end up just stopping whatever else i was doing and let his "WALL OF SOUND" wash over me and cary me away. ENJOY!!

Report this review (#72434)
Posted Monday, March 20, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars few people can really be crowned geniuses. devin could. and synchestra (as much as all his other albums) is here to shout it. probably this is the most "progressive" record of the canadian, it has something really out of every world. there's a little return to the open green spaces of Terria, but also the immensity of Infinity and the power and majesty of Biomech. but the concept this time is a little differetn. this, in the words of dev himself, is a happy album he made to exit from the downward spiral that Alien put him in. it' s his very way to be alive. and you feel this in avery second, from the thoughtlessness of "let it roll" to the ilarity of "vampolka" and "vampiria" and to the incredible positivity of "sunshine and happiness". sound strange to hear the same person who just 8 years ago was screaming "i'm so [%*!#]ing sick of all you sick stupid people"now singing "one word:collective, mankind connected!". but this devin. and maybe in this album there is one of his best songs ever, the jewel named "Pixillate me", an eight-minute crescendo with melodies that will send shivers all over your body all the time. let's name also the long "triumph" where we find steve vai as a guest for the guitar solo. every song must be named but i won't. i will just tell you once again: if you do not know this genius run to your record store. this comes out in january and is yet without doubt the best album of the year. thanx mr. townsend for another marvellous dream.
Report this review (#74558)
Posted Monday, April 10, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars "Synchestra" was the first Devin Townsend album I ever heard. I didn't expect to enjoy it, but I did. Frankly, it blew me away. I like to think of it as one long piece of music because it all flows together. Devin is quite original and may be a genius when it comes to music. The disc opens with a catchy acoustic song and the album encompasses metal, folk, rock, prog rock and something's that are honestly unique to Devin. This is an album unlike anything I've ever heard, and it is hard to define such a sound. There is a "wall of sound" effect here, where there is so much going on that it meshes together into a vast being that overpowers you. It is so complex and so multi-tracked that it's hard to hear specific parts. This is a good thing though because it means you get a fuller and richer experience that reveals more and more with each subsequent listening. Devin is a great vocalist and guitarist also. His uses a lot of vocal trickery and harmony, and it is very heartfelt and sounds amazing. Overall I'd say this is just a truly unique album and you must hear it to understand why. Devin Townsend is a unique artist that does not conform to trends or sell out. He does what he wants and luckily it is fantastic. "Synchestra" is a great reminder that there are still people with a vision and a drive to make something all their own. It is highly recommended.
Report this review (#77425)
Posted Sunday, May 7, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Devin Townsend has, it seem, for ten years been struggling between metal and prog, as if there is no in-between, and occasionally stopping of for a comic album such as fake punk. The Devin Townsend Band alias seems to change that, and it takes the best bits of his hard rock and mixes them in with a progressive approach to album making.

The first three songs fit together well, almost presenting themselves as an epic, cut up for accessibility, but not quite. Let it roll builds up to the heavy Hypergeek, which itself builds up to the full orchestration of Triumph, which is the albums best song for me. I don't like to use the term wall of sound because it give such a negative feel, but its used just right here and unlike the SYL releases is used only for effect and isn't kept up for whole songs. The folk style interlude makes the song for me, I love it when a band can surprise the listener like that (plus it makes me wonder if he was influenced by his collaborations for Ayreon in the folky 'Day 16: Father').

Baby song serves a purpose, but its very usual - give it credit for being incredibly removed from the mainstream approach, but not for being a masterpiece.

Vampolka, with the corny tuba and guitar, is a perfect introduction to the ironic Vampira, and together they turn what is essentially one big metal cliché (Vampira) into an effective song. They're both catchy as hell, irritatingly.

The next few big songs - Gaia, Pixillate, Judgement - are best listened together as an epic, and form an incredible piece that displays everything I didn't expect to like about Devin Townsend on this record, but did. They're both heavy and graceful, and as with the whole album, only Townsend could pull it off quite so well. This is demonstrated again by A Simple Lullaby, Sunset and Notes From Africa - they keep up the pace and standard kept by Triumph at the beginning and make for an album that is far more enjoyable than I expected.

The finally, Sunshine and Happiness is as corny as it sounds, but pulls it off just as Townsend himself pulls of a receding hairline and a clichéd goatee. This album, overall, is a masterpiece without trying - the best type of masterpiece. Buy it.

