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DEVIN TOWNSEND

Experimental/Post Metal • Canada


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Devin Townsend biography
Devin Garrett Townsend - Born May 5, 1972 (New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada)

DEVIN TOWNSEND, possibly more widely known as the frontman for the extreme metal act STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, began creating solo albums in 1997.

Sometimes referred to as the 'Mad Scientist of Metal', TOWNSEND produces a wide variety of music. This ranges from soft ambience designed, as he has stated, to put the listener to sleep, to high levels of thrash and extreme metal reminiscent of SYL.
His works often feature a 'wall of sound', built by adding many layers of guitars and keyboards that are playing in unison or harmony. The end result is a number of carefully produced and mixed albums that favor high-end sound systems.

His first solo album, 'Ocean Machine: Biomech' (1997), was actually originally simply titled 'Biomech' and the band project labeled OCEAN MACHINE. However, on subsequent releases in most countries, the one-shot band name was incorporated into the title, and TOWNSEND's name was affixed to the record. Next came his first solo album proper, 1998's 'Infinity'. However, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and suffering with severe depression, TOWNSEND left the album only partly finished, filling in the song gaps with other demos. Rebounding from this struggle, he wrote 'Physicist' in 2000, creating a sort of pop-metal release featuring the members of his band STRAPPING YOUNG LAD. His 2001 project, 'Terria', features some of his most complicated and deep production, incorporating many sounds from nature into the recording, and stands as one of his most well-known and most critically acclaimed albums.

Photo by Eric Saide

His next solo project, THE DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND, began in 2003 with the release of 'Accelerated Evolution'. Adding drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen, guitarist Brian Waddell, bassist Mike Young, and keyboardist Dave Young, TOWNSEND decided to start releasing albums once more with a full-time band rather than merely studio musicians. Taking a dramatic turn from the style of 'Terria', TOWNSEND adopted a much more band-oriented feel, reducing the amount of atmosphere and increasing the level of accessibility of the music.

As a side project during this time, TOWNSEND stitched together the fierce ambient 'Devlab' album in 2004. The line-up of THE DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND continued for several years as a functional touring outfit. The collaboration concluded with the 2006 album 'Synchestra' - though this rele...
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DEVIN TOWNSEND discography


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DEVIN TOWNSEND top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.99 | 331 ratings
Ocean Machine - Biomech
1997
3.69 | 231 ratings
Infinity
1998
2.92 | 168 ratings
Physicist
2000
4.19 | 675 ratings
Terria
2001
3.88 | 259 ratings
The Devin Townsend Band: Accelerated Evolution
2003
2.12 | 91 ratings
Devlab
2004
4.08 | 357 ratings
The Devin Townsend Band: Synchestra
2006
2.43 | 88 ratings
The Hummer
2006
4.15 | 604 ratings
Ziltoid The Omniscient
2007
3.84 | 325 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Ki
2009
3.83 | 349 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Addicted
2009
3.93 | 430 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Deconstruction
2011
3.76 | 356 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Ghost
2011
3.92 | 360 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud
2012
3.89 | 205 ratings
Casualties Of Cool: Casualties Of Cool
2014
3.68 | 165 ratings
Z
2014
3.61 | 143 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Transcendence
2016
3.91 | 297 ratings
Empath
2019

DEVIN TOWNSEND Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.56 | 18 ratings
Official Bootleg
1999
3.59 | 32 ratings
Unplugged
2011
4.46 | 54 ratings
By A Thread - Live In London 2011
2012
4.68 | 64 ratings
The Retinal Circus
2013
4.29 | 35 ratings
Ziltoid: Live At The Royal Albert Hall
2015
2.82 | 13 ratings
Ocean Machine - Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre
2018
4.14 | 9 ratings
Order of Magnitude - Empath Live Volume 1
2020
3.95 | 2 ratings
Devolution Series #1 - Acoustically Inclined, Live in Leeds
2021
0.00 | 0 ratings
Devolution Series #2 - Galactic Quarantine
2021

DEVIN TOWNSEND Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.60 | 47 ratings
The Retinal Circus
2013
4.05 | 29 ratings
Ziltoid: Live At The Royal Albert Hall
2015

DEVIN TOWNSEND Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.38 | 21 ratings
Ass Sordid Demos I
1999
3.36 | 14 ratings
Ass Sordid Demos II
2004
4.64 | 25 ratings
Contain Us
2011
5.00 | 2 ratings
Discovering Devin Townsend
2016

DEVIN TOWNSEND Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.60 | 41 ratings
Christeen + 4 Demos
1999
3.17 | 6 ratings
Iceland
2016

DEVIN TOWNSEND Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Terria by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.19 | 675 ratings

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Terria
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by lukretio

3 stars Terria marks a strong return to form for Devin Townsend after the pas faux of Physicist, an album that many today consider one of the low points in the Canadian artist's discography. With Terria, Devin leaves aside the asphyxiating heavy parenthesis of his previous album, and continues exploring instead the mellow psychedelic atmospheres of Ocean Machine: Biomech, to the point that Terria is often viewed as the natural continuation of that album. There are still occasional metallic outbursts that hark back to Infinity and Physicist, but these are not a dominant element on Terria and are mostly used as a contrast to the more relaxed parts rather than as a leading component of the record. Instead, Terria is an album dominated by melody and dreamy, almost psychedelic, undercurrents.

