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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


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

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

4.01 | 347 ratings
Ocean Machine - Biomech
1997
3.69 | 244 ratings
Infinity
1998
2.97 | 179 ratings
Physicist
2000
4.19 | 691 ratings
Terria
2001
3.88 | 270 ratings
The Devin Townsend Band: Accelerated Evolution
2003
2.17 | 95 ratings
Devlab
2004
4.08 | 370 ratings
The Devin Townsend Band: Synchestra
2006
2.47 | 93 ratings
The Hummer
2006
4.15 | 624 ratings
Ziltoid The Omniscient
2007
3.84 | 336 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Ki
2009
3.84 | 361 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Addicted
2009
3.94 | 444 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Deconstruction
2011
3.77 | 369 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Ghost
2011
3.92 | 373 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud
2012
3.91 | 214 ratings
Casualties Of Cool: Casualties Of Cool
2014
3.68 | 175 ratings

2014
3.63 | 155 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Transcendence
2016
3.93 | 315 ratings
Empath
2019
3.28 | 25 ratings
The Puzzle
2021
3.15 | 28 ratings
Snuggles - Beautiful Dream
2021
0.00 | 0 ratings
Lightwork
2022

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 | 69 ratings
The Retinal Circus
2013
4.31 | 39 ratings
Ziltoid: Live At The Royal Albert Hall
2015
2.98 | 18 ratings
Ocean Machine - Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre
2018
4.16 | 13 ratings
Order of Magnitude - Empath Live Volume 1
2020
3.88 | 7 ratings
Devolution Series #1 - Acoustically Inclined, Live in Leeds
2021
4.00 | 3 ratings
Devolution Series #2 - Galactic Quarantine
2021

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

4.60 | 53 ratings
The Retinal Circus
2013
4.08 | 32 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
3.00 | 1 ratings
The Puzzle / Snuggles
2021

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

3.59 | 42 ratings
Christeen + 4 Demos
1999
3.17 | 6 ratings
Iceland
2016

DEVIN TOWNSEND Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Devolution Series #2 - Galactic Quarantine by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Live, 2021
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Devolution Series #2 - Galactic Quarantine
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by kev rowland
Special Collaborator Honorary Reviewer

4 stars This was the fourth in a series of quarantine concerts undertaken by Devin, and he calls this the "green screen" concert as the guys are all in different cities when they performed this, quite an advert for the speed of the internet in some parts of the world. This has now been made available in all formats, and some of this is on YouTube if you want to check it out. One would never guess from the performance that the guys were not actually playing together, and of course one gets the highly polished sound and use of backing tracks that one has come to expect with Devin's shows. The one thing which does seem weird is that at times Devin talks to those people watching when this was originally streamed, but of course there is no response, no crowd noise.

I am not sure what is left to say about the mad canuck, as he has been consistently releasing great albums for a long time now, and it is incredible to realise that the mighty 'Infinity' will be 25 years old next year! His wall of sound approach is unparalleled, and one immediately recognises his material from just a few bars, not something which can be said for many performers. I do think it will take a lot for him to ever release a live album to match the sheer power and presence of 'Retinal Circus', and I confess to preferring his material when he works with Anneke Van Giersbergen as her vocals provide a cut through and balance to his own, but there is no doubt this is yet another high polished performance by a workaholic who is always coming up with new ideas and adapting them to his own world. If you are a Devin fan then you know what to expect, and if not, why not? Hopefully I will see him down here again, as the last time his presence was just immense, until then we have a whole series of live and studio albums to listen to, with 'Lightwork' planned for the end of October.

 Physicist by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2000
2.97 | 179 ratings

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Physicist
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by eduardico21

4 stars I believe this is a pretty underrated album by Devin. While Infinity and Terria are praised by almost everyone, Physicist usually gets a lot of [&*!#]. But in my eyes, is as good as these other two or even better. I've always believed that Infinity starts off pretty strong but falls around the mid-part of the album, and the same happens with Terria, which has a lot of ballads in the final section.

On the other hand, Physicist is solid as a rock. Okey, maybe not all the songs are perfect ("Material", "Devoid" and "Irish Maiden" are rather meh and forgettable), but the weaker ones are sparced across the album, which makes the listen a lot easier. The two other things that people tend to complain about Physicist are the production and the vocals. I understand that the production is not the best (the drums in particular sound very very weak) and that's a dissapointing coming from Devin, but I really like the vocal performances that he did here. They aren't the best he has done, but they have a raw power that makes them feel unique in his career.