Report this review (#79632)
Posted Sunday, May 28, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Good album; a bit heavier than I like most of my prog. Triumph is one of the best songs I've ever heard though. Sounds from Africa and Sunshine and Happiness are awesome too. I'm not a fan of the "wall of sound" sound quality of the CD--not enough distinction between the highs and lows. Still worth the money.
Report this review (#82373)
Posted Saturday, July 1, 2006 | Review Permalink
1 stars I just can say that this is the most hilarious prog metal album released in that year (or maybe ever).Just because this "piece of art" Mr. Townsend is presenting us here is a type of Flower Kings-Spock's Beard-whatever-piece-of-prog-medley-made-up-to-sound-like-metal mix. I said already in a review for another album by him that he's favorite of piling up soundwalls and that's exactly what he's doing here. It's absolutely ridiculous because actually anything seems to fit together on here. Don't get me wrong, the album is absolutely rocking and has power (and therefore it's not astounding that it's that much popular as it seems to be), but seriously not any serious prog fan can be interested in such type of music. This record contains some rather nice hard rock music to run in the back without disturbing, but anything that has to do with progressive rock (as I understand the term), that's why I can't rate it here in this context (since we're dealing on this site with Prog) higher than with one star!
Report this review (#84849)
Posted Wednesday, July 26, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars "Synchestra" is an album which takes time for one to discover, and I'm still exploring all the fine and subtle details of the album. Devin Townsend has succeeded with this album as he makes you think of the music, the layers, the lyrics everything about the album is a gradual experience. I must admit that a very short time ago I really did not like this album, but one day when I ventured another listen I discovered its charm.

The album seems to get heavier as it progresses. The opener "Let it Roll" is a nice acoustic song with a strong melody and vocals from Devin Townsend. The next song "Hypergeek" which begins with an up tempo acoustic section with birds chirping in the background and frogs croaking. It then without warning turns into a very heavy song with the original melody still present. This one song best characterises the album as it modulates in sound somewhat. However the second half of the album is very heavy and can get very tedious at times depending on one's mood. None the less the album is a great listen and can be very rewarding.

1. Let It Roll (4/5) 2. Hypergeek (4/5) 3. Triumph (4/5) 4. The Baby Song (3.5/5) 5. Vampolka (3.5/5) 6. Vampira (3.5/5) 7. Mental Tan (3/5) 8. Gaia (4/5) 9. Pixillate (3/5) 10. Judgement (3/5) 11. A Simple Lullaby (3/5) 12. Sunset (3/5) 13. Notes From Africa (3/5) 14. Sunshine And Happiness [Secret Track] (4/5) Total = 48.5 divided by 14 (number of songs) = 3.464 = 3 stars Good, but non-essential

Overall a great album, and although I'm giving it three stars I really believe it is a sensational album. The limited edition of the album comes with a DVD with lots of special features and some live songs with lots of head banging. The packaging is also different, and impression. There is also a special surprise at the end of the album which any Devin Townsend fan would enjoy. For this reason I highly recommend the limited edition to fans of him. For everyone else, it may not be pretty to start with but I assure you it grows.

Report this review (#85161)
Posted Sunday, July 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
5 stars Not the most technical of most progressive of Devin's albmus, but an excellent album, with superb riffs and certainly very cohesive.

Accoustic intro Let It Roll puts you just in the mood you have to be for Hypergeek - Triumph - Babysong, three very heavy songs with superb drumming, excellent progressions and nice vocals by the Dev.

Vampolka and Vampira show a great mix of styles, with a "metal polka" that comes out very well balanced, and very catchy.

Then, after the cooler Mental Tan, Gaia, Pixilate, Judegement and A Simple Lullbay form the second big part of the album, with again great mixture of styles à la Devin, some rough metal moments, and very little repetition, which we tend to see too often when there's a very catchy riff (watch out for Pixilate!!!). After Pixilate, you'll feel like the album has just taken another turn... masterful.

After the Sunset, Notes From Africa closes with again some extremely original stuff. Bonus track in my version, bought in France. Fun.

To sum it up. VERY original, almost never seen before, even in Devin's own work. A real masterpiece.

Now there's " Why don't you have a baby, why don't you have a child..." stuck in my head. You'll have that too if you buy this, remember me...

Report this review (#85967)
Posted Sunday, August 6, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Guys,it's true he continually breaking conventions and setting the bar higher.... this album is definitely noteworthy within the boundaries of the broader definitions of our Progressive music. For the critics i would agree with many of your arguments, in addition it's worth aknowledging that the computer age has cheapened the our favourite musical art form. However, if this particular strain of prog.. namely metal (this could be further refined to industial sunshine metal in my mind) then you should not offer your critcims in favour of the classic styles.... things move on and change.... ironically this is the essence of the progressive genre. At the end of the day Devin is a genius producer and just happens to be a little bonkers, subsequently we would all be the poorer to never had experienced his rare stylings. I recommend you hear Terria (atleast 3 times) as it is as a whole and concept a true musical epiphony (for metal routed folk that is).

Enough of that though... we're all here for the music.