Swathes of keyboards and sound loops (played by Devin and Jamie Meyer, who had toured with Strapping Young Lad in previous years) are used to create the lulling mood of the album, alongside the usual wall of layered distorted guitars. Gene Hoglan and Craig McFarland form an exceptional rhythm section, powerful and subtle at the same time. McFarland's fretless bass is often pushed up in the excellent mix and its pulse drives the songs beautifully. Devin also plays a few melodic guitar leads and solos ("Deep Peace", "Nobody's Here", "Stagnant"), which contribute to give the album a more distinct melodic edge compared to Infinity and Physicist. Devin's vocals are excellent as usual, varying between clean parts, falsettos and screamed vocals. His backing vocals and choral arrangements are also top-notch.

The album is written as a sort of musical stream of consciousness, with each song bleeding seamlessly into the next, and even the album's lyrics written as a unique piece of text, without separation or solution of continuity between songs. For this reason, Terria is a highly immersive album that invites the listener to embark on a sprawling 71 minutes trip and that works best when listened as a whole piece of music. Truth be told, Terria starts in a rather difficult way, with "Mountain" being perhaps the heaviest and most angular song of the album, linking the record back to Infinity. It's not a very accessible start of the album, which made me fear for the worst when I first listened to it ("God not another Physicist, please!").

Things start to pick up on "Earth Day", which is simply the best song of the album and it is worth alone the price of the record. It is a massive, 9-minute long, incredibly dynamic composition that keeps moving between frenzied sonic assaults and soothing melodies. Throw in the mix exhilarating lyrics, massive vocal arrangements and some of the most memorable melodies of the album, and you have one of the best pieces of music that Devin has ever written. The following two songs, "Deep Peace" and "Canada", are the other highlights of the record. Mellower and more expansive, they do not have the tension and density of "Earth Day", but contain some great guitar work and excellent vocal melodies.

From there on Terria nose dives a little, embarking on a series of mellow, trippy songs that carry strong echoes of Pink Floyd as well as contemporary alternative pop/rock. I am not very fond of any of the songs on the second half of the record. They are not bad by any stretch of imagination, but I find them a tad too overindulgent and dragging. They simply do not manage to recreate the strong musical high of tracks like "Earth Day", "Deep Peace" and "Canada". Moreover, these songs are perhaps a bit too obvious in their influences which makes them sound slightly derivative.

For this reason, I tend to consider Terria as a slightly inferior album compared to its predecessors, Ocean Machine: Biomech and Infinity, simply because the episodes of sheer musical genius and brilliance are more frequent on those two earlier records than on this one. It is nevertheless vastly superior to Physicist and stands tall in Devin's overall discography, so if you are into his music you should definitely get this. It is probably also an album to recommend to beginners, as Terria contains some of Devin's most accessible material and so it could be a suitable gateway to get into his musical universe.

 Infinity by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.69 | 231 ratings

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Infinity
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by lukretio

4 stars Released in 1998, Infinity has been dubbed by its creator Devin Townsend as the "parent album" of the two records he had released in 1997: his solo debut, Ocean Machine: Biomech, and Strapping Young Lad's City album. It is a fitting description, as Infinity borrows the sublime taste for catchy melodies from the former and the gusto for heavy sonic assault from the latter. But Infinity is much more than the sum of these two sides of Devin Townsend: it is a record brimming with fresh, exciting ideas, full of adventure, where the listener can never know which direction a particular song may take. It is a progressive album in the truest sense of the adjective, and for this reason it deserves to sit in the collection of any lover of progressive rock and metal.

The core of the record revolves around the amalgamation of catchy vocal melodies into a thick wall of sound created by layers of heavily distorted guitars and swathes of psychedelic keyboards and sound effects. Meanwhile Gene Hoglan and Christian Olde Webbers form an exceptional rhythm section, extremely technical, frenzied and inventive, but also clever enough to know when to tone it down if the song needs it. The listening experience is quite unique, as the listener gets bashed on the head by a heavy barrage of sound and at the same time lulled and enticed by heavenly vocal melodies and multi-layered choirs. It is the "Devin Townsend's experience" - one that the Canadian artist has repeated and refined time and time again with each subsequent album.

