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Devin Townsend - Casualties Of Cool: Casualties Of Cool CD (album) cover


Devin Townsend

Experimental/Post Metal

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5 stars Devin Townsend is a genius. I don't need to say anymore. But is he going mad?

After a 5 album string which pretty much showed no weakness, Devin pretty much did whatever he wanted and received a lot of success. But this was backed by record companies who oddly enough had enough faith in his music. So on this album, why did Devin turn his back on financial backing? To be honest, it makes perfect sense.

Devin is a modern music cult hero. Taking secret audiences around the world he has been able to sell out a lot of big gigs and festivals. But, having strayed away from his metal roots and gone for a rather odd country and blues rock sound, this may have alienated fans, or as he stated himself 'people who liked Epicloud are gonna be pissed.' So did it work?

Ha. Did it work? Let's just say Devin became a rich man in only a short amount of days. Now, being the artist he is, a good amount of money is funding his next project, the ever awaiting sequel to 'Ziltoid The Omniscient', but if their ever was a reaction from fans to show their love, this surely is.

Now lets get down to the meat of the album and that is the music. Now this isn't too much of a dramatic change for Devin musically, in fact Devin experimented with some of this older rock and blues sound on 'Ki', but decided to flesh it more out. The album is also a daring leap for Devin because this isn't a solo album. In fact the album is a collaboration with singer songwriter Ch' Aimee Dorval who did vocals before on 'Ki.' As much as I love Devin's songwriting I always found a lack of cohesion in his stuff at times, and I think Ch''s vocals, songwriting and lyrics really fleshed out Devin's experimental songwriting style. The only negative I can have with this album is that it is so different musically that you have to kind of getting used to it and I think that this is an album that needs a few listens before you can really love it. I can't see anyone hating this album though.

Opener 'Daddy' is a brilliant introduction to the album. Taking the blues rock sound and adding a lot of Devin's personal quirks, the song soon turns into a sonic hailstorm of sound. The same can be said with 'Mountaintop' which continues the blues sound and mixes with some rather melancholic melodies, especially with Ch''s vocals.

My favorite song on this album would have to be 'Flight.' A very simple idea with some beautiful melodies and a few interesting changes throughout, the song is incredibly beautiful. Lyrically the song deals with suicide and is one of the best penned lyrics about the subject. A beautiful piece of music and definitely up there with some of my all time favorite tracks of all time.

A very interesting track can be seen in the form of 'Moon.' Starting off very spacey and with a lot of limited space, the song then explodes into a mix of groaning vocals and some beautiful saxophone playing.

One of the albums strongest tracks has to be 'Bones.' Lyrically the song is one of the most relating to the concept, with some very interesting words and images being presented. The music of the song adopts a rather baroque pop feeling and it works incredibly well, especially with Ch''s vocals.

One of the oddest tracks on the album would have to be 'Deathscope.' Supposed to be the angry side of the protagonist, the song shows off some of Devin's metal material from the past and the dynamic vocals he has.

The album closer 'The Bridge' is very reminiscent to the track 'Ki' for me. Starting off slow and calm before building up to a massive climax and pays off very well. Experimenting with choirs and flutes, the song is a very experimental move for Devin's work. Great ending to the album (not including 'Pure' which is a bit silly and long).

Overall, this album impressed me and confused me. It confused me because I don't know whether I should love it or like it. At the moment I'm on the cusp of loving it. Devin has really been able to create something very unique in his catalogue and really step out of his comfort zone for this one.


Genres: Blues Rock, Country, Alternative Country, Country Rock, Ambient, Progressive Rock, Baroque Pop, Experimental Rock, Post Rock, Experimental Metal

Country of origin: Canada

Year of release: 2014

Report this review (#1283061)
Posted Wednesday, September 24, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "Casualties of Cool" is the self-titled debut full-length studio album by Canadian act Casualties of Cool. The album was released through HevyDevy Records in May 2014. Casualties of Cool is a project by prolific musician/producer Devin Townsend (Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend, Devin Townsend Project, The Devin Townsend Band), who handles Vocals, Guitars, bass, and Keyboards on the album, and Ché Aimee Dorval who handles Vocals, and Guitars. The duo is helped out by a varity of session musicians including Morgan Ågren (Fredrik Thordendal's Special Defects, Kaipa...) on drums, Jørgen Munkeby (Altaar, Shining, Jaga Jazzist) on saxophone. Townsend partially funded the recording of the album through a crowdfunding campaign on the PledgeMusic website.