I wont give a blow by blow.... but i will say that Synchestra is an amzing second effort for a band in it's infancy ..theoretically. Ironically Devin himself has said that Accelrated Evolution was just a practice run to get DTB to a level of cohesiveness that will allow for more experimentation. The fact is he isn't rushing the process and this means higher expectations for the third offering, and if he delivers ... .....just imagine it people :)

As much as elements of SYNCH were very impressing, i don't think it came together as a whole album like Terria or Ocean Machine. The beginning is so promising, it reminds me of Tools Aenima with it's flowing intricacy interwoven with sheer bludgeoning and beligerent metal riffing. However i think after a few listens the novelty wears off and the 'epic' offerings arent quite effective enough. My favourite would be "Pixilate" amongst the obvious favourites 'triumph' and 'Gaia'. I must say i'm a little disappointed, but all in all i'd much rather be listening to Devin than revisiting some old Jethro Tull to up my prog "status". But again each to their own.. i obviously wont offer my opinion on things i haven't taken time to appreciate fully

Report this review (#95056)
Posted Thursday, October 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Devin Townsend really is a remarkable man in the music business nowadays, not only has he created fantastic albums from scratch, but also produced many good albums.

Synchestra is a beautiful album with its great melodies and remarkable production (way to go Dev!). It is full of great music full of great sounds from acoustic stuff all the way to very metül riffs. Every time I listen to this record, I feel like I'm in a jungle filled with good feelings, because this album always manages to make me feel happy. Rather than just listening to some songs, I think that people should listen to the whole album to really see what mr. Townsend's music is all about.

Still, I think this record still misses something that would make it a true masterpiece, so I'm giving it four (and a half, if I could :<)stars. I'm looking forward to Townsend's next project: Ziltoid The Omniscient. I think that Ziltoid could very well be his essential masterpiece... I don't know why, but somehow I just feel that way...

Report this review (#117334)
Posted Wednesday, April 4, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
3 stars A very strong, musically thematic, and thoroughly enjoyable release, filled with DT's signature variety of spacey-metal, this time with a fair amount of acoustic beauty thrown in for fun. "Let It Roll" is a delightful surprise opening, while "Vampolka/pira" will positively tickle then destroy the listener. Successive songs are almost all good, with an emphasis on moods and textures-- there are very few standout melodies on this one. While "Synchestra" is undeniably an amazing release, it does contain the worst DT song ever recorded (in my humble opinion): "Baby Song", a hideously noisy and uninteresting blunder. Can't wrote solid gold every time, right? Additionally, taken as a whole "Synchestra" sounds somewhat repetitive, and won't leave many memories until after the 4th or 5th run through; however, like every DT release the listener will find much to appreciate and enjoy, and I recommend this to any and all interested in DT music after they've listened to "Ziltoid" or "Terria"-- his much stronger releases.

Songwriting 3 Instrumental Performances 3 Lyrics/Vocals 4 Style/Emotion/Replay 3

Report this review (#137922)
Posted Wednesday, September 12, 2007 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Let it Roll: What a great way to start an album. Beautiful vocal arrangements combined with lush acoustic instruments. Near the end some ambient noise layers fade in, reminding us that this is indeed - a Devin Townsend album.

Hypergeek: This song begins with - a sample of a frog. Some birds join in, and the polyphonic acoustic guitars and piano melodies really fit. Halfway through the track the mood suddenly changes, exploding into a typical driving Townsend song.

Triumph: This track is pretty much a typical Townsend song, executed flawlessly. But it also contains a solo by Steve Vai - and it really blends in amazingly. When I heard about Vai performing on a Townsend album I was a little worried if that would work - but it does. After 3 minutes or so the mood of the song changes, adding banjos and piano melodies that soften up the mood of the song, and at 3:45 weirdness takes over, culminating in Vai's beautiful solo. It's not quirky or anything - just beautiful.

Babysong: Devin's use of 3/4 rhythms (waltzes) always puts a smile on my face. You could even dance to this, if he didn't vary the mood so much. Here Devin really goes crazy with layering, there must be more than a dozen of independent instruments collaborating here. In some parts they are synchronized though, and here the song reminds of the Ocean Machine album. Near the end the waltz is beefed up with some serious blastbeats, followed by a really crazy vocal dominated part with oriental harmonic structure. Weird as a really WEIRD thing!

Vampolka: This is indeed a polka ... in the context of the album this is as weirds as his quirky song Ants from the Infinity album.

Vampira: This is a pretty normal track in Devin's terms. It's great though - A driving metal song with some cool growling vocals by Devin. But don't worry, they totally fit the song's mood. Throughout the song there's a hammond organ beefing up the mix, and some strange background vocals which really manage to create a transsilvanian setting.

Mental Tan: This is just a segue - really cool and mellow.

Gaia: One of the (many) highlights of the album. Here the album title really applies - all the good aspects of the various Devin Townsend albums are combined in this track.

Pixillate: Just as good as Gaia, but much more unusual and experimental. You'll have to listen for yourself ...

Judgement: A very nice song - together with Gaia and Pixillate it forms the core of the album. It's a very solid core ...

A Simple Lullaby: This reminds me of Terria - it starts a bit derivative, but on the whole it still is a very good track. After 2 1/2 minutes there's considerable variation, and after 4 minutes it's like a completely different song.

Sunset: This starts as a plain rock song, but only for 45 seconds. Beautiful piano arpeggios and vocal melodies which are joined by more and more independent instruments.