A remarkable aspect of Infinity is the large amount of left-field ideas that are incorporated into the record. Often these are ideas that, on paper, should not possibly work in the musical context in which they are inserted, yet unbelievably they do. The big-band swing of "Bad Devil" is exhilarating when contrasted with the savage assault of distorted guitars and Devin's frenzied screamed vocals. "War" is a heavy affair that suddenly turns 1950s rock ("doo wop boddum?") before descending into an anarchic madness of noise that is eventually interrupted by Devin shouting "God, quiet! Just a little bit of quiet please! Just stop the noise for once... please!!", which is exactly what the listener is thinking at this specific point in the song. A country fair waltz unexpectedly tears through the otherwise dramatic ballad "Wild Colonial Boy". Meanwhile, "Ants" is an incredibly technical piece that builds on odd time signatures, nervous riffs and wacky vocals to achieve near cacophony, which makes it repellent and mesmerizing at the same time - like watching a massive anthill, I suppose. The whole album is constellated with these sudden changes of direction and incongruous contrasts, which makes for an adventurous, fun and exciting listening experience, as one can never be sure where a particular song might end up to.

The sheer amount of ideas, music and sounds condensed in the 47 minutes of the LP is astonishing and witness to the great work done by Devin in the production phase of the album (which is sonically excellent: clear, detailed and immersive). Indeed, Infinity was not an easy album to write and record and the process nearly had the best of Devin Townsend, as he found himself obsessing on every detail of the album and devoting his whole life to it (the famous anecdote is that during the recording of the album Devin used to sleep on the studio floor). At times, one can feel the strain and distress emerging through the notes of tracks like "War", "Soul Driven Cadillac", "Life Is All Dynamics": angular, unsettling songs that have rough edges and give us a peek into what Townsend may have experienced during the recording process. Elsewhere, however, the music opens up, the atmosphere relaxes, and gorgeous melodies emerge, like on "Christeen", "Wild Colonial Boy", "Unity" and "Noisy Pink Bubbles". It is a fascinating contrast that runs through the whole album and indeed through much of the music Devin Townsend has written throughout his career.

Infinity is an immersive album that is best experienced as a whole, with its peaks and valleys of tension and release. It is not an easy album to get into, however, because of its complexity and the multi-layered nature of the arrangements. Moreover, the heaviest, most exasperated parts can be difficult to digest and almost uncomfortable. I also feel that the record slumps a bit towards the end, with the 13 minutes of "Life Is All Dynamics" and "Unity" feeling slightly overwhelming and repetitive. Nevertheless, Infinity is a very good album that is not afraid to push boundaries and carve an original path in the dense forest of progressive metal. It is one of the quintessential Devin Townsend's records - heavy, frenetic, highly inventive and intensely melodic -, and it is highly recommended to anyone with an interest in prog rock/metal.

 Ocean Machine - Biomech by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1997
3.99 | 331 ratings

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Ocean Machine - Biomech
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by lukretio

4 stars Ocean Machine: Biomech is the first solo release by prog metal wizard Devin Townsend (the second if you consider Punky Br'ster's 1996 album Cooked on Phonics to be the first official release in Devin Townsend's solo career, as some do). Curiously, Ocean Machine: Biomech was not released under Townsend's name initially, but under the artist name 'Ocean Machine', with the album titled 'Biomech'. Subsequent releases of the album used instead 'Devin Townsend' as the artist's name and the name of the album became 'Ocean Machine: Biomech'. The album was first released in 1997. Much of the material was actually written a couple of years prior, but problems with recording and production significantly delayed the record's final release. On Ocean Machine, Townsend plays guitar, keyboards and sings and is accompanied by Marty Chapman on drums and JR Harder (who had also played on the Punky Br'ster's record) on bass.

Although the music on Ocean Machine is considerably lighter and more accessible than many of Townsend's later releases, the trademark elements of his sound are all already here. The songs revolve around groovy riffs of distorted, layered guitars that are repeated obsessively throughout each composition. Keyboards and sound effects are layered on top of the guitars to create a wall of sound that envelopes the listener and transports them into a parallel sonic universe. Bass and drums do not do much more than keeping a steady tempo, but that's all the compositions need, really. Most songs stretch past the 4 minutes mark, and some are 8, 10 and 12 minutes long. Despite their length, the structure of most songs is actually quite simple, with only a handful of riffs being played throughout each song. The simple, stretched song structures and the layered arrangements bring to mind krautrock, space rock, as well as the most experimental stuff by Pink Floyd ' all music that plays on mood and atmosphere, rather than on technical show-off.

