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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 | 320 ratings
Ocean Machine - Biomech
1997
3.69 | 225 ratings
Infinity
1998
2.92 | 164 ratings
Physicist
2000
4.20 | 658 ratings
Terria
2001
3.88 | 251 ratings
The Devin Townsend Band: Accelerated Evolution
2003
2.14 | 90 ratings
Devlab
2004
4.08 | 348 ratings
The Devin Townsend Band: Synchestra
2006
2.45 | 87 ratings
The Hummer
2006
4.14 | 588 ratings
Ziltoid The Omniscient
2007
3.84 | 322 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Ki
2009
3.82 | 343 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Addicted
2009
3.92 | 425 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Deconstruction
2011
3.78 | 347 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Ghost
2011
3.92 | 353 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud
2012
3.90 | 197 ratings
Casualties Of Cool: Casualties Of Cool
2014
3.70 | 156 ratings

2014
3.61 | 130 ratings
Devin Townsend Project: Transcendence
2016
3.93 | 271 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
4.24 | 36 ratings
Ziltoid: Live At The Royal Albert Hall
2015
3.03 | 14 ratings
Ocean Machine - Live at the Ancient Roman Theatre
2018

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

4.59 | 46 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
 Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.92 | 353 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
4.20 | 658 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 | 251 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

 Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.92 | 353 ratings

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Devin Townsend Project: Epicloud
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars In 2009, Devin Townsend started his series of albums released under the Devin Townsend Project. This project still rotated through a changing list of personnel, not really being a project with a regular line up. The 5th album in this series was released in 2012 and entitled "Epicloud". It all came about as Townsend was attempting to write a follow up to the "Ziltoid" album, but everytime he attempted to, he would end up writing what he called a poppy-metal track instead, and realized he still had to get some of these songs out of his system. Soon enough, he had plenty of tracks to fill an album that would come across as a sequel to "Addicted" with many tracks left over to fill up another disc. Townsend is just an amazing song writing phenomenon. You would think that his well would be running dry, but once again, he proves he is a master at music and making every single song an epic sounding track.

This is also what he proves with Epicloud, another bunch of excellent tracks that feature his signature thick and stirring songs that always manage to lift my spirits and rejuvenate my spirits especially during times of being "shut-in" for whatever reason. The album starts off with the first group of tracks definitely sounding a bit more "accessible" than his usual signature sound, but it is still obvious you are getting a dose of the usual "heavy Devy" sound as layers of glorious sound turn what would normally be a pleasant rock song into a work with so many pieces that it sounds like a mega-work. As the album moves on, we also get a few songs that are "ballad-like" and pensive, but they always seem to build into a climax of epic proportions. Things also seem to get more progressive and heavier as the album continues until, by the end of it all, you have no doubt that you are experiencing another major production from Townsend. The use of Anneke Van Giersbergen's vocals by this time has become an expected staple to Townsend's music, giving the songs their needed softer side, though she also holds her own quite well in the heavier tracks also.

Epicloud is not Townsend's best, but it is still an album that most bands would be very proud of if it was done by someone else. In this album, Townsend also utilizes the Marcus Mosely Chorale and The Delisle Vocal Project to also help bring the usual level of exaltation to his music, giving even more personality to certain songs and to the album in general. It's hard to single out any tracks as being highlights as every one of them is something amazing and special.

Once again, not only does Townsend treat us to an amazing album, but he also offers a double disc option that contains a full bonus CD of over 47 minutes of additional tracks that were written and left off of the main album. These all are notated as demo songs, but most of them still sound completely finished and fleshed out. They also add more variety to the overall picture with some of them taking on their own personalities like "Heatwave" with its country-tinged sound (that sounds like it should have been saved for the "Casualties of Cool" album) and the extreme, djent style "Woah No!" As usual, Townsend is just full of surprises in both the regular album and the bonus disc.