As for the songs, the opener "Namaste" is an absolute banger while mantaining at the same time a melodic vibe to it. This combination between aggressiveness and poppy is present across all the album in other songs suchs as "Kingdom" (an absolute classic, although the later version is better), "The Complex" (another one of my favourites) and "Jupiter". "Victim" on his part is reminiscent of Strapping Young Lad, something that isn't surprising, as the lineup for this album is the same one.

And the two songs that I enjoy the most probably are "Death", the most dark and aggressive song of the album, with riffs that seem from a Morbid Angel track, and "Planet Rain". I believe that specially the later is a must in Devin's catalog, being a long and epic track that conserves the most the prog metal nature that he is known for.

Physicist is not a perfect album by any means, but it definitively deserves better. If you're talking early Devin you can't go wrong. Yeah, there are albums that are better than others, but he would not make a bad one until he took the name Devin Townsend Project, but that is a story for another day.

 Ocean Machine - Biomech by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1997
4.01 | 347 ratings

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Ocean Machine - Biomech
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by eduardico21

5 stars There are some LPs that are more than only music. I have nothing against music as entertainment. In fact, I would say that the majority of what we consume will fall into that category, music that has the only objective of being a fun time. However, from time to time you'll find artists that are more than simple music, who are feelings too. Who hasn't that special band that achieves making you drown in a sea of feelings such as sadness, melancholy, happiness, love... And that's what this album does for me. Devin achieves to surround me in all his feelings of loneliness and sadness.

Ocean Machine: Biomech is a journey, and it has to be faced has such. In fact, if I'm being completely honest with you, the first time I listened it I didn't even finished it. I faced it in the wrong way, taking it as a simple combination of songs, so when the interludes started fallen upon me I was completely lost. Because the correct way to handle this work is to flow between its songs as a whole, as a river which ploughs through its line steadily until it reaches the ocean.

This album had a very long preparation, as it was in the making since the promotional tour of Sex and Religion ended in 1994. Townsend keeps saying to this day that what he really loves about this album is that it was the only time in his whole career that he dind't have to finish it in a hurry, and that's the reason why he believe it's one of his best. Besides the long writing process, problems that escaped from his hands made the delay even bigger. In the words of Devin, the album was recorded in Málaga (Spain), in a dump of a studio in which the famous actor Antonio Banderas used to go partying, and the noises from his parties ended contaminating the recordings. In the end, Devin even fighted with the owner and had to sneak in to grab the masters of all what he had recorded.

For all this reasons he decided to re-record all the album in a little home-studio, achieving that way the sound he was looking for. But the problems didn't end there, as no record company wanted to release it. Finally, the album saw the light through HevyDevy Records, an independent record company founded by Devin himself.

And what can we expect from the brilliant mind that only 4 months before had released the acclamied City with Strapping Yound Lad? Well, something completely different. In the word of Devin this was the music that really moved him, stating that when he was writting this album he started to see the music of Strapping Young Lad even as a parody. And that's clear when we hear "Seventh Wave", a lot of Dream Theater influence, heavy riffing and above it all a lot of feeling. The voice of Devin is capable of moving anyone, both when he uses soft registers and when he rips us with heavy guttural voices.

"Life" is a more commercial song, and one of the better ones Devin has released on this vein alongside the legendary "Chisteen" from Infinity. On the other side, "Night" is much more darkest, alternative and melancholic, with the synthesizers taking the reins, something that he will continue to take advantage of troughout his career. "Hide Nowhere" drives us to the part of the album that was an uphill climb on my first listen, and it is one of the ones that I enjoy the most today. "Sister" and "3 A.M." aren't songs in the traditional meaning of the word. Rather they are ambient passages, showcases used by Devin to make some melodic ideas flow in them. Said this way it could appear like it's filler, but I can't imagine the album without this two songs, just like I can't imagine this songs outside of the album. As I said before, this album is not a combination of songs, is a whole that cannot be shred into his parts.

"Voices in the Fan" is similar to the first songs of the album, while "Greetings" takes more of a minimalist approach, one that could even belong to a sci-fi movie OST. "Regulator" is the most metal song of them all, and for me, although not being bad, is the worst the album has to offer.

Until now we have a very good album. However, it's what comes next what makes Ocen Machine: Biomech a masterpiece. "Funeral" starts enigmatic, slithering slowly upon the cemetery, and when it finally blows into full force it makes me question myself: How is it possible that a song which talks about the funeral of a friend can transmit melancholy and happiness at the same time? Melancholy beacuse he's not with us anymore, and you will never hug him again, and happiness because, in the end, you have been able to be part of his life.