The thick, immersive musical background sets an ideal stage for Devin's vocal melodies. His voice weaves in and out of the instrumental background and sometimes is nearly buried underneath it, but it is always arresting, also thanks to the passion and energy Devin injects into his varied delivery, using clean voice, falsetto and screamed vocals. It is Devin's versatile and emotional voice that makes songs like 'Seventh Wave', 'Night', 'Funeral', 'Bastard' and 'The Death of Music' unforgettable moments of the album.

The album contains some spectacular compositions, like those I just mentioned, but I am not convinced it is the masterpiece that some think it is. To these ears, about a third of the material on this record is pretty weak. The production could also be better, as the album sounds a tad too loud, muddy and 'dirty' (but maybe that was the intention). Moreover, the structure of the LP is far from optimal, with all the best material appearing at the end of the record, after a rather dull stream of mediocre songs.

The album can be roughly divided into three parts. The first consists of the first four songs, from 'Seventh Wave' to 'Hide Nowhere'. These tracks are of medium length and are perhaps the most straightforward material of the album, relying on standard verse/chorus structures and melodies that are accessible and even catchy ('Life'). 'Seventh Wave' and 'Night' are good songs, packed with strong vocal melodies and punchy riffs. I am less enthusiastic about 'Life', whose pop ambitions make it a tad too bland, and 'Hide Nowhere', which I find rather forgettable.

The record then transitions to a second section comprised of shorter, more varied material, from 'Sisters' to 'Regulator'. This is the part of the album that I find weakest. It is too fragmented, with songs like 'Sisters', '3 A.M.' and 'Greetings' being little more than sparse interludes that, somewhat inexplicably, have been all put close to one another. 'Voices in the Fan' is quite weak melodically and again passes by without leaving any strong impression. 'Regulator' is much better, it has a hard edge in the guitar riff and the vocals that livens things up and manages to catch back my attention just in time, as I often find myself drifting off during the preceding four tracks.

The last part of the album, the 30 minutes of 'Funeral', 'Bastard' and 'The Death of Music', are simply magnificent. In fact, if the album had only consisted of these three songs, I would have perhaps given it full marks. Those 30 minutes of music come close to a religious experience for me. The repetitiveness of the riffs, the layers of sound, the gorgeous vocal melodies, and the poignant lyrics, all combine to create an immersive and emotionally-charged atmosphere that leaves the listener almost in a trance state. 'Funeral' is gentle, with a semi-acoustic feel but it swells in volume and intensity towards the end. 'Bastard' is an absolute masterpiece and is divided in two parts, the first epic and desperate, the second mellower and more peaceful. 'The Death of Music' is a weird, experimental song that is sustained by the same, minimal sequence of drum beats for all its 12 minutes. It starts with background noise and voices, before Devin comes in with one of the most beautiful vocal melodies of the entire album. Eerie yet incredibly emotional, this is a song that does indeed feel 'like when death becomes musical', as Devin sings on the refrain.

Ocean Machine: Biomech is a strong artistic statement from one of the most unique voices in the progressive metal universe. All the trademark elements of Townsend's sound are already present here, which is impressive for a debut album. Moreover, the record has a youthful exuberance and recklessness that are endearing and have surely contributed to the creation of authentic masterpieces like 'Bastard' and 'The Death of Music'. On the other hand, this youthful inexperience is probably also responsible for the suboptimal album structure and the unfortunate inclusion of songs that are not as well developed or strong as the rest of the material. Despite the mixed bag of impressive and mediocre, Ocean Machine is a great album that I recommend to anyone interested in exploring the music of Devin Townsend.

 Devolution Series #1 - Acoustically Inclined, Live in Leeds by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Live, 2021
3.95 | 2 ratings

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Devolution Series #1 - Acoustically Inclined, Live in Leeds
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars Devin Townsend is currently working on new material, and due to a lack of touring possibilities and encounters with fans on the road he has decided to release a series of live albums, quarantine albums, and other projects to keep people interested. This release is the first in what is called 'The Devolution Series' and is a remixed and remastered version of the 'Live in Leeds' show that was originally on the 'Empath' Ultimate Edition. Here we find Devin in his absolute element, playing his songs in a stripped-down style, plenty of reverb on the voice and picked acoustic guitar. It is a low-key set, allowing Devin to easily interact with his audience who are obviously all hardcore fans wanting to hear well-known songs in a somewhat different fashion. Devin points out that the material is generally first written on acoustic, so it must go through multiple changes before finally making it to an album, as this sounds nothing like the wall of sound I generally associate with him.

