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Devin Townsend - The Devin Townsend Band: Synchestra CD (album) cover


Devin Townsend


Experimental/Post Metal

4.09 | 383 ratings

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4 stars There are only two albums that were released under Devin's moniker 'The Devin Townsend Band', those were 'Accelerated Evolution' (released in 2003) and this album 'Synchestra' (released in 2006). I'm not sure the reasoning behind Devin deciding to use this moniker, but I have a few theories. As far as Devin's solo albums released during this period, he was entering an experimental, ambient and electronic stage with his release of 'Devlab' and 'The Hummer'. Fans weren't really sure what he was doing with these solo albums and he had mixed reactions from his fans. So, in order to distinguish his experimental side from his heavier side, he may have decided to use 'The Devin Townsend Band' to help guide his fans to his more usual style and let them know that not everything he does was going to be experimental. Another theory is that he used the same line-up in both DTB albums.

'Synchestra' was sandwiched between the experimental, ambient albums. The other DTB project, 'Accelerated Evolution' was more listener friendly than the usual DT solo albums that had come before, and, even though it was still a great album, it didn't have as much of a progressive edge as the previous albums and wasn't quite as heavy. This album, at least in the beginning, seems to be following that same path as it starts with the very mellow 'Let it Roll' with an acoustic guitar and lovely melody sung by Devin. As it continues, an threatening drone comes up from underneath the acoustics, and for a short time, the band kicks in so as to not totally shock you for 'Hypergeek'. Once again, you get another short track, with more acoustic guitars and an almost pastoral feel. Some nice vocal effects come in, but the track suddenly goes on a complete left turn at the minute mark as the wall of sound, Devin's emotional yelling, heavy guitar and synths take over. But don't despair, as is usual with DT's music, it's heavy and thick, but you can hear everything.

'Triumph' flows from that previous track with a tense guitar churning and Devin's vocals that stir up excitement for what is coming. Of course, things get emotional and strong as the passion in his vocals and music increase. His vocals are mostly clean, but he still has bursts of anger that come through. The song isn't all thick and heavy however, as it has many lighter sections and the instrumentation features a lot of keyboard and synth to help lighten things up. And it is very progressive, so there are all kinds of surprises, fun and excellent music here. With all of these changes in tone, meter and sound, everything just flows together so well. You hear so many other bands try this and things just end up sounding choppy, but with Devon, it is so smooth, almost like an orchestra. To top it all off, you get a guitar solo from Steve Vai on this one too. 'Baby Song' has some sarcastic lyrics and a heavy 6 / 8 rhythm. As it continues, it gets more complex and heavier. Again, meters change as it goes on and settles in to different moods and such, but once it gets heavy, it pretty much stays there.

Three shorter songs follow. 'Vampolka' is a polka sounding track, tubas and organ included. This flows into 'Vampira' which starts off with a heavy guitar riff and Devin's frantic vocals. This has a more accessible sound to it with a very catchy melody and theme. There is a bit more screaming and yelling here too, but I love Devin's emotion that he puts behind it. 'Mental Tan' works as a cooling off track after the last crazy rocker. It has a nice, floating feel to it with the melodic guitar and supporting keys and wordless vocals. This leads into 'Gaia' with a sudden increase in intensity and a track driven by a heavy guitar riff and a fast tempo, but with clean vocals despite the heaviness of the track, but with those bursts of emotion. This one is a more straightforward rocker, but great nonetheless.

'Pixilate' starts off with a heavy bass line and middle East inspired vocals. The drums come in and the music continues to churn along. It gets heavier and more orchestral feeling as it goes on, even though the instruments are still your standard rock instruments. DT's wall of sound just has that orchestral quality to it. Deborah Tyzio adds her vocals to this track to contrast some of Devon's emotional and angry vocals that pop up from time to time. Things calm a bit in the middle as that mid-East theme comes back into play. A nice synth solo builds up the intensity again. 'Judgement' starts off as a softer track, but is underlayed by the heavy churning guitar that becomes more prominent, and then Devon's yelling/screaming comes out more on this track than the previous ones on this album. This one gets quite thick and heavy as it continues with a few places where the wall breaks down a bit. You feel like you are buried by a flood of music and emotion. This flows into 'A Simple Lullaby'. This track utilizes layers of guitars to create a melodic wall which is underlayed by what seem like crowd noises. After a while, the drums come in with the guitar laden melody. The band 'Blue Oyster Cult' used to talk about an orchestra of guitars, but this is the sound that I always imagined an orchestra of guitars would make. Vocals come in later, but they are down deep in the wall of sound and just become part of the overall musical effect. The song might be a simple lullaby and in theme, it might be a lullaby, but it is quite loud with all of these layers of sound.

'Sunrise' is a more basic sound, the wall of sound stripped away and a nice melodic guitar line with plenty of keys and this song flows quite nicely. It is a short intermezzo and then another heavy riff brings in the track 'Notes from Africa'. This one features a funky bass behind the other layers of sound. Regular vocals finally come back for the first time since 'Judgement' and the sound is a bit more straightforward for this one, but it is once again a very catchy rhythm and memorable melody. The song is driven by contrasting vocal layers later. The music fades off at 5 minutes and you are left with peaceful sounds of water and birds. The last track is hidden behind this track and is called 'Sunshine and Happiness' with vocals by guitarist Brian Waddell and keyboardist Dave Young. It's a nice surprise and a fun rocking track, which could have worked well as a single, short and fun.

This album is another great DT album with a lot of styles that have been give the Devon Townsend treatment. It may be just a tad more accessible than some of his albums, at least that's what they say, but I find it just as satisfying and great as most of his other albums. The overall feel is heavy, but it is definitely Devin, with lots of emotion, surprises and stylistic changes throughout. It's another great effort from Townsend and in the end, that is a wonderful thing.

TCat | 4/5 |


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