The main problem with this album is that it basically seems like a lot of songs that are packed with sound and emotion, and while each one of them taken by itself is an epic track, when put together into an album, it almost seems overbearing that when so much is packed into each song, it is almost too much, and this album also lacks a bit of focus. Townsend's best albums seem to be the ones that have some subject or style to center around, while the slightly weaker ones have tracks that are not necessarily connected as much. Thus this album ends up with a 4 star rating, even though it is an album worthy of consideration among his many of amazing albums. It's not very often that you can buy a Townsend album and be completely disappointed (except in a few cases when he tries to be more ambient and experimental as on the albums "Devlab" and "The Hummer"). If you see this album, it is one you should not pass on in any event. Townsend continues to amaze as usual.

 Empath by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.93 | 271 ratings

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Empath
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by uribreitman

4 stars Amazing production values, some very nice work with choir and orchestra - but still feels like a solo artist trapped in his basement and having too much fun with crazy stuff. Townsend's a genius, but he needs someone to balance his bipolar temper. Some parts are divine, some parts just obnoxious. You can really enjoy his humor, his riffs and his unpredictable transitions - but this mess-of-sound doesn't completely gel into the majestic masterpiece Devin was probably aiming for. So you can clearly enjoy 40-60% percent of this product, but almost nobody can really come to grips with what Devin is throwing at us all the time. The biggest concern is the wacky atmosphere, drowning any attempt to get serious about "Empath". You never know if it's all just a big, fat joke with huge reverb. Devin jumps from Opera to his kitchen to a mainstream guitar riff to some other planet. And the final result is perplexing - fun but not pure fun. You want to get absorbed in every track, but Devin's not willing to play ball with stylistic conventions. In the end, this is a giant theme park of ideas - some of them monstrously original, some of them childish. So I'm not sorry for spending time on this generous CD, but I can't recommend it to everyone. It's just too quaint to be emotionally logical.
 Devin Townsend Project: Deconstruction by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.92 | 425 ratings

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Devin Townsend Project: Deconstruction
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by ssmarcus

4 stars In 2011, Devin Townsend, the veteran progressive metal composer and performer generally known for being unhinged, crafted and released an album that was, well, entirely unhinged. On 'Deconstruction', layered compositional sophistication, extreme metal, and parody live side by side on this audio transcription of Devin's deep-seated madness. Guest performances by legendary prog-metal musicians like Tommy Giles Jr. (Between the Buried and Me), Ihsahn, Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), and Fredrik Thordendal (Meshuggah) among many others would suggest that, for all his madness, maybe Hevy Devy is on to something very real and entirely grounded in our experience. Perhaps upon completing several listens of the 16 minute "The Mighty Masturbator", you too will come to realize the inherit clarity of vision within Devin's insanity.

Desonstruction is NEARLY a masterpeice. Unfortunately, the bloated run time unnecessarily make a muddled mess of some portions of the latter half of the record. Its the price Devin pays for his unflinching indepence from labels.

 Devlab by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2004
2.14 | 90 ratings

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Devlab
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

2 stars When Devin Townsend released his Devin Townsend Band album "Accelerated Evolution" in 2003, he gave us a taste of what was to come in the following year with a bonus disc that was included with the Special Edition version of that album, that was called "Project EKO". It was a 3 track bonus EP that had a very ambient feel to it, very much more experimental, and so very much unlike anything Townsend had ever produced before. Well, this experimental, ambient side of Devin was not the end for that particular personality, because his next album was called "Devlab" and would continue with that strange, experimental side, and it was released in 2004. So, how would those fans of the Heavy Devy sound react to this? Not very well. In fact, many of them had never heard music like this, and made it obvious that they were not happy. But, Devin has his experimental side, and he loves to explore all types of music, so, it wouldn't be the last time he would be so adventurous.

