By Carl Begai
Z² from 2014 was the Devin Townsend Project’s ambitíous double album split into two very different sonic entities. Hardly a stretch for the man leading the charge, as Devin Townsend’s 20+ year music career is based on diversity, but for some fans it fell well short of some rather high expectations. Compared to other records in the Townsend / DTP catalogue Z² was a tough listen, never quite digging in, although there are some diehard fans that no doubt absorbed every note (naturally) and have already bagged this review as bullshit (naturally). Transcendence is the Devin Townsend Project’s return to form, putting things back in focus and turning in a rather prog-heavy record, opting for songs both long and short over the space of a comfortable 10 tracks.
In what seems to have become a DTP tradition of covering Townsend material, Transcendence kicks off with an updated version of “Truth” from the Infinity album (released in 1998), following up what they’ve done previously with “Hyperdrive” and “Kingdom”. From there we dive into a record reminiscent of the Epicloud album is spots with a very prominent Ocean Machine vibe all the way through. The guitar riffs and tones on “Stormbending” and “Secret Sciences” are positively fat and gorgeous, drummer Ryan van Poederooyen shines on “Failure” and “Higher” with his percussive groove madness on Transcendence’s two most adventurous tracks. “Higher” also happens to be the album’s prog mad centerpiece loaded with crushing guitars, some welcome metal vocal fireworks from Townsend, huge “Grace”-like melodies (see Epicloud), the song seemingly pulling itself in different directions over its nine minute run but ending things intact. The lone up-tempo song, “Offer Your Light” – Anneke van Giersbergen’s in-your-face guest spot – and the “Transcendence” title track are big on Ocean Machine-ry, the latter recalling the magic of tracks like “Funeral” and “Bastard”, although far more upbeat. Closing song “Transdermal Celebration” is indeed the Ween hit dressed up as a DTP track, and you would swear Townsend & Co. wrote it from scratch judging by how well it fits alongside the rest of the material on the album. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
I recently caught up with vocalist / guitarist / producer and fellow Canuck, Devin Townsend, to discuss the release of his long-awaited Deconstruction and Ghost albums; parts three and four of his “this was me” tetralogy. During our chat we discussed the online rumblings about new music he’s working on, currently going under the name Epicloud, and he was remarkably open about the tricks up his sleeve. Perhaps not all that surprising, however, given that he’s been living with the Ki / Addicted / Deconstruction / Ghost foursome for close to four years.
“My wife and the people around me tend to question whether or not it’s in my best interest to just keep writing,” Townsend reveals, “but the writing actually happens regardless of what I do. It’s so automatic at this point that it feels like the process has been integrated so completely into my everyday routine. For example, I wrote a full song yesterday while I wasn’t thinking about it (laughs). I went for a bike ride and I came back with this melody in my head, so while I was thinking about what I was going to do for the rest of the day I spent two hours and just wrote the song. I documented it, made the demo, made the session, so when I come back to actually making a record there are all these songs that just happened alongside my daily routine. Not only do I find that it’s very natural, but it’s also very relaxing for me to write.”
During an interview we did for BW&BK back in 1997, Townsend described a similar music-in-control writing process for his Ocean Machine album, although it doesn’t seem as intense these days.
“I think it’s the same idea, but I’ve definitely learned in my mind not to hold on to it as much as I had before. At the time I was doing Ocean Machine the ideas were so precious to me that I falsely made the assumption that if I didn’t actualize it without that level of intensity that I’d lose it. What I’ve found is that if it’s a good idea it’ll be there. The level of intensity that existed during Ocean Machine also didn’t have the benefit of the control over technology that I’ve managed to acquire over the past 20 years. So now, when it comes to putting an idea down I can get it out really quickly.” Continue Reading
(Click here for my May 13th, 2009 interview with Devin about the Ki album)
By Carl Begai
Devin Townsend’s last album, Ki, was a clear message that his beloved Strapping Young Lad was indeed dead and buried. Capping off two years of self-imposed silence, the laid back and atmospheric record seemed better suited to a university poetry reading or smokey after hours blues club than the catalogue of someone known for making authentic Norwegian black metal seem tame. Townsend was and remains unapologetic for the scare, and as promised he’s followed Ki up with the second installment of his unofficial Circle Of Hevy Devy’s Life four album exercise under the Devin Townsend Project moniker. And while it’s safe to say that very few people saw it coming, the appropriately titled Addicted may well be one of his strongest outings to date. It depends, of course, on how much one has enjoyed (or not) Townsend’s work outside the Strapping Young Lad demolition derby over the past 15 years, but anyone who is a fan of the man’s diversity as a singer, songwriter and straight-up musical talent won’t go away disappointed. If you do, check to see if your heart is still beating.
“It’s funny. I was talking to a friend of mine at ESP Guitars recently and he said that he didn’t understand why, if I do a record that has the potential to go somewhere, that I can’t keep doing that,” says Townsend. “I tried to explain to him that my process is automatic. I don’t think about it, I don’t preconceive it, and when I write songs I can literally sit down at my computer, turn it on and start writing. If someone left me there and gave me the chance to pee and eat I could have a record a month later. And I wouldn’t know what it was about. Continue Reading
The Great Canadian Curveball is back. Not a reference to Townsend’s neatly shaped skull, rather a tribute to his ability to change gears from album to album without losing his fanbase or footing as one of metal’s / music’s most original contributors. Addicted is part 2 of Townsend’s four part musical journey through all things Dev, picking up the pace considerably from the quietly brilliant Ki album from a few months back. Hatemongers need not apply, however, as Addicted is the big dumb rock record the man warned us about. On top of that, it’s a good spirited big dumb rock record celebrating the stomping foot and banging head and singing-for-the-hell-of-it voice. Lots of heavy crunch, no splatter, and far from weak. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
(Click here for my December 31st, 2009 interview with Devin about the Addicted album.)
The original strapping young lad Devin Townsend is back. And he’s naked.
We’re speaking metaphorically, of course, in reference to his return in the form of a remarkably understated record dubbed Ki. Completely devoid of the camouflage, smoke, mirrors and assorted baggage that enabled him to create the hellfuelled carnage that was Strapping Young Lad, it is the first of a four part introduction to the real Devin Townsend. The initial buzz surrounding Ki has been laced with confusion and some outright negativity due to its mellow nature, leaving fans ponder what might have happened to their revered Hevy Devy during his two year self-imposed hiatus from the spotlight. There are other diehards, however, that have followed him through his non-SYL escapades (Ocean Machine, Physicist, Terria, Synchestra) and embraced Ki as another important step in Townsend’s career.
Ki is also a pointed confirmation that Townsend wasn’t kidding when he announced back in May 2007 that Strapping Young Lad was dead. It was a decision made out of necessity, as according to the press release issued “the last tour (for The New Black) was a real struggle for him to muster any enthusiasm, mostly because SYL was initially created to vent all his frustrations, which no longer exist.” Furthermore, Townsend admitted flat out he was tired of touring and doing interviews, and had no intention or desire to return to the grind although he would release music from time to time. And while there’s little to no chance he’s going to resurrect SYL, Townsend decided in favour of the interview circuit in order to set his rather volatile record straight.