Notes from Africa: A very happy track, with driving guitar riffs and funky bass lines. Devin's insane vocals stand out here.

Untitled (Hidden Track): A nice hidden track - but nothing special.

Report this review (#161251)
Posted Friday, February 8, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars This CD was my first real look into Devin Townsend. I had heard him on Sex & Religion many years before this and also on Ayreon but never really got around to getting into his original material. I'm pissed at myself for not listening sooner because Mr. Townsend is a great innovator in metal and is evident in this release. His material is complex on it's own terms creating these giant walls of sound that completely envelope the listener into this wonderful sonic atmosphere. Synchestra does have it's lower points when it comes to vampolka, vampira and the bonus tracks. But they are only low points in that they're not consistent with the rest of the album and can come off as out of place. I enjoy those three songs when listening to them on their own (vampolka and vampira together obviously) but when I listen to the album Synchestra I tend to skip these songs. The tracks Mental Tan to Notes From Africa are the real intense part of the album. Pixilate being the most experimental. Judgement being the core. Townsend's vocal work is impeccable as always and is among the top when it comes to talent.
Report this review (#179912)
Posted Monday, August 18, 2008 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#184321)
Posted Wednesday, October 1, 2008 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Synchestra' - Devin Townsend (9/10)

There has not been another album in the progressive metal world that I think comes closer to the realm of world music than Devin Townsend's Synchestra. There is a great feeling of unity on this record, as if all the denizens of the world have come together to hold hands and bask under the warmth of the sun. It sounds strange, but only a simile or abstract metaphor could even begin to describe the warm power that Devin Townsend's music has. Maybe it's the pure originality, maybe it's even the unique way in which the music is produced. The fact remains however, that 'Synchestra' is one of his best works, second only to 'Terria' in terms of brilliance.

This is really what Devin Townsend's music should sound like. The production is perfect, and theres a fair balance of childishness and seriousness in order to make a piece of art that is enjoyable and fun yet credible and intelligent at the same time. This is not the sort of prog music you would ever see Dream Theater making. There are different layers that make this music progressive. While Devin Townsend may very well be one of the most talented rock guitarists out there on the music scene today, unlike your typical Petrucci or Yngwie, he doesn't flaunt his powers. Instead, the majority of his work is pretty laid back in terms of technicality, except for the occasional solo, where he'll go all out and truly make a statement about his virtuosic talent as a musician, and put his contemporaries to shame!

The two cornerstones of this album are 'Triumph' and 'Notes From Africa.' The later is where the 'world music' aspect of 'Synchestra' really comes together. The heavy overdubbing typical of Townsend's work really comes into play here, and gives a feeling of global cohesion. It's a feeling I have yet to find on any other record.

The only possible shortcoming this album has is it's bonus track 'Sunshine And Happiness' but it's become increasingly clear that the bonus track is meant as nothing more than a light hearted joke. Therefore, taken as it is, there is nothing wrong with this album at all. This is album that has the uncanny ability to lift your mood no matter what. It has a really warm, positive feeling to it.

Fantastic. A true testament to the body of talent that is Devin Townsend.

Report this review (#204919)
Posted Monday, March 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars 4 out of 10... (2 stars)

For something - anything in this album to grab you and make you listen. Unfortunately it never happens as none of the songs are real ear pleasers. My background on Devin is based off of three pieces of work - "Accelerated Evolution", "Terria" and "Ocean Machine". Those albums just flat out rock. I've listened to this album and I just can't get into it. Sure the multi-layering i.e noise wall is there but none of the songs ever grab you. I would recommend purchasing any of the three albums listed above, but steer clear of this album.

Report this review (#241475)
Posted Friday, September 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Synchestra is the second release from The Devin Townsend Band, as well as Devy's seventh release as a solo artist assuming you count both his ambient albums, Devlab and Hummer, as studio releases, which I do. Synchestra is by far the most upbeat and light-hearted release to date by Devin, although given that Strapping Young Lad's Alien came out earlier that year makes total sense that this release seems pretty jovial. Actually, to be quite honest, when I first heard about Ki, I thought it would sound something like this album.

Out of all the DT albums I have, this one probably took the longest to grow on me. While The Devin Townsend Band is supposed to be cheerful in and of itself, this still stands out pretty well. Given that Devin sounds pissed off (or at least slightly irate or unnerved) on most of his work, this work is almost as if Devin swallowed a few ecstasy pills before writing down and recording the music on Synchestra. There are a few headbanging moments to be found here and there, yes, but there's plenty of lush keyboards and some almost folksy feel to many of the songs. There is even a tribal element, which is most noticeable on Notes from Africa (one of my favorite DT tracks). The one sound that I sometimes wish Devin would use more in his slow and mid-tempo songs are also found on the album in healthy quantities: acoustic instrumentation. And yet at the same time, this album also features a combination of many of the elements on all previous DT albums. That is understandable, given that he disbanded Strapping Young Lad and The Devin Townsend Band the following year and began a long, musical exile that led to a period of recovery and self-redemption which is starting to be revealed to the general public. In other words, after this album, Devy changed his outlook and work as a musician. Time will tell if that is for better or for worse, but I can definitely say for sure that the first era of his solo output is of excellent quality. And Synchestra is the culmination of all that hard work.

