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Devin Townsend - Ocean Machine - Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre CD (album) cover


Devin Townsend

Experimental/Post Metal

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Prog Leviathan
2 stars Another significantly huge live release from Devin Townsend, this time featuring mostly older songs--the highlight of which being a complete rendition of Ocean Machine (his first solo release). It's sort of a celebration of Devin's music, and based on his banter between songs, a labor of love to say "thanks" to people like me: fans that have been here for years loving a massive output from a genuine talent.

Which is why it pains me to say that this live release is (ahem) ... one for the fans.

Ocean Machine Live sounds amazing, is very earnest, and replete with great musical moments--it's just that, as a live release, it's blasť and even uninteresting. Devin's production is crystal clear, letting you appreciate the artist's ability to replicate the massive sound of his studio works in concert. And that's pretty much the problem ... this doesn't strike me as having that "live experience." The inclusion of the orchestra is gimmicky, and actually sort of off-putting. It's not incorporated well, and the juxtaposition of roaring guitar monoliths and gentle string instruments just doesn't work here. However, it's worth saying that the band plays phenomenally, and Devin's vocals are tremendous, but again, they're pretty much as you hear them on the studio releases.

Moreover, other than some older favorites in the setlist, there aren't any surprises here, and that's the disappointment. The crowd is lifeless (or annoying, throughout Ocean Machine), and Devin's playfulness as an entertainer is lost as he fawns over how meaningful the experience is for him emotionally. I love you too, man ... I show you that by purchasing everything with your name on it ... now please take a vacation and find some inspiration for what may come next.

Bottom line, Ocean Machine Live is a fun diversion for those who want to hear Devin's first release with some modern intensity. Retinal Circus is the better way to experience the live chaos of his music.

Setlist: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 5 - Stage/Energy: 3 - Live Experience: 2

Report this review (#1949332)
Posted Wednesday, July 18, 2018 | Review Permalink
kev rowland
Honorary Reviewer
3 stars I have been a fan of the manic Canuck for more than 20 years, still cherish my fully-signed copy of Strapping Young Lad's 'Alien' and wouldn't leave home without a copy of the 'Retinal Circus' video loaded onto my phone as one never knows when the urge to watch again will strike. I didn't hear his debut 'Ocean Machine' when it was released but did pick up on his next album 'Infinity' and from there on in was a solid fan. He has a way of creating a wall of sound which no-one else has managed in the modern era, and I grabbed the opportunity when he finally decided to play New Zealand (hey guys, you don't all have to just play the States and Europe you know, we do appreciate it when you get down here as well). He was also playing in my favourite venue (Power Station, which is incredibly reminiscent in many way of the long-lost Marquee), so it was with heavy heart when I left before the end as it was just so, um, boring.

Here we find a long set (triple CD) which includes the whole of his debut 'Ocean Machine' from 1997, along with plenty of other material. As well as the band we are treated to the Orchestra and Choir of Plovdiv State Opera who join in for the first two CDs, but it all feels rather flat. Take opener "Truth" which also appears on 'Retinal Circus': it isn't that Devin is just going through the motions, but where is the bounce and joie de vivre so evident on the earlier live release? Surely it can't just be that Anneke wasn't involved in this? When Devin is on form, having fun, and with the right support around him then he is in a league all his own as his vision and endless musical creativity just lifts him far away from everywhere else. But this could never be an album to introduce a listener to his music, as the spark isn't there. I am sure there are many fans who will buy this, listen to it a few times, then put it back on the shelf and instead turn to the much loved and battered version of 'Retinal Circus' instead. With heavy heart I have to say I can't imagine playing it again.

Report this review (#2169859)
Posted Sunday, March 31, 2019 | Review Permalink

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