He comments at the beginning that he is making the setlist up as he goes along, and that it will be followed by a question-and-answer session, and it would have been interesting to hear that as there is such a rapport between musician and audience that those who were not there (such as myself) would get a lot from it. Hearing the songs being performed in this fashion is a revelation, as the bombast and volume has been stripped away and what we have been left with is simple beauty. In many ways this is one of the most powerful albums I have heard from Devin, as there are no defence mechanisms in place as he opens himself up, allowing his material to shine in a new light, and it burns brightly indeed. While fans will be the first ones to flock to this album, this is something which will allow those who have yet to discover Devin to hear him in a whole new way. Simply essential.

 Order of Magnitude - Empath Live Volume 1 by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Live, 2020
4.14 | 9 ratings

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Order of Magnitude - Empath Live Volume 1
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars I can still remember when I first heard 'Infinity' back in 1998: it just blew my mind and from there on I was a huge fan of Townsend and whatever project he was involved with. I vividly remember taking a carload of developers from Hayes to Bristol to see some depots and stores in operation, and blasting 'Physicist' at full volume both ways ? it was my car and I got to choose the music. One thing about Townsend is that he is so naturally curious and wanting to push boundaries that one is never sure quite what one is going to get, and the one time I saw him in concert as a bombastic over the top quartet I was somewhat disappointed. However, when it came to 'Retinal Circus' I was in awe and it is a concert I still love playing. Mind you, that was a special gig in many ways, with incredible musicians, a choir, backing tapes, loads of antics on stage, and the one and only Anneke van Giersbergen.

Fast forward to 2019, and he had decided he wanted to do something a little different and get rid of the backing tapes and click tracks and instead go naked into the night. Well, maybe not quite so lonely, as instead for this tour he surrounded himself with the right musicians to make it all work, which meant bringing on board some guys who he played with before, and others who were completely new. The band was guitarists Mike Kenneally (ex-Frank Zappa) and Markus Reuter (Stick Men, The Crimson Projekct), drummer Morgen Agren (Kaipa, Mats and Morgan, Frank Zappa), bassist Nathan Navarro, Haken keyboard player Diego Tejeida, and guitarist/vocalist Ch Aimee Dorval, as well as vocalists Samantha & Anne Preis & Arabella Packford. I do find myself missing the clear cut through vocals of Anneke, as the singers involved are not really up to her quality, but that is rather nit picking on my part, as here is a guy having an absolute blast, deliberately rearranging some songs so instead of metallic monsters they are quite different and come through as ballads, while we also get a straight version of "Disco Inferno" (I kid you not). I only have the audio (this has been released in multiple versions including Blu-ray), but can imagine the looks on the face of the audience. Utilising Markus Reuter is also inspired, as he can do so much more with a guitar than just provide normal notes, while Kenneally is also a legend and between them they can provide the heavy stuff or take the music in totally different directions.

Townsend is someone who never settles, and consequently is always exciting, and this album is yet another example of that. I may not return to it as often as 'Retinal Circus' as that is simply genius, but this is something I can see myself playing time and again. Wonderful.

 Empath by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.91 | 297 ratings

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Empath
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by The Crow
Prog Reviewer

3 stars After the surprisingly average "Z2", Devin Townsend manage to return to the good path with Transcendence, which was his best album since "Deconstruction".

Sadly, this "Empath" is another let-down in my opinion, being too pompous and inconsistent to be considered truly excellent. Devin tries to give us a summary of his career here. Genesis bring back the craziness of "Synchestra", Spirits Will Collide is much in the vein of "Epicloud" or "Sky Blue", Evermore could be a take-out of "Transcendence", Hear Me reminds me to "Deconstruction" and Strapping Young Lad and Castaway has new age vibes in the vein of "Ghost". And sadly, except from Genesis, this songs are under the expected quality from a mastermind like Mr. Townsend.

But the real problem of "Empath" is that when he tries to do something new he succeeds in the masterpiece Why?, but also fails in the boring and repetitive Borderlands. And in the other true attempt of innovation here, the epic Singularity, the result is also inconsistent containing true brilliant moments like the final four minutes mixed with some boring and forgettable ones.

So if you are a fan of Devin Townsend, there is much to enjoy in "Empath", but this album is one of his weakest efforts to date given the amount of average and forgettable tracks it contains.

Let's hope his next album will be better!

Best Tracks: Genesis (crazy brilliant and dynamic), Why? (one of his best clean vocals performances mixed with some opera and classical music influences) and some parts of Singularity.

My Rating: ***

 Z by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.68 | 165 ratings

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Z
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by The Genre Spanner

3 stars Seemingly bursting with material, Devin Townsend decided to release 2 albums in one package, each under different monikers - 'The Devin Townsend Project' (DTP) and 'Devin Townsend'. But really, what's the difference at this point?

DARK MATTERS - THE SEQUEL TO ZILTOID(?)