For newcomers, this is honestly the best place to start. It gives you a little taste of everything Devy has done up to this point without overburdening you with humongous walls of sound and heaviness on every song (although it pop up from time to time). I have no problem giving this excellent release 4 stars. Parts of the second half tend to make my mind wander, but it doesn't hurt the high quality of Synchestra all that much for me.

Report this review (#242517)
Posted Friday, October 2, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you don't know anything about Devin Townsend, all you need to know that he is the next Zappa.

Their I said it.

In fact I think he's better than Zappa. His guitar playing contains no errors, his procuction work is the best I'be ever heard, he is one of the greatest vocalists I have ever heard and he can just make some of the greatest music ever.

This album is no exception.

This man could procreate gold.

So full of emotion, production that means that every guitar riff hits you in the face, and his voice that sends shivers down my spine every time I hear it.

But his band (The Devin Townsend Band), are also an amazing synergy of instrumentalists, adding an added oomph to Devin's sound.

This album, under scrutinisation, could be a concept album, lyrically dealing with his own problems at the time (family, children, drugs etc.)

This album is really something and was my first purchase off this amazing man.

I didn't really think of it as anything special, but the songs do grow on you.

1. Let It Roll - I love this song so much. I just love tuning my guitar down to Open C, to play and sing along to this song. So calming and soothing. 10/10

2. Hypergeek - An amazing instrumental. Full of disjunct melodies and amazing production. 10/10

3. Triumph - One of Devin's best vocal performances. This song takes a while to get used to, but when you do, you really discover it's hidden beauty. Steve Vai's guitar solo is also amazing. 10/10

4. Babysong - A song about Devin's parental issues. Amazing song, in 3/4 no less. Great instrumental work. 10/10

5. Vampolka - Polka. This is actually amazing. 10/10

6.Vampira - Very chessy but incredibly effective. The video is weird and wonderfull. 10/10

7. Mental Tan - A quite experimental side of Devin. Sounds very trancy. 9/10

8. Gaia -Great chorus and great rocky vibe to the song. 9/10

9. Pixillate - The arabic intro is weird, but cool nontheless. Everytime the female vocals come in this song, I get chills down my back. Just specatcular. 10/10

10. Judgement - Again, quite werid for Devin, but it stil has a very Devin flair. 9/10

11. A Simply Lullaby - Ironically this song isn't simple, or a lullaby. 8/10

12. Sunset - Great instrumental. Very cathcy, in an instrumental way. 10/10

13. Notes From Africa - This song should have been the World Cup anthem. Just so powerfull, and contains some African melodies.The nature sounds at the end are also very trancy and quite relaxing. 10/10

14. Sunshine & Happiness - This isn't mentioned on the sleeve notes, but it is in the album. Very catchy and very rocking. 10/10

CONCLUSION: This isn't Devin's best work, but even his other work is amazing. Buy all his stuff, and become a Hevy Devy addict like me.

Report this review (#288787)
Posted Thursday, July 1, 2010 | Review Permalink
Symphonic Team
4 stars Branching out into new territory a great sign for things to come

Synchestra is Devin Townsend's 7th studio album and it is no surprise that once again Heavy Devy is branching out into some unreserved new territory as he does on all his albums. This is no Ziltoid, which is a couple of albums away, and it certainly aint no Terria. In fact it is a rock opera with a vampiric theme underpinning it. My overall reaction was that Synchestra has the catchy tunes of Terria though nowhere near as technical, and has hints of the dark humour of Ziltoid in places. There are some outstanding songs on this that really stay in the cranium well after the CD has ended, Vampira, and there are throwaway tracks, Babysong, that are as forgettable as some of the material on Accelerated Evolution. However, the really great moments are mind-blowingly brilliant which tends to make up for some of the solemn melancholy moments that are like smoke in the air and disappear.

The whole album seems to flow lucidly from track to track and indeed the album as a whole is masterfully produced and realised, at least on a conceptual level. Musically, it is as flawless as Devvy gets and that has become an unexpected factor on his albums. The Hammond sounds great and the lead guitar breaks are killer, and there are some incredible wall of sound moments where the crescendo rises and Devvy really goes into full flight on vocals, belting out massive growls and literally shouting his voice raw. These moments are juxtaposed by subtle gentle vocals and a minimalist acoustic arrangement such as the opening track. Devin tries to get spiritual with nature on Gaia, but this is a mismatch for me, not cohesively linking to the overall concept.

