It should be no secret by now that Hevy Devy is my biggest influence and musical hero. As fanboy-ish as I am, I'm fully aware that Devin Townsend has had his share of ups and downs in his post Strapping Young Lad career. While many people say that he is losing his touch with 2014's Z2 (which I wholeheartedly disagree with), he has yet to let the influence of social media bashers dictate what he is going to write. What I admire so much about him is that he write the music he wants to write and if there is any pandering of any kind, it's only to himself. 2016 brings on the 7th studio release from The Devin Townsend Project (8th if you separate Sky Blue and Dark Matters), Transcendence. Devin says this album is a representation of where he is now at 44 years old. So what could that possibly be at this stage of his career? Part III of the coffee drinking, farting, alien of the Ziltoid trilogy? A Dubstep R&B album that is about to reach his first number 1 album in the states? A Strapping Young Lad album that for legal reasons couldn't be called Strapping Young Lad and it takes the DTP moniker? No, none of those. Let's see where Dev's mind is at in 2016...
The album starts with a throwback to the seminal 1998 album, Infinity with a remake of the classic Devin Townsend song, and live staple, Truth. The first thing you will notice is that everything is crystal clear. You hear synth sounds and guitar soundscapes you never noticed before in the original. Another big change is the "hallelujah" section is actually much more mellow than the original, to make the ending much more dynamic. With that said, the song is also an additional minute longer than the original. When you normally think you'd hear Christeen kicking in, you hear Devin sing over the held out synth sounds, bringing things into a bit of peace in the world ending with the words "everything has changed" before leading into the next song, Stormbender. This song is a much more mellow track than a typical DTP rocker would be. It has a Storm meets Midnight Sun feel that brings out a lot of emotion, particularly in the chorus. After the first chorus, it begins to go into a nutty Dev style riff playing over a mellow backdrop. The bridge brings a lot of emotional with it as well. The final chorus brings in a choir in the background to emphasis the epicness of the song and brings it to a glorious end. The song ends with slowly fading away guitar and soundscapes leading into the band's first single for the album, Failure. This song is a great choice as a single for the album. It features Dev's signature chugging riffs, but it's over very melodic and mellow movements by the rest of the band. This features the band going in a bit of a different direction than done before. Devin has mentioned that this was a song that was written by the entire band, so that would explain a lot. It's great to see this kind of experimentation in songwriting shine through. The solo sounds like if Frank Zappa did a solo over Deadhead. Again a great representation of where the band is at now. Secret Science starts off with an acoustic and electric guitar riff over synths. This riff continues as Devin brings is vocal style to give it a Accelerated Evolution meets Epicloud feel to it. Unless she does the backup vocals on Truth, this is the first appearance of Anneke Van Giersbergen on vocals. Ryan Van Poederooyen absolutely shines on this song with a killer syncopated double bass drumbeat showing off that double bass can be used in a more mellow song. Some of the drumfills shown off here are astounding. The chorus brings things to a new level of epicness with a grand display of emotion with double bass over top. The solo in this song and the instrumental bridge is one of my favorite moments on the album. The next song up is Higher. This is the longest track on the album at 9:40. It starts with amazing clean vocals and a beautiful guitar riff. You just imagine sitting on the beach, drinking a beverage and enjoying the sunset....until it kicks into one of the heaviest riffs on the album. around the 2:40 mark is where the song gets to really explore more of the progressive territory, heavily shown by RVP's insane style of drum patterns. The middle section of the song brings on the heaviness once again in one of the best riffs that Gojira didn't write yet. The song then kicks into full blown epic chaos with easily the most intense moments on the album. The entire band is on absolute heavy metal fire in this whole section. Then out of nowhere, they kick into possibly the slowest breakdown section I've ever heard them play. If Dimebag was still with us, this section would make him proud. The song eventually builds back up and brings it all back into a grandiose ending that it rightfully deserves. The second half of the album starts with the song, Stars. This one is starts off more faster paced than most of the album so far, but then brings it back into a more mellow territory that has become synonymous with the DTP on recent albums. The chorus brings this into a more proggy territory while keeping that melodic dynamic that we all crave. The instrumental break and bridge after the chorus is another pure highlight of the album. really the whole last half of the song is brilliance. Anneke does some light vocals over the end of the song. While it's fading, it leads into the title track of the album, Transcendence. This leads with RVP doing a monstrous, yet tasteful, tribal drum pattern. When the song kicks in it makes you feel like you are standing on the top of the Himalayas looking upon the world below you. This song starts to feature Anneke a bit more than the rest of the album so far. the middle section of the song brings things back to a very Infinity style mixed in with some gorgeous guitar leads. The end of the song leads to a lot of chaos that brings things coming at you at full speed and ready to explode and ends on some pretty soundscapes. A simply beautiful song. Next up is Offer Your Light, which I'm honestly amazed is not the first single as it had Top 40 Rock potential written all over it. This has a gigantic pop metal for it in the vein of Amaranthe, which is a great thing. It's worth noting that this has the most presence of Anneke on the album. It's odd saying this is the fastest overall song on the album, even at almost 4 minutes, this song simply blazes by in all it's catchy glory. If this song doesn't get them on Top 40 Rock radio, nothing will. From the Heart starts off very light and gleaming in positivity. The verse riff is very grand and rich with a pre-chorus that is beyond catchy. The chorus shines with glory as if the heavens above are beaming light on you. While an overall slow and epic feeling in the first half of the song. The song goes into more gorgeous territory in the second half of the song. It feels like a more dynamic segment on Ghost or Ki. This section puts your mind completely at ease and makes you realize that things in life are not that bad. The album closes with She Talks To Angels.....I mean Transdermal Celebration! (Seriously, you can NOT miss The Black Crowes inspired acoustic riff. The song is the most mid-tempo on the album. This song is beyond catchy. It's the right mix of uplifting and radio friendly while staying true to the DTP sound. But then...a twist! The song finishes over half way through the track leading into piano and soundscapes that when you close your eyes, you feel as though all the cosmos of the universe is passing by you. It eventually fades out, you open your eyes and you are in a much better state of mind than when you started the album!
This is not the album I was expecting this time around from The Devin Townsend Project. I honestly was expecting more of a hard rockin', kick to the face with melodic attitude that the last few DTP albums have showcased. This is a very relaxing, melodic, intense, and sometimes wacky album that fans of Infinity, Accelerated Evolution and Epicloud will enjoy immensely. If there is a downside to find in the album, it is the lack of Anneke on vocals. Although upon repeated listens, you learn that she is used in the right doses for this album. She brings on the female vocal soundscape in that great way she always does. Devin Townsend has yet to fail me as a fan. As mentioned above, I know I'm a fanboy (and proud of it), but if I couldn't enjoy this album, I would be totally honest about it. This is the album you put on in the night time right before you get ready for bed. It puts you in such a relax mood that you feel at peace with yourself and you can rest up for the next day. While as mellow as this album is in comparison to previous DTP albums, there is no shortage of dynamics throughout. While this album may not win back fans who have written off Devin since he broke up SYL, this will make fans like those who truly love and and appreciate DTP VERY happy!
Devin Townsend Project- Transcendence available September 2nd through Inside Out Music
That Drummer Guy: Radio DJ, Interviewer, Reviewer, overall...an OK guy.