Let's start with Dark Matters by 'Devin Townsend', the much-awaited follow-up to the spacey progressive-metal opera Ziltoid the Omniscient. Here we revisit the comical adventures of our favourite 4th dimensional guitar hero as he once again involves himself in the destruction of humanity. Devin doubles down on the theatrical, comedic aspects of Ziltoid and makes the storytelling more centre-stage. This feels akin to a campy musical, with a more prominent narrator presence and a number of guests voicing the characters, not just Devin. The music has some trademarks of the original Ziltoid with spacey guitar arpeggios, mystifying minor chord changes, and very heavy parts, but follows the scope of the 'post-Ghost' DTP sound, with a denser wall-of-sound production, and includes an orchestra, choir, and plenty of sound design elements. The production value has skyrocketed compared to the homemade original and it's absolutely bombastic.

The original Ziltoid acted as a personal exploration into Devin's psyche through the guise of a goofy story with a character that represented part of his personality. While the story was entertaining, it was the authenticity of the emotion and inspired songwriting that carried the album. Devin really had something to say. But with Dark Matters, I get the feeling that it formed more out of obligation for fans rather than true artistic intent. I believe he's even made comments suggesting he had to 'force' some creativity for this one.

It's clear straight away that this isn't a sequel to the original, but a retelling with some changes. I was bummed out when I discovered this. After investing in the original story where Ziltoid destroys the Earth over a bad cup of coffee, I was keen to hear what was next for him and the escaped humans. But Devin hit the reset button and we're back at the beginning on Earth, as if the events of the first album weren't all that significant. Yeah nah forget that one, this is the REAL story... (But I guess once you destroy Earth that limits narrative possibilities for the future.)

The story is fun but isn't completely satisfying. Parts of it are just a direct rehash of the original album, which I don't really understand because I'd imagine most listeners would already be familiar with it. With 'Deathray' a giant alien ship hovers above Earth and begins to destroy it: "People of Earth, we are your overlords. Resistance is futile." Ok yep, I've heard this already. Ziltoid later summons the Planet Smasher to destroy a planet but oh no, he won't do it because he hates musicals! Again, this joke was in the original so it has no impact. The ending feels a bit rushed also.

An issue I have with the 'musical' format is that it doesn't commit to it properly like an Ayreon album would. There are a number of characters with spoken word parts but when it comes to the actual singing, it's almost all Devin. The War Princess gets her own song but doesn't reappear on vocals again, despite being a significant part of the story. And why doesn't Captain Spectacular get to sing? It's inconsistent and doesn't seem to know exactly what it's going for.

As mentioned, the music itself feels in the vein of the latter-years DTP brand. The production is loud and dense like Epicloud, and it can be a bit much on the ears. (Is it just me or is there too much bass EQ on the snare drum?) There's a noticeable lack of dynamics in the songwriting; where the original excelled in providing softer and contemplative parts that acted as breathing room between the bombast, that's mostly forgotten here. But also, the original was really heavy when it wanted to be, and the heavy parts here feel watered down in comparison. Regarding the vocals - oh boy they just don't stop. Ok this is a 'musical', but I would still love some instrumental breaks in my prog concept album. Ayreon was aware of this.

Truth be told, I quite enjoy the first 3 tracks of Dark Matters. It does feel inspired and sucks me right in. Anneke van Giersbergen makes a wonderful one-off appearance with her celestial reverby vocals on 'From Sleep Awake'. And 'Ziltoidian Empire' has a wonderfully energetic and quirky backdrop to a small alien farting its way through the cosmos towards a wormhole. But beginning with 'War Princess' the songs become a lot less interesting musically, and just seem to plod on with climactic monotony. The exception is 'Wandering Eye', which shows a bit of restraint and has a cool thing going on rhythmically. It's a shame it's all covered with voiceover. I should also give some credit to 'March of the Poozers' for its commitment to sounding like a metal Danny Elfman, and to 'Earth' for its grandiose main theme.

The album's closer 'Dimension Z' is an enjoyable tune if it weren't for the failed experiment of the 'universal choir', where Devin invited fans to send in their vocals and combined it all together into a massive choir soup. It's a cool idea and has an interesting effect, but to me it sounds irritating.

The Collector's Edition of Z2 comes with a dialogue-free version of Dark Matters. While I guess it's good to have the option, I don't find its existence very assuring. It says to me that Devin had doubts about the main album being able to hold up on its own and it devalues the artistic completeness of the dialogue's intent. If he's worrying about the music being overshadowed by the dialogue, which is certainly the case at times, why not have just planned it in the beginning so that both could exist with an appropriate balance?

To summarise, Dark Matters is not a bad album, but there are many disappointing factors. It's too derivative, loud, vocal-heavy, uninspired, and clunky in its execution. If there was ever an indication of what a Ziltoid followup should have been, it's the bonus track on Epicloud called 'Socialization,' which I would highly recommend.