The highlight for me begins at the polka, which is as quirky as anything I have heard, almost sounding like the polkas on Weird Al Yankovic's albums. The satirical nature of Vampolka is enhanced by the speed of the melody that simply rips past in minutes, and this prepares us for the real deal, which is the showstopper of the album, the brilliant Vampira. I had heard this on a live clip of a Vampire Rock show starring some great rock stars, and of course it is a melodic standout and perhaps one of Devin's best compositions. The guitars on this are crunching and the heavy power riffing is accompanied by caustic gravel vocals that are dark and menacing throughout, reminding me of the style Devin does with Ziltoid, ala Planet Smasher. The moments where Devin sings in his clear vocal to heavy metal riffs are also wonderful, and this is where he tends to shine. The standout track Notes From Africa is well structured and memorable to close the album before a weird ghost track. I have to mention Triumph too with a lead break from the mindbending Steve Vai as a track you should hear for certain. Devin has a great band to back him up as usual, the other lead guitarist is so good I had to research him to see what else he had done. Well I was delighted to discover Brian Waddell was also on the Devlab album, as part of the Devin Townsend band of course, and he appears on Accelerated Evolution and the latest Addicted album, playing bass and doing gang vocals if you don't mind.

Devin decided to go solo with Hummer after Synchestra. A pity really as the band sounds so good here. The best thing about this split is that Devin was really able to branch out into some incredible experimental territory and he produced Ziltoid The Omniscient, the masterpiece of dark metal humour. Synchestra is sandwiched between two of Devin's worst albums so it really looks like a standout in his repertoire, although having heard most of his albums it is fair to say that it isn't up to the masterpeice standard of some of his other works. In any case Synchestra is a great album and worth listening to whether you are into metal or not. It is entertaining and one of Devin's great achievements as the unsurpassed 'Mad Scientist of Metal'.

Report this review (#329136)
Posted Sunday, November 21, 2010 | Review Permalink
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.

Report this review (#335513)
Posted Friday, November 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I must admit I haven't heard a lot from Devin Townsend as yet. I have "Ocean Machine", "Terria", "Addicted" and this one. "Ziltoid" is on the way though. As others have mentioned this is a fairly upbeat album overall and I must admit i'd rather have more darkness and anger from Devin. Of course those kinds of albums are easy to find with his STRAPPING YOUNG LAD project. Still a pretty solid album album overall and well worth 4 stars in my book.

"Let It Roll" has this laid back guitar to start as reserved vocals join in. Drums after 2 minutes as the sound becomes fuller. I should mention that a lot of these tracks blend into one another. "Hypergeek" opens with more laid back guitar as frogs and a rooster can be heard in the backgound. Birds too. Haha. It all stops then it kicks in hard. "Triumph" starts to build after a minute. Some guest guitar from Steve Vai. Devin is screaming after 2 1/2 minutes. Piano before 3 1/2 minutes then it settles as it turns into a hoe-down mode then it kicks in again. "The Baby Song" is not the best track by a long shot. It's much better though after 2 1/2 minutes when it becomes more intense.

"Vampolka" is funny and uptempo with pulsating sounds. It's polka time ! "Vampira" kicks ass and is taking names. A great vocal performance too. "Mental Tan" opens with background synths that create atmosphere as keys join in and guitar. Spacey vocals here too. "Gaia" is a great tune with the heavy riffing as reserved vocals join in. Nice. A scream before 2 1/2 minutes signals an instrumental section. "Pixillate" is the longest track at almost 8 1/2 minutes. A killer intro really of bass and vocal expressions then it kicks in at a minute. "Judgment" is heavy as Devin comes screaming in before 2 minutes. It settles in after 4 minutes. "A Simple Lullaby" has this loud atmosphere then it gets heavier before 2 minutes. He's screaming 5 1/2 minutes in.

"Sunset" has vocals around a minute and piano too. Cool tune. "Notes From Africa" sounds amazing to start. Love the drum work and vocal melodies.Vocals come in screaming 2 1/2 minutes in and a minute later as well.Nature sounds come in around 5 1/2 minutes to the end after the music has stopped. "Sunshine And Happiness" is a bonus track that is an upbeat little rocker that sounds like a nod to eighties Metal. All in good fun.

A very good album in my opinion but so far "Ocean Machine" and "Terria" stand alone for me as his best.

Report this review (#445976)
Posted Wednesday, May 11, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars 9.5/10

All I can say is: Devin is a genius.

With Synchestra Devin is back to his natural style that is heavy metal. After the fiasco that was Devlab for me I really wanted him to make the sound that was heard on albums like Biomech, Terria and Accelerated Evolution. I daresay he does that and more!

The album explores both these styles previously performed in other albums as presents nuances of the artist's future. Man unfolds in various processes of creation and composition, but there are other highlights: I should mention the extensive use of the piano in some passages, the battery monstrous Ryan van Poederooyen, soil unusual (though at the same time typical) Steve vai the third track, and the use of world music influences (Arabic singing, banjo, even polka!).