"Casualties of Cool" is a concept album and all 15 tracks on the 73:52 minutes long album seque into each other to form one long piece of music. The story tells of a traveller who comes to a planet that feeds on it´s visitor´s fears, and he is eventually forced to contront his fears to find peace (this is the simple version of the story).

The music on the album is a combination of several stylistic elements. The basis in the music is predominantly country/roots/folk rock, but there are also traces of blues (great short guitar solos) and a dominant ambient element in the music too (even a psychadelic element in "The Bridge" which features citar and flute). Devin Townsend and Ché Aimee Dorval compliment each other well and the vocal parts on the album are both pleasant and delivered with conviction and passion.

While the music is predominantly vers/chorus structured and might seem pretty simple upon initial listens, there are quite a lot going on in the background of each track. Atmospheric keyboards, sound effects, backing vocals, saxophone, and all sorts of other little details that make "Casualties of Cool" an interesting listen throughout. Devin Townsend is known for his multi-layered sound productions, but most of his productions are for metal-related material and as a consequence loud and massive. The sound production on this album is a lot more subtle as the layers of sound are mostly placed in the background, while vocals, guitar, bass, and drums are usually placed higher in the mix. So this project has probably proven to be a challenge both when it comes to the music but also when it comes to the production job.

"Casualties of Cool" is overall a quality release performed by skilled musicians. It´s well written, arranged, and very well produced, but I can´t help feel that it´s a bit too long and that not all tracks are equally interesting. Some of the more ambient sections work as a sedative on me, and while they don´t disturb the flow of the album, I prefer the more rock oriented tracks on the album. It´s an album that is hard to rate fairly, because on one hand it´s relatively original and it features a pleasant laid back atmosphere, but on the other hand it does have some flaws, that make it a less than perfect release. When listened to in moderate bits, it´s absolutely brilliant though, and even with a few reservations I´ve come to the conclusion that I enjoy it quite a bit. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is fair.

Report this review (#1292475)
Posted Thursday, October 16, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Psychedelic Country? New Age Twang? Telecastic Spiritual Journey?

It will surprise no one that remembers my presence on PA that I return to reviewing by tackling a Devin Townsend album. I must admit, that despite Devy's fantastic output over the years, I was beginning to worry that he was running out of steam. EPICLOUD had some amazing songs ("Grace"), but the recycling of ideas was starting to cause me to lose interest. By the release of Z2 just a few months before this review, Devin himself is beginning to admit burnout and the effects of external forces on his creative output.

But then we have CASUALTIES OF COOL. When Devin announced that he was going to do an album of "haunted Johnny Cash songs," I was skeptical. An entire album of KI's "Trainfire" would have been a nightmare. But lo and behold, the album is released and the reviews were puzzled but positive. I listened to a few samples, and was pleasantly surprised that Che Aimee Dorval's role was much more powerful than on KI. The country twang was there, but there was also a depth I hadn't anticipated. Finally I got a chance to sit back with some headphones and listen to the whole album as a single work.

And found beauty. Powerful beauty. The chills I get when Che delivers "And so it goes..." on "Flight" is akin to that I get from "Close to the Edge" or "Supper's Ready." There's just something so real about this album when you let it sink into you. CASUALTIES OF COOL feels like the adult album Townsend has been trying to make for awhile. Always before, Townsend seemed to split himself into his component parts for separate albums. Here, he moves through blues, psychedlia, country boogie, and ambience seamlessly. Certainly, we have plenty of wide open production throughout, with a soft moodiness that borders on meditation music. But an attentive listen identifies so many layers, finally subtle. "Broken" includes a low vocal chorus and acoustics that border on gothic. Only at the end of the penultimate song "The Bridge," do we get the overpowering force of Devin's usual production. Here it is the climax of a long build, and feels all the more forceful as a result.

This album, in some ways, is almost "anti-prog." It's country-tinged. It's in 4/4 most of the way. The chord structures are straightforward. At the same time, there is probably no other album like this in existence, including across Devin Townsend's lengthy catalog. Dev took some serious risks and dug deep, and came up with something truly fresh. Truly creative, perhaps truly progressive.

As such, as much as I love this album, I don't know that it's a masterpiece of PROG music. But it's a great chill-out psychedelic journey that is among Dev's best.