Ok, I feel better having got that off my chest. But I still have to talk about Sky Blue. Phooey.

SKY BLUE - EPICLOUD 2.0

Throughout his career Devin Townsend has demonstrated much stylistic versatility in the rock/metal world, and that couldn't be more apparent than with the first 4 DTP albums. But with the 5th, Epicloud, it seemed DTP had become less concerned about exploring the different sides of Devin's versatility, instead settling for a sound that would become the new DTP brand - loud, catchy, energetic, poppy metal and a thick wall-of-sound production with electronic textures, tons of reverb, and many vocal layers including the wonderful Anneke.

Sky Blue is simply more of that but with a few minor differences. Instead of being overly happy and positive, the vibe is more sombre and moody. The choir has a softer 'churchy' vibe instead of the energetic gospel choir of Epicloud. And there's more synth this time around.

This is a fairly entertaining album but compared to Devin's previous pop metal albums Epicloud and Addicted, I find it the weakest. The songs are less interesting and like Dark Matters, the production is as annoyingly overwhelming as ever.

One of the main issues is the distorted vocals. Now Devin is someone I have always admired for using the growl, scream or yell in a way that's heartfelt, tasteful, and within context. In fact, Devin was the main contributor to my acceptance of distorted vocals in music. But the technique just falls so flat on Sky Blue. Often within a melodic chorus he would add a layer of growling vocal atop the regular vocal, possibly to fit as much as he possibly can within the mix, and it's irritating and not at all necessary for creative direction of these songs. It spoils what are otherwise perfectly serviceable additions to the Epicloud formula. Compare 'Fallout' to 'Save Our Now' from Epicloud and you'll see what I mean. This issue was also present in Dark Matters.

In terms of positives, I really enjoy the uplifting 'Midnight Sun', perhaps because it's not quite as heavy as the other songs. My favourite is 'Warrior'. Anneke is on lead vocals, which is always a good thing, and the lydian verses are very interesting melodically and rhythmically. And like 'Midnight Sun' it's a nice break from the growlo. The title track is bit of an oddity with the chorus ripped directly from mainstream dance-pop hit 'DJ Got Us Falling In Love' by Usher. But Anneke's hypnotic melancholic vocals during the chorus make it worthwhile. 'Before We Die' has your typical 4-chord pop chorus and annoyingly dense production (the universal choir has returned!) but there's something about the melody that I do find uplifting and encouraging.

Within the final 4 tracks, there's a shift to more quiet and soundscapey vibe, which is welcome but it somehow still sounds too dense and Devin's breathy vocals are getting annoying at this point. Also, for whatever reason there's this feeling of a heightened sense of self-importance about it that I can't quite explain, but it's off-putting.

I think I've said everything I've needed to say about this mammoth collection. Well done for making it this far. Overall, there's some value with Z2 but for me it's one of Devin's lesser works. 6/10.

 Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.92 | 360 ratings

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Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by The Genre Spanner

3 stars EPICLOUD

Come for main album - stay for the bonus disc!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EPICLOUDER

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

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

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

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

 Terria by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.19 | 675 ratings

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Terria
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by The Genre Spanner

5 stars With Terria, Devin Townsend created what is often recognised as one his best, and it's no surprise. It's a powerful, personal, flowing journey of a style of progressive metal unique only to Devin - one that relies on feels over technical prowess. What helps make Terria stand out is, complimentary to his typical reverby wall of sound production, an abundance of layered nature sound effects and atmospheric keyboards that add so much to the experience. The tone is one of anger at times, but it somehow fits well with the more dominant uplifting and blissful tone.

Terria occurred as part of a healing process after a rather chaotic and difficult time for Devin. A few years prior, with the help of hallucinogens, a Christ complex and accompanying bipolar diagnosis had formed throughout the creation of the album Infinity, and a period of intense depression and regret followed during Physicist. Terria was a time of 'acceptance', as Devin would put it - an acceptance that he is just an ordinary human being like everyone else, whose art isn't the centre of the universe but something to do for a living and enjoy. Life goes on, man. Devin even begun dressing in beige like a regular citizen, hence the man on the album cover. It wasn't necessarily happy times but an emotional numbness that said 'yeah, it's ok. I'm ok.' The tracks 'Nobody's Here' and 'Tiny Tears' act as quite vivid depictions of this time lyrically.

The concept of Terria - the earthy song titles, sounds and album cover - came when Devin was driving through the Canadian countryside on a tour. It acts as a bit of an ode to his home country in all its natural beauty. 'Terria' itself isn't a word, but it sounds right. It gets the feel across.

The album begins with the instrumental 'Olives' and what an incredibly intriguing way to open an album. The very strange tone and textures building to a fuzzy onslaught of heaviness is so satisfying. The voice saying 'olives' throughout... why? Because why not. The complimentary atmospheric synths established here and heard throughout the album brought Close to the Edge to mind upon first listen.