Let us start by Let It Roll. It should be the most strange opener for a Devy album after Olives (from Terria). But this is exactly the opposite: calm, peaceful, quiet voice of Devy backed by an acoustic guitar until it gets heavy after two minutes, but not too hard - it creates a bridge with the next song, Hypergeek, an instrumental whose first minute is marked by a climate folk, besides early on we hear the croaking of a toad and the crowing of a cock . So everything, and you think, "Hey, it's over?". No! The music explodes in fury and double pedals and so continues to make the connection with the first song "real" of album, the perfect Triumph. The banjo and Vai's solo are here. But the music goes beyond that, guided by an Townsend's impressive piece of a vocal performance (no less than he usually does - I think this guy has already become one of my favorite singers of all time). Enough Babysong, as captivating as the previous ones, especially in its diverse and powerful instrumental section!

And if you think things can not get any weirder, so if vai surpreeender with Vampolka. This instrumental than a minute and a half is driven by guitar and organ, but the title already gives an idea of ​​what it is. It connects perfectly to the Rogue, the single from the album. Three minutes bleak lyrics (and a clip satanic), and I'm impressed! (not through the clip, however). "GO!! HEY, HEY! ". Unlike the latter, is Mental Tan, another quiet and ethereal interlude, which contributes to the climate of the album perfectly. Gaia follows another heavy piece and Terria-esque, whose battery at the beginning makes me think as if it was a heavy version of Genesis' The Waiting Room (I know, it's a crazy thought and half gibberish, but that's okay).

Unfortunately here the album loses its focus. Devy is abusing the screams and growls, and the next two tracks, the 8-minute epic Pixillate (whose only plus point is the Arabic corner and the fretless bass a la King Crimson) and Judgement lead the album down a bit. A Simple Lullaby is a semi-instrumental (a few vocalizations here and there) that overcomes the predecessors but still not equal to the first part of the album, and Sunset is another good interlude that rescues some themes previously performed in other songs, and connecting to explosive Notes from Africa, another powerful song! - But it has the defect of wasting two minutes of rain effects and stuff (what does that have to do with Africa?). There is one last track, the bonus Sunshine and Happiness, which I think is a heavy version of something the Queen would have done (another crazy thought) and that really does not fail to offer such "joy" of the title - which comes to me both give headache. Still, it's a guilty pleasure.

A close call I had lost confidence in the skills and creativity of Mr. Townsend, but he regained my confidence with this wonderful (albeit not perfect) work called Synchestra. More!

Report this review (#832897)
Posted Thursday, October 4, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars It's hard to believe that I only finally got into Devin Townsend a month ago. I had seen his name often enough but assumed that he was someone like Neil Morse: an American or possibly a Briton who had made a name for himself in a prog band and had decided to go solo. Then I saw a review of "Ziltoid the Omniscient" and thought it was so crazy that I had to get it. By coincidence, I ordered "Ziltoid" around the same time as Ayreon's "The Human Equation", without knowing that Devin appeared as a guest on that album. I received Ayreon first and was deeply impressed with Devin's performance. Two days later, "Ziltoid" came to my mailbox at work, and as I rode the train home I read the Wikipedia article about Devin. I was so surprised to learn that he is a year my junior and grew up in the city across the river from my house. My childhood home in Surrey, Canada was perched on a slope overlooking the Fraser River and from my living room window I looked out at the City of New Westminster every morning. I went to college over there and spent much time in New West. Knowing that Devin and I shared the same cultural climate (we studied the same curriculum, watched the same TV shows, lived through the same local changes and events, etc.) made me feel that I really wanted to hear what this boy from the neighbourhood across the river was doing.

Now a month has passed and I have seven albums with five more on order. I have really been enjoying becoming acquainted with Devin's music, but this album here was an easy one to love because it is exactly what I have been listening to lately: progressive metal. Not all of Devin's albums lean so far to the progressive side as this one. But he has done a spectacular job here with the Devin Townsend Band.

The opening track is such a simple beautiful acoustic tune with Devin's clean and sweet vocal sound. It switches to a slow but progressive metal sound, gearing us up for what is to come. "Hyper Geek" has a fantastic beginning with acoustic strings and countryside animal sounds. It suddenly breaks into full on blasting metal and then breaks into a very melodic and heavy prog metal piece before rapidly dissolving into "Triumph". This is a fabulous piece of music with several changes (one part suddenly drops into a country bumpkin hill billy ho- down). At times I am reminded of more melodic Dream Theater or Symphony X and surprisingly even SUM 41 a bit when they were doing a Metallica rip off with added commercial melodies many years ago. Keyboards and even piano add some wonderful melodies here. The song's final stretch features a Steve Vai solo.

"Baby Song" is a bit too cute and sweet at first ("Why don't you have a baby? Why don't you have a child?") but then becomes stronger as melodic prog metal before getting more complex and then simpler but darker. The middle of the song is the most interesting for its instrumental melodies.

"Vampolka" is a humorous addition with a punk polka feel to it, and "Vampira" is a brilliant traditional metal / early thrash piece with a killer riff after the chorus that sounds like it could have come from Judas Priest's "Painkiller" album.