On "Devlab", Townsend would be in charge of writing, producing, and "all that", with an occasional, unnamed guest showing up to help out. This album would have 15 unnamed tracks of varying lengths running for just over 1 minute to over 10 minutes, and overall running for almost 66 minutes. It was quite a risk, but this was what Devin would call his "heavy metal ambience" sound.

Devin's strange sense of humor would start off the album with the first track being a short, introductory track where he says "I'm going to melt you guys" in several varying speeds with layers of happy, crazy music playing behind him. From there, the album continues through a collage of noises, loops, odd recordings, manipulated sounds from various sources and the like, it's basically Devin playing around with recording equipment and synthesizers. There is no melodic quality to any of it, but it is a study in sound manipulation and such. There are some very noisy, chaotic passages and some very ambient and minimal sections. Think of The Beatles "Revolution #9" or Frank Zappa's "The Return of the Son of Monster Magnet" except that this time, it goes on for over an hour. Yet, there is something intriguing about it all, but it is very difficult to listen to all the way through. The best parts are the ambient sections, the noisy bits are just too harsh and annoying.

Townsend is at his best when he sticks with the more traditional form of music, whether it be heavy metal or country music, he is almost always in top form. But this noise just doesn't have much in the way of entertainment value or listen-ability. I can't even consider this an avant-garde classic or an experimental break through, because, in the end, I am sorry to say, that there just isn't enough salvageable material here to even make a single out of. This one is only for completionists or fans, and that's about it.

 Devin Townsend Project: Deconstruction by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.92 | 425 ratings

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Devin Townsend Project: Deconstruction
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by TCat
Special Collaborator Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team

4 stars Deconstruction is Devin Townsend's 13th studio album, and the third of the Devin Townsend Project series. It was released at the same time as the fourth DTP album 'Ghost'. Deconstruction was to be the heavy side of DT while Ghost was the softer side. However, both albums show DT's excellent side as far as his ability to make powerful, emotional and intense music whichever side he presents. He always gives it his all.

Deconstruction is a concept album about a man trying to discover the reality of reality. He goes on a journey and meets the devil who shows him the secrets of the universe, but when he is tempted with a hamburger, he can't eat it because he is a vegetarian. The music on this album is largely chaotic, and it features his usual wall of sound style, but not in a unrelenting way, but more in an 'orchestral' way, which is DT's way of making top level heavy metal music. But having simply a loud and heavy album wasn't enough in this case, he had to add in the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, and enlisted the vocal power of Mikael Akerfeldt from Opeth, Tommy Giles Rogers from 'Between the Buried and Me', Greg Puciato from The Dillinger Escape Plan, Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah (who also provides a guitar solo) and many more extreme metal guests.

The album starts off soft and safe sounding in 'Praise the Lowered', and goes that way for a while before the heaviness gets poured on suddenly. So, it's a great start, but then the emotion, the driving sound of intensity in DT's music goes full bore in the excellent track 'Stand' which is a perfect example of Devin's level of intensity and creative force. And as usual, by this time, I am ready to shout and bang my head right along with him. It's not just the ingenuity of Devin's music that I love, but it is the full power and intensity and also the quality of his music which almost always seems to hit level 11 each time. But, if you don't like growling, let it be known that he growls and shouts here like he hasn't before in DT albums, but the music is more like the over the top metal sound of Strapping Young Lad. Even through all of this heaviness and chaotic sound, you still get his smart use of dynamics. There are still plenty of softer sections, but in this album, it is driven by intensity and power. And man alive do I love it. Plus, it is still heavily progressive, so its got everything that makes DT amazing.

'Juular' goes way over the top in that chaotic heavy metal orchestra style, which even then features a melodic vocal even with the screaming and growling added in. But this track only sets you up for the very progressive and extreme sound of 'Planet of the Apes' which has enormous power from guitar layers, but still manages to fit in the anchoring sound of the synth and even a choral section to give the whole thing another level of drama. There is so much going on in this song that it will take you a while to dissect it and pick up on all of the things going on here. After this 11 minute track of sensory overload, you should know that DT is not taking prisoners, but is out for everyone's throat as he demonstrates what extreme means when it comes to progressive heaviness.