And if "Funeral" has taken your breath away prepare for the magnificence of "Bastard". Blueprint for songs that would come later such as the famous "Deadhead", and for me the best one from his career. A heavy riff travels with us for minutes, but it never tires you. And that's because the music, that riff, the synthesizers which help in the making of an ambient landscape... are only the basis so that Devin could give us one of the best vocal performances I've listened on my entire life. Do you believe that is not possible to move someone using guttural voices? Well, I believed it until I heard that raging scream that sounds at 5:55 and it moved me to tears.

And to end this trilogy of great songs we've got "The Death of Music", a song that may not please everyone, since it moves away from metal to take the ambient side of Devin's music to the forefront for more than ten minutes. I don't understand ambient music that well, and I don't usually listen to it. In fact, the first time I listened to this song it did nothing for me, but in the long term it made an impression on me. Now I believe is one of the three best songs from the album alongside "Funeral" and "Bastard".

Devin's career continued in leaps and bounds up from this point. However, he would never make a masterpiece like this later on. Maybe it was beacuse he was not in an hurry by a record company, or maybe the feelings he was experiencing were more intense at this stage of his life. The only thing I'm certain about is that he gave us one of the albums that more things has made me feel in my life, and that goes beyond simple music.

[Originally written for El Portal del Metal in spanish - translated for Prog Archives]

 Snuggles - Beautiful Dream by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2021
3.15 | 28 ratings

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Snuggles - Beautiful Dream
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Necrotica
Collaborator Prog Metal Team

3 stars The prospect of Devin Townsend doing another yin-yang-style dual release instantly brought back a flood of memories for me, harkening back to his Deconstruction and Ghost projects from back in 2011. But something seemed a bit different this time around. While he marketed The Puzzle as the "chaos" and Snuggles as the "calm", both records actually strike me as two different sides of the same coin - that is to say, The Puzzle isn't really that intense or crazy like Deconstruction was. But seeing as Snuggles would be the Ghost in this scenario, how exactly does it approach the new age/ambient format? Well, imagine if you took out the dynamic instrumentation of Ghost and made the record more homogeneous and formless.

Keep in mind that I mean that in both a (semi-)positive and negative way. Snuggles is an incredibly relaxing and meditative album, giving off the aural equivalent of lying on a bed of clouds. In fact, unless you listen intently, the record will pass by you without much of an impression at all; each song seeps into the next, as if you're listening to one 38-minute track. Sure, there are a few notable moments here and there; "The Ocean" is much more fleshed-out with its shifting dynamics and layered vocals, and "Blue Dot" benefits from the small bits of flute and reverb-laden electric guitar it adds to the soundscape. But taken as an entire experience, Snuggles is very clearly intended to be background music. Most songs are in the exact same key (F), making the songs blend together even more; on top of this, Townsend himself doesn't really do much vocally other than the aforementioned layering, as well as some mellow crooning to drive home the atmosphere of the record. But again, if you're in the mood for easy-listening or meditation music, this will at least fit the bill and give you something pleasant while you try and de-stress. And if there's another thing I'd give Snuggles credit for, it's that it does stay devoted to one singular vibe; anyone looking for a record that unapologetically sticks to a soft, ethereal sound will certainly find it here.

So we arrive at a bit of a conundrum: who exactly should I recommend Snuggles to? If you're familiar with Townsend's more low-key work, then you're already familiar with better albums than this one. Ghost has much of the same calming atmosphere as this, but with much more varied and explorative songwriting. Casualties of Cool had its ambient moments, but combined that with slick country and blues influences that gave it a lot of character. And then you have Ocean Machine: Biomech and Terria, which were near-perfect fusions of crushing metal and introspective melodies. But Snuggles does stand out, in the sense that any form of conventional songwriting has been removed entirely. So if anything, it's much closer to albums like Devlab or The Hummer, just with a little bit of Ghost atmosphere thrown in. But I think that will make this a hard sell to many Townsend fans, as his ambient records have never really seen the acclaim that most of his other projects have. And while Snuggles is a decent enough easy-listening record, the relaxing atmosphere is really all it has going for it; as I stated, there's not much in the way of varied or compelling songwriting like there was on Ghost or Casualties of Cool. Simply put, Snuggles is just a meditation and de-stressor album; nothing more, nothing less.

 Terria by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2001
4.19 | 691 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 | 244 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
4.01 | 347 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
3.88 | 7 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
4.16 | 13 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 Ché 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
3.93 | 315 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: ***

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

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