"Mental Tan" is a pretty piece that offers a suggestion of an orchestra near the end. How sweet that would have been had it received a more prominent role. "Gaia" emerges out of "Mental Tan" and proves to be more of a straightforward lighter metal song with a catchy instrumental section in the middle.

"Pixillate" is the next killer track for me with a Middle eastern flavour and some great prog metal. It's dark and moody and heavy. Brilliant! After that "Judgement" and "A Simple Lullaby" feature more slow progressive metal, great heavy melodies, and some special moments. But perhaps because I am already on overload up to here with good music, I feel these songs are the weaker part of the album. My mind wanders during these two tracks except for when some change in the music brings me back temporarily.

"Sunset" has a great melodic 80's rock sound and a very positive vibe. There's more of that sweet piano again. It really shows how Devin can write beautiful music with a rock band but it is short though, and soon we are into the last track on the album, "Notes from Africa" which is actually only a five-minute song with a few minutes of jungle sounds after (which I highly suspect were recorded in the Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver). One thing I noticed in this song were the lines "Oh, what a feeling / Oh, what a feeding" which reference the Strapping Young Lad song "Love?" from the album "Alien". As I have come to learn, Devin often self-references.

An unlisted track on the CD sneaks in at end. "Sunshine and Happiness" is a cheery rock and roll / pop punk tune which doesn't really fit in with the rest of the album, which is probably why it wasn't listed on the CD. It's a fun tune but really different from the tone set by the rest of the album.

So far, this album really stands out in my Devin Townsend collection, along with "Ki" which is also very different. So many sides to Devin's music and vocal style are captured here. Do check it out!

Report this review (#1303640)
Posted Wednesday, November 12, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars By far, the most cohesive of all Devin Townsend's albums, and also the most diverse, sonically and musically.

This by far is the trickiest album of Devin's by far to pigeonhole into a certain theme or story. It starts off with beautiful acoustic themes, with "Let It Roll" almost channeling a historic American folktune, while "Hypergeek" transitions from the acoustic to a child-like arpeggio that layers the guitars and drums and reverb to crescendo into "Triumph".

There's definitely a lot of references to childhood melodies, as evidenced by "Babysong" and "A Simple Lullaby", which are self-explanatory: long, reverb filled soundscapes with hypnotic, entrancing melodies that sway with waltz like motives. And frankly, it's very calming considering this album was recorded after making "Alien" with Strapping Young Lad", an album he prepared for by purposely not taking the medicine required to treat his bipolar disorder. So in a sense, this album is supposed to be the exact opposite of it, and it really feels it.

That's not to say this album is lacking in heat, though. The cheesy "Vampolka", despite being cheesy, is a fun minute and a half of surf guitar and polka, segueing into the much heavier counterpart "Vampira", grooving and chugging along like the theme to a bad "Twilight"spinoff series.

Although there are interludes like "Mental Tan" to bring you back down to earth, and "Gaia" which channels "Accelerated Evolution's penchant for catchy songs with reverb out the wazzoo and wonderfully heavy melodies, you can tell there's still a conflict with Devin's angrier half that just finished "Alien" with SYL, and that anger is very prevalent in "Vampira", the Middle-Eastern tinged "Pixillate" (my favorite off the album), and the end of "A Simple Lullaby". The whole album is a huge tug of war between Devin's bipolarity, the album in his entire discography where this conflict is most prevalent. "Judgement" is another bombastic piece, but the happy mood here, much like the rest of the album, is occasionally displace by outbursts of anger and hate, especially at the end of "A Simple Lullaby" (where the main theme is interrupted by Townsend's "Ready, Steady, Aim, Fire!" line).

Overall, though, it's a much happier album than most of Townsend's other records, while still maintaining some heavy outbursts, catchy reverb songs and plenty of proggy goodness. Definitely the first album I'd recommend to a non-Devin fan. This entire album is a summary of his multi-faceted musical style in a nutshell. An absolutely brilliant masterpiece of insanity, progressiveness and just good ol fashioned metal.

Report this review (#1454707)
Posted Wednesday, August 19, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars If Accelerated Evolution's exuberance came from its raw and unrestrained quality, Synchestra's elation comes from its grandiose and epic presentation. The album opener builds and builds and builds until it explodes into the monstrous "Hypergeek" -- signaling that the remainder of the album does not intend to hold anything back. And it doesn't. We get enormous riffs, almost operatic vocals from Mr. Townsend, and surprising amounts of keyboards swathed all over the place to make everything sound that much bigger. There's a good amount of variety here too -- there's bright, electronic-driven metal, dark, chunky metal, atmospheric guitar plucking, pop-rock riffs, and even a little bit of polka, which I reckon has never hurt anyone. Synchestra is a celebration of life, even though you might not know what it all means.
Report this review (#1462521)
Posted Friday, September 11, 2015 | Review Permalink

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