If your ears aren't bleeding after 'Sumeria' which features both Joe Duplantier from Gojira and Paul Masvidal from Death and Cynic, then you have already turned the album off and are only listening to the previous tracks still echoing in the deep recesses of your mind. Featuring the rapid tech delivery on drums from Dirk Verbeuren of Megadeath, this is one of the most intense things DT has every done, and that is saying a lot. But a softer ending leads into a soft beginning of the 16 minute 'The Mighty Masturbator'. After an eerie lullaby of sorts, the track takes off with the hellish chorus and almost operatic vocals from Devin and Greg Puciato. Again, chaos and extremes rule with progressive complexity as more over-the- top sound continues. The sarcastic comedy of DT shows through with some reckless abandon at this point. And even among all of this, DT throws in some crazy surprises all along the way. DT fans will notice the use of various themes on occasion through the album also, like the one at the last part of 'The Mighty Masturbator'.

I must admit, that all of this extremity is hard to take in the first several listens, and this is one DT album that takes some time to grow on the listener. The amount of production, the sheer use of layering and orchestral craziness tends to wear on you until you get more familiar with the music. Personally, I think the best DT albums are the ones with the most variety on them, but even some people think they are too over the top. For me, DT is one of the best of the current progressive artists out there. But I would warn most new listeners to stay away from this album and come back to it later, try to access DT's music through some of his other albums like 'Terria', 'Empath' or 'Epicloud' first, unless you are use to listening to extreme metal. This is definitely one of DT's heaviest solo albums, but I still love it.

 Empath by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.93 | 271 ratings

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Empath
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by ssmarcus

5 stars This is it. This is Devin's Magnum Opus. And given that the man has already released nearly 20 solo records, many of them highly regarded, throughout his two and half decade solo career, this is a staggeringly impressive accomplishment. After all, how many great artists, of any rock genre, prog or otherwise, have been able to release meaningful additions to their discography this far along into their careers?!

Musically, this album is absolutely bonkers. Imagine Disney-musical-worthy passages and songs interspersed with death metal so heavy, it would make Strapping Young Lad blush. And no, this is not some gimmicky hodge-podge of clashing musical ideas. Devin threads them together as well as any great progressive rock composer can. Despite the music's over the top ambition, there is still something so deeply personal about it all. This is best illustrated by the song "Borderlands" ? a prog metal epic about a hard-working family man just trying to stay grounded and avoid the adventurous temptation of an extra marital affair.

I cannot recommend this record strongly enough to metal and non-metal fans alike. This is a journey we all should want to take.

 Empath by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2019
3.93 | 271 ratings

BUY
Empath
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Wicket
Prog Reviewer

4 stars 20 playthroughs and I still can't pick out Chad Kroeger's voice. It's probably just hidden in all the friggin' overdubs and noise saturation there, as usual.

As usual, and yet, not quite. Dropping the "project" moniker for this release, Townsend basically recorded this album as a symbolic two middle fingers to those of us "critics" complaining about his style of over saturation in his music, so he decided to sprinkle it in this album with a heavy dose of schizophrenia and growling.

Now "hevy Devy" is known for being very broad texture-wise due to his bipolar disorder, but never have we truly heard it coalescing together in one album. Indeed, listening to this album from a distance, it sounds disjointed somehow, but each song is composed with a purpose and structure. "Castaway" begins in a tropical matter, with echoes of Hawaii and steel drums before a choir triumphantly brings in "Genesis" with a roar. Right off the bat Townsend refers to his mind and his "fantasy world", with 8-bit samples and soaring soundtrack strings. The chords here down mesh and mush like they did in Transcendence. In essence, those damn near put me to sleep half the time. No, here the chords are jagged and rough. Right away, you realize this is an album you have to sit down and listen to. Right away, you realize Townsend is telling a story and he's going to drag you along for the ride, whether you [%*!#]ing like it or not. With a chorus only repeated once, "Genesis" is an anthem of Townsend's defiance to conform to critic's expectations, an emotion that's carried over into "Spirits Will Collide".

