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Devin Townsend - Terria CD (album) cover


Devin Townsend


Experimental/Post Metal

4.20 | 670 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars Devin Townsend hits the peak of his creative output (a considerable statement) here in Terria.

Terria sits somewhere in the middle of Townsend's solo creations in terms of sound. It's not nearly as heavy as Physicist or Ziltoid the Omniscient, nor is it quite as flowing and atmospheric as Ocean Machine: Biomech. The music also rests at some indefinite point between very heavy metal music and very slow music, though it does not quite lean much either way towards death or drone. What we have instead is the paradigmatic post-metal album. Using powerful, massive walls of guitars and heavy, intense drumming, Devin lays a solid foundation of concurrent noise. However, it is the unusual amount of keyboard bits, sound bites, and guitar effects that provide the earthy ambiance to the album. Add on top of this odd combination (indeed, one that must be heard at least once at some point in your life), throw in Devin's vocals: always unpredictable, sometimes a gentle full voice, sometimes a throaty scream, sometimes a melodic roar in the way that only Townsend can. But believe me this, Terria is Devin's masterpiece, and in terms of production, performance, sound quality, and songwriting, it stands a head and shoulders above any other album in its genre.

The opening track, Olives, is an odd quasi-song, filled with a variety of ambient noises from nature and building nicely. It would make no sense as a standalone song, but in light of the album, it introduces the maniacal wit of Townsend perfectly. Next comes the impressively loud Mountain. It starts out with about the heaviest moment of the album, riding the last traces of Olives. It does settle down, and most of the song is fairly mellow. The impressive vocal harmonies that characterize this entire work make their first appearance here. Earth Day wanders in next, pushing forward more smoothly than Mountain (and much more aggressively). Almost all of the anger of the album centers here. Gene Hoglan finally breaks out some intense drumming, especially in the pre-chorus. Of note to some is the use of obscenity in this song, which is markedly similar to that seen in Devin's other major band, Strapping Young Lad. Do not get me wrong, though. The harmonies again are well oriented to the song.

The album takes a dive in mood after the conclusion of Earth Day, dissolving into Deep Peace. Stunning melodies, soaring harmonies, and an infinity of layers of life sounds all permeate this track--as well as the center portion, which puts the guitar at the forefront, though even during the "solo" of sorts it is very melodic and very much just a small part of the complete sound. The fading beauty of Deep Peace suddenly finds itself backing a monolithic guitar riff: Canada. The high point of this song are the clear high point here, producing a synergy of human voices that is quite difficult to achieve. This is a very solid track, from the gentle screams about beef to the thickly sung lyrics about John Denver. Down and Under is a short, simplistic instrumental that comes right off Canada's heels. The introduction of a theme in acoustic form before turning it heavy and electric near the end is a trademark of Townsend instrumentals. The Fluke is, after Earth Day and Mountain, the final fully and continuously heavy track on Terria. In some parts, it feels almost like the straightforward rocker type of song; however, the middle section features more of clever harmony and wry vocal work. Again Townsend pairs beautiful melodies with an aggressive chorus.

In Nobody Here, Devin's mellow and clean vocals get a spectacular workout as he gently sings away. This time, the middle section of the song is fiercer than the rest of it, but still very melodic. Throughout its length, there is some gentle piano, something which is never very prominent in any of Townsend's work, at least not in his earlier albums. This song also features a full-blown guitar solo, which is also quite rare to hear from Devin. The solo is likewise mellow and striking, not rapid shredding or anything of the sort that is commonly associated with a metal album. Tiny Tears kicks off with a slow start, which seems to be similar in terms of overall feel to Deep Peace. The song continues softly for most of its length, though some heavy riffing closes the track out. Stagnant is the proper end to the album, more or less. There is not quite as much harmony in this track as in most of the others, but the vocals that are there showcase Townsend's range and flair. Despite some angst in the verses, the song ends up feeling like a refreshing and cheerful end to the album. The bonus track, Humble (not Universal as it says above), is an exercise in production and sound layering, but still with the feel of not really being a part of the integral album. On the second disc (yes, I know this is technically not the two disc version I'm reviewing, but I might as well discuss it here), Universal is a funny little metal ditty. Actually, goofy might be a good word to describe it, though it still holds itself as an actual song and not just one where the guys are messing around.

In the end, though, simply reading a review of the album or listening to a song sample streamed through a pair of speakers does not well explain the sonic quality of this release. In a set of good headphones, however, the intricate work Townsend poured into layering and soundscaping really shines. If you are interested in Devin's solo work and are a fan of deep, complex music that carries a lot of atmosphere with it, this is a great place to start. If, on the other hand, you are more used to a standard progressive metal sort of vibe, perhaps check out his release Synchestra.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |


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