Report this review (#1327926)
Posted Tuesday, December 23, 2014 | Review Permalink
4 stars Welcome all. Welcome to a story about a traveller who becomes trapped on a barren moon that feeds off his fear. A traveller who discovers and old radio with which he can hear old songs played. He becomes enamoured by the voices and from them he gains the strength to overcome his fears. He becomes aware of a woman's spirit here, too, and with his strength, he frees both her and himself. Yes, a bit weird, I know.

What began as the next installation in the Devin Townsend Project became a project of its own. Casualties of Cool, featuring Devin Townsend and Ché Aimee Dorval sharing lead vocals, is in the words of Devin himself, 'like haunted Johnny Cash music.' Indeed the first few songs will surprise anyone acquainted with Devin's usual brand of work, even if 'Ghost' is the only album you've ever heard. Devin has recreated that lonely but rugged soul feeling of old Johnny Cash so well that it often feels as though the guitar and drum parts (supplied beautifully by Morgan Agren) were lifted directly off old albums and neatly slotted in with Devin's soft, low whispering vocal and Ché's sultry and dusky voice. Add some eerie space effects and haunting wind sounds, a bit of saxophone and some wooden flute courtesy of Kat Epple off of 'Ghost', and not to forget the background radio voices, and you've got nearly all of the album summed up.

As with 'Ghost', there's no hint of heavy metal on here at all. The songs are this gentle quick-paced shuffle of drums and reverb-steeped, 50's clean electric guitar and sometimes spacey effects style, or slow and gentle and moody. One of the highlights for me is the third track, 'Flight', which is simply a wonderful example of her vocal prowess, which is saying a lot as she really shines in many songs. Her performance is beautiful, and listening to it I feel like I would want to see and hear her perform this live and I would be transfixed to her. If I could compare her vocals to anyone it would be Dusty Springfield. Ché Aimee has that same allure. At times I can see her on stage in a small club, a tight-fitting dress that goes from her neck to her ankles, her hair tied back in a neat bun, her eyes closed before the old Sinatra-style mic, and her arms at her sides, her body swaying gently to the music with a motion that goes from the subtle motion of her knees, and not her hips. Ché Aimee appeared on Devin's album 'Ki' but she was not nearly well-enough used for her talent as she is here. Though small club jazz is not my usual preference, if she were singing I would want to hear it.

This is a fairly mellow album even when it is upbeat, and there are plenty of ambient music moments, particularly on 'Pier' and the latter half of 'Deathscope'. 'Hejda' and 'Pure' give us more of Kat Epple's wooden flute and are the closest moments on this album to 'Ghost'. I find that tracks 1 to 9 keep that spacey country rock sound throughout most of the songs, but from track 10 the atmosphere changes to more acoustic guitar mostly. 'The Bridge' is another standout moment with over 8 minutes of incredible music that is quite different from the rest of the album. It has Devin and a choir singing along with acoustic guitar and strings. The music ventures into a 'Kashmir'-type of eastern sound at times and the voices of the choir sometimes rise and build and then ease back again. As I was walking home listening to this yet again the other night, I felt as though a strong invisible hand had pressed supportively against my back, lifted me slowly off the ground a few centimetres, and gingerly set me down again. When the voices and music reach their most powerful moments, it almost sounds like this was intended for 'Ziltoid: Dark Matters', but the swell of energy subsides once again.

I bought the double album disc which features a second disc of alternate versions, outtakes, and material intended for 'Ghost 2'. I have actually only listened to that CD once through. It was simply too much music along with several other Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad albums that were piling into my mailbox at that time. So, I can't comment honestly on that. But the digipak is very artistic. The CD booklet is mostly several double-spread pages illustrating the landscape of the barren moon, which is only rocks, bone, and dust. We also see the feet and hands of our traveller as he sits looking at photos he found in a wooden box. I found the bones and dust interesting because at the end of 'Ziltoid: Dark Matters' narrator Bill Courage mentions a lone moon of bones and dust.