"Evermore" is more a balancing act of graceful waltz-like tempos, triumphant choruses, crunching power chords and a sprinkling of snappy castanets. There's a bit more variety here to sink your teeth into, but so far, so normal. These songs feel like an overture that's long overstayed its welcome, not spazzy enough to be different, but not quite catchy enough like some offerings from Transcendence.

Only when you get to "Sprite" does it start to get interesting. What starts off with what sounds like a fable or poem begins with a very soft and innocent fairytale soundscape. Some fancy drumwork flits and flutters between the strings and keys in the background, like fairies dancing betwixt the moonlight sky (or something like that). It all sounds very trivial and predictable. That's why Townsend lets it marinate for a good two minutes before Elliot Desgagnés (of Beneath the Massacre fame, FYI) barges in growling some sort of beast from between the 6th or 7th ring of hell, presumably playing the "monster" in this peaceful fairy tale (every fairy tale's gotta have a monster).

Then we get to "Hear Me", which is ironic, since it immediately starts with screaming and blastbeats. Yes, I'm pretty sure we can hear that Devin. To me, this is Townsend at his most ferocious since Deconstructed. This is definitely the loudest song off the album, and yet there's something which I can't hear, as previously aforementioned at the start of this review (so if anyone knows exactly when Kroeger [of Nickelback fame, of course] is singing, please feel free to let me know, my ears strain to pick out anything remotely resembling his voice).

Now Townsend's bipolarity are showing in full force. Transition from that to the intro of the classically waltz-like "Why?". This is something I imagine Townsend skipping through a field of roses (and potentially some corpses) in some Wizard of Oz musical type thing. Sprinkle some dissonance here and there and some crunching chords and Desgagnes growling and you're good. Honestly, this is one of the highlights for me. The styles being displayed are outstanding, and the conjunctions never feel jagged or abrupt. They're more akin to surprises a la Haydn's symphony.

So let's jump to a more indie folk pop sound to kick off "Borderlands" (one of my favorite shooters by the by), but now he's going off the rails, some Zappa-esque schitzo arpeggios, atmospheric soundscapes a la Ghost, capped off with more triumphant choruses continuing into the choral, operatic "Requiem". We cap off the album proper with the juggernaut of the lot, "Singularity" which takes its time to build up in that happy, symphonic theme that's been made prevelant since the beginning, but it's interspersed with dark electronic bridges, furious blastbeats (and screaming, obviously), another atmospheric break, some scary guy talking in a robotic voice and what appears to be a pots and pans solo. There are definitely isolated sections with smatterings of spastic guitar licks a la Zappa or Between the Buried and Me, but personally, I wish there was a bit more showmanship, some more solos and showcases and whatnot. The end is also a bit too abrupt for my taste, but the buildup with about 4 minutes left sort of emphasizes the point.

The second disc contains demos, a la Transcendence (aka songs that didn't quite make the final cut). They all have the same sort of theme so I'm not going to bother reviewing each one. Favorites would be "The Waiting Kind", "Methuselah", "Middle Aged Man" and "Summer".

All in all, it's refreshing to see Townsend get a bit of psycho back in his playing. It's a bit of refreshment to liven up an otherwise predictable sound, especially with what he's capable of and what he's produced in the past. One of his finest albums in quite a while, with perhaps a slight knock at the lack of sing-a-long-ability such as tracks of Epicloud or Infinity. Nonetheless, it's a bombastic return to form, and we all have Chad Kroeger to thank for motivating him to stick to his guns and buck the trend.

God, who would've known we'd be thanking Nickelback for indirectly producing a prog gem. You can't make this [&*!#] up.

4.5/5

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

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