Other highlights from the album include 'Deep Peace', a softer track with a brilliant mid-section of a more typical prog rock vibe, featuring one of the most memorable guitar solos Devin's ever done. 'Down and Under,' a tribute to Australia, is an uplifting instrumental. And then there's 'Nobody's Here' and 'Stagnant,' two simply structured tracks that indulge in being super unapologetically dramatic and almost cheesy, the former track especially. I love them very much.

The only issue I have with the album is the choice to make the bass drum very prominent in the mix, cutting through everything else. But it's no deal breaker.

9/10

 The Devin Townsend Band: Accelerated Evolution by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2003
3.88 | 259 ratings

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The Devin Townsend Band: Accelerated Evolution
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by The Genre Spanner

3 stars In 2002, Devin Townsend felt compelled to form a band with local musicians to bring Accelerated Evolution to life, while simultaneously having to create the more financially promising third album with his well-established metal band Strapping Young Lad. This was out of response to a few factors:

Devin has admitted resentment towards SYL at the time, as it was this successful platform taking the limelight away from the kind of music he really wanted to do. So he sought to spitefully prove he could quickly establish another band (hence 'Accelerated Evolution') and produce music just as, if not more, meaningful, with comparatively inexperienced musicians. It would also be an opportunity to stick it to his management who were skeptical he could possibly do both. In addition to that, Devin wanted to play with fans of his solo work who could bring fresh perspectives.

The goal with Accelerated Evolution was to strip back the more abstract and layered elements of the previous album Terria, (because some listeners were criticizing these for some reason), to create a basic band-oriented album with a very minimal focus on overdubbing. It was to be akin to the tone of Devin's solo debut Ocean Machine but 'more simple and blunted' as Devin would put it. The resulting sound is a mid-tempo progressive metal / hard rock hybrid with some pop sensibilities.

This is quite an enjoyable and accessible album. It's certainly the most commercial album Devin had done at the time, with catchy hooks and mostly positive vibes; only 'Deadhead' and 'Suicide' darkening the tone a little. The vocals are performed to an incredible standard - Devin seamlessly blends soft vocals, epic vibrato, and screaming into the songs; 'Storm' being a perfect example. And while I wouldn't usually welcome screams in this kind of melodic music, Devin's feel like they come from an authentic place and naturally fit with the music.

While the production has been stripped back regarding instruments and sounds, Devin's trademark reverby wall of sound is still present, but done in relative moderation. I can recall a time when after listening to the almost overbearing, dense production of the more recent Z2 albums, coming back to this felt like I could breathe again.

There's a real consistency to Accelerated Evolution. Every song is loud. Every song has the vocals, electric guitar rhythm, bass, the drummer constantly riding the crash cymbal, synth pads... and that's about it. While this brings uniformity to the album, this is the main issue I have with it - Every song is the same colour, so to speak. There's not much to differentiate them regarding texture, tempo, and volume. (This is something the Devin Townsend Band will address on their next album Synchestra.) As someone who gravitates towards dynamics and variety, this prevents me from revisiting Accelerated Evolution often.

There are however some standout moments. 'Away' is a favourite of mine as it's (almost) instrumental, with Devin's creative voice shining as an 8 minute lead-guitar performance. It provides a holiday from 'Singer-Songwriter Devin Townsend' so we can hear the less-common but very skilled 'Guitarist Devin Townsend'. The moments in his albums where he allows himself to indulge in guitar wankery is always a treat. Additionally, 'Sunday Afternoon' feels very inspired, especially the chorus, and one cannot skip past how iconic the live-favourite 'Deadhead' is, despite me finding it a bit tiresome at this point.

Accelerated Evolution's loud, positive and commercial tendencies are something Devin would revisit a decade later with Epicloud. 'Slow Me Down' is even referenced in the Epicloud track 'Hold On'. But Accelerated Evolution is an album Devin now considers fairly uninteresting, despite a couple of great tracks. And given his heart was fairly absent from the SYL album, it was a lesson for him in splitting the efforts as such. (For the record I think SYL is a pretty kickass metal album.)

A special edition of Accelerated Evolution came with a bonus EP called 'Project EKO', a foray into instrumental electronica. Synths, pulsing beats, samples, and reverby twangy guitars provide an interesting departure from Devin's usual style, and it's a welcome one. It's the kind of experimentalism I'm always happy to see from him. But I'm not confident it has aged well - it reeks of 'early 2000s' and would fit perfectly on a Playstation One racing game menu. Interestingly, Devin has said that Project EKO had his peak interest during this creative period.

7/10

Thanks to ProgLucky for the artist addition. and to Quinino for the last updates

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