It is incredible to think that Devin released three albums in 2014: 'Casualties of Cool' and the double album of 'Zed Squared' with 'Ziltoid: Dark Matters' and the Devin Townsend Project's 'Sky Blue'. Add the Casualties bonus disc along with 'Epicloud' and the bonus disc 'Epiclouder' and 'Ghost' and 'Deconstruction' plus the two discs of bonus material on the 'Contain Us' boxset and you can see that Devin has been exceedingly prolific in the studio between 2011 and 2014. His latest post on his website mentions a few other projects he wants to do if he can arrange the time, including, 'a bass-driven apocalypse record, a meditative record, a symphony, more Casualties, more DTP and a kind of big band thing.' I also read something about an Icelandic choir somewhere, too. Whatever it is he gets around to doing, I'm sure it's going to be a well-crafted piece of work. As for 'Casualties of Cool', if you are in the mood for this it is really out there.

Report this review (#1376837)
Posted Monday, March 2, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
5 stars With Casualties of Cool, Devin Townsend's experimentation with ambient grooves, ghostly beauty, mellow compositions, and mature instrumental performances has reached a grand new height. We heard it as a diversion on Ki, in the empty spaces on Ghost, and sprinkled through out other albums - but Casualties of Cool absolutely sends chills up the spine with elegant class. Not only is it Devin's best "quite" album, it's one of his best albums, period.

Casualties is a lengthy and evocative experience. The production and compositions are excellent, giving us lush, deep, and emotive sounds that slip between styles, dynamics, and tempos. Devin's skills as song writer are exceptionally strong here, perhaps because there aren't walls of devastatingly powerful electric guitar to rely on. Instead, every whisper, strum, vibrato, dreamy pulse, sampled effect, and sung word is exposed and wonderfully emotive. The album builds very well, beginning playfully and then taking the listener to places dark and fragile and lovely, ending with a more typical Devin Townsend song - a might crescendo over layers and layers of guitar and vocals. The experience is meditative.

The overall vibe of the album is sort of a faux-Western, but this shouldn't scare away anyone wondering if there are traces of country music in this album. The rare traces of twang are hidden within a dreamy soundscape that shuffles and drifts along to places so beautiful and weird that "real" western fans might feel lost and annoyed. There are few identifiable verses, and no choruses, so be prepared to be taken on a journey rather then be given moments to sing along to.

Speaking of singing, the vocals of the album, while not prevalent, are exceptional. Devin's voice drifts into the background, except for a few moments, while guest vocalist Ché Aimee Dorval takes the lead. Her voice is a warm, pure, and melancholic. She smoothly delivers some of the most memorable moments of the album, and practically steals the show; for listeners not as interested in exploring the music depths of the compositions, she definitely will.

Overall, a highly recommended release from one of modern prog's most dynamic and versatile artists. A great listen for those seeking something quite and spacey without becoming ambient background music. Outstanding.

Songwriting: 5 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 5 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 5

Report this review (#1425004)
Posted Monday, June 8, 2015 | Review Permalink
The Crow
4 stars Casualties of Cool is one of the most recent iterations of the Canadian prog genius, Devin Townsend!

And in this album, he works together with the Singer Che Aimee Dorval and he took the most rockabilly and groovy elements from Ki and they mixed with the new age and folk element of Ghost, to create an adventurous and very catchy sounding record.

The production is exquisite and all sounds just fantastic, specially the mellow vocals of Dorval and the splendid guitars from Devin.

Maybe not for a thorough listen every day, but just perfect for background a hundred of times!

Best Tracks: Daddy, The Code, Forgive Me, The Bridge?

Conclusion: Casualties of Cool is a musical project of our favorite Canadian genius with tons of ambients, groovy rhythms, beautiful vocals and an awesome guitars.

It's not really new if you know the career of this man, because Devin had previous experiments with this sounds mainly in Ki and Ghost and it's also a bit repetitive in the long term, but it's a beautiful journey perfect to be enjoyed as background music multiple times.

My rating: ****

Report this review (#2077338)
Posted Wednesday, November 21, 2018 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
5 stars 'Casualties of Cool' is not just the name of this album, but it is the name of the project of both Devin Townsend and Che Aimee Dorval and was released in 2014. Che has participated in some of Devin's other projects, but this is the first one that actually has full collaboration from the both of them. If you expect this to be another of Devin's heavy albums, though, you better think twice. Not to say that this is not a great album, because it is and it demonstrates the genius behind both artists. Now, you can hear hints of Devin's sound in this, but the shocker is that these songs are based around country, blues, psychedelic and ambient music. In other words, if country music could be progressive, this is what it would sound like.

Don't let the country moniker scare you away though, because if you do, you will be missing something that is quite excellent here. You know if Townsend is involved, that you will get an end result totally unique, and Dorval's added collaboration only strengthens it. Many other musicians are also involved in creating the music on this album. The album is a concept album in that there is a sci-fi style story line behind it all. A man living on a moon with nothing but an old radio listens to old style songs to try to avoid his fears, that is the concept in a nutshell. All of the songs are tied together in that they run into each other like a continuous suite almost. Many of the tracks also have sections that involve different styles to help keep the storyline cohesive.

Starting out with 'Daddy', Dorval sings the vocals and the feeling is definitely inspired by country music, but there are shades of psychedelia in there, especially when moving to the next track. The song is great, it is something definitely new and unique, yet tied to old styles. 'Mountaintop' features Townsend's airy vocals, they are strong, yet light, and definitely far away from his extreme vocals. Again, there is that lush and beautiful texture to the music and it continues with a nice upbeat song, but somewhere towards the end it veers off into psychedelic and ambient territory, yet sounds just like it should be doing that, not just something 'glued' together, but moving there naturally. It's this ambience that takes us into 'Flight' and a beautiful mix of acoustic guitar and lovely electronic effects that create the texture.

'The Code' has a snappy toe-tapping rhythm, but with the echo-y sound especially in the vocals that keeps things mysterious and unique. There is even a nice Walter Becker style guitar solo in there. The sound of frogs tie the tracks together as 'Moon' starts, which has a rhythmic base similar to 'Run Like Hell' from Pink Floyd, but the similarity ends there in this track which is more of an ambient sound, but with a percussive effect that almost sounds like a train chugging far off in the distance. Layered harmonies and a sax keep the other-worldly sound along with the lush texture. The dying sounds of the end of that track carry us into 'Pier' which is an instrumental ambient/psychedelic track as the trance-like feel breaks slowly down as the track continues turning the train sound to the sound of ticking clocks, which slow down even more signifying time passing more and more slowly. 'Ether' picks up the tempo again as Devon and Che harmonize with their beautifully layered vocals. The hazy sound of the track reflects the title quite well.

'Hejda' is another psychedelic and experimental track that brings in a tribal rhythm and Native American feel with the tribal flute, and various other effects and a few subdued vocals. Very spacey and traditional at the same time. 'Forgive Me' has the folk-blues vibe along the lines of Dire Straits, but mostly with Che's vocals and later with those lovely, other-worldly harmonies. 'Broken' is almost cinematic with a chamber male choir and almost symphonic sound. 'Bones' is a pensive track featuring Che, a sitar and a lovely melody with an almost European feel. 'Deathscope' builds a boogie sound ala Johnny Cash style. But this isn't Cash, it's Townsend, so be careful where you step. You might line dance yourself into a black hole. You haven't heard anything like this, I guarantee that, and that is what makes it sooooooooo coooooool. The last half of the track goes completely ambient and eerie. I told you to be careful, but you didn't listen.

'The Field' manages to pull an acoustic guitar out of the ambience with a nice western style ballad. I only have one word, Brilliant! 'The Bridge' has got a peaceful and lovely mid-Eastern vibe to it in the beginning. It builds slowly and becomes quite cinematic and amazing, especially with the choir effects and subdued vocals. But when the climax hits in the middle and towards the end, it will take your breath away. After that, it calms again and soon Devin sings in his head voice. This music is Zen! Absolutely gorgeous. 'Pure' begins with a wind effect and a solo Native American flute to act as a cool down for that last track.

This is one of those albums that is meant to be played as an album. Together, this is a musical experience that is so hard to describe, it just has to be heard. There is a 2nd disc included with the special edition that has outtakes from this album along with alternate versions. It also contains some songs that were recorded for the scrapped 'Ghost 2' project, and it works better as a separate entity from this amazing album, yet it is still worth your while to get.

This album is without a doubt one of the best that Townsend has a hand in, and that is saying a lot. The sound of the music is literally out of this world. It is like you are listening to regular music as you are falling asleep (if you have ever done this, I think you know what I mean), or like your head is in a fog and all of these beautiful sounds and textures are melding together and going into your ears. You just have to listen to it to understand, but I mean to really listen and not have anything else going on. There is so much to grasp here and the genius of Townsend and Dorval is undeniable. No doubt that this is an essential album that sounds like nothing else.

Report this review (#2152742)
Posted Wednesday, March 6, 2019 | Review Permalink

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