By Carl Begai
During his latest interview for BraveWords (found here), Canadian vocalist / guitarist / producer and master puppeteer Devin Townsend discussed his new Z² album. It’s another Devin Townsend Project epic, this one divided into two very different parts. Sky Blue (Part 1) is a somewhat melancholy offshoot of the DTP Epicloud record from 2012, while Dark Matters (Part 2) is the highly anticipated and over-the-top continuation of his Ziltoid The Omniscient record from 2007. As a whole, Townsend sees Z2 as a marker for another transition of his creative process, the previous one having been Ziltoid’s debut.
In the interest of not breaking the internet, this portion of the interview featuring Townsend’s take on his current focus was cut from the BraveWords story….
“I was recently in LA for a week. I was down there for an experiment on behalf of myself, the record label and a bunch of people. There’s a producer in LA who has sold 20 million records in the past 10 years and he offered to write a song with me. I went down there and recorded this song, and dude, I fucking hated the experience. I don’t have to put the song out, but this has been learning experience after learning experience. ‘What’s your motivation? What do you need?’ When we first started talking (back in 1995) I did this completely on my own. I was oblivious to the fact people were listening. Now there’s crowd sourcing and all this stuff; every step of the way carries ramifications for whatever decisions I make that are the majority of the job.”
“It’s not that it’s difficult,” Townsend continues. “It’s just that the process of trying to figure out where I am in the world is being helped in large part by me becoming addicted to making records, or whatever the hell happened in the last seven years. You get to a point where your quality of life is shot because you’re doing this inhuman amount of work. In a lot of ways I’m really glad that it happened and that I’ve made too much music for too long because it’s put me in a position where I have to analyze it. I’m not a total idiot, and as I get older the things that keep rearing their head in terms of problems in my life, I have to take notice of them or they just continue. One of them for me is this fascination with productivity that I’ve had for so long. It’s resulted in a type of exhaustion that’s avoidable.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Within 24 hours of the metal press being given advance access to the Devin Townsend Project’s new album, Z², reviews started popping up online. They invariably heralded the highly anticipated double album – split into Sky Blue and Dark Matters – as trademark Townsend musical genius existing on multiple levels of godlike awesomeness. With all due respect to my peers – many of whom are much better review writers than I am – you might want to go back and re-evaluate Townsend’s work and then your own. There’s simply no bloody way anyone gets the Z² album after only a few listens; it’s far too adventurous, emotional, chaotic and occasionally scatterbrained to be able to embrace it as a whole so easily. And indeed, some fans have voiced their disappointment since Z²’s official release. The simple fact is Sky Blue (Part 1) is not the thundering sequel to DTP’s Epicloud album from 2012 it was expected to be, although it does follow some similar lines. Likewise, Dark Matters (Part 2) is a different beast from the original Ziltoid The Omniscient that reared his bug-eyed head in 2007.
For one thing, Dark Matters seems almost kid-oriented as a target audience rather than being metaphorically driven as the Ziltoid The Omniscient album was.
“I think there’s a part of it that’s kid-oriented, but there’s another part to it,” says Townsend. “I’ve demanded a lot of my audience for years. I drew them in with heavy metal and gave them country, new age and ambient music. There’s a part of me that, when the support came, I decided that I did my artsy-fartsy movie (Sky Blue) so I needed to do my Michael Bay-type movie (Dark Matters) and then reconsider what I want to do musically. It’s not that the well is dry, it’s just that it’s been an intense amount of work for an intense amount of time. By finishing up with the Ziltoid thing, in one way it was a conclusion to what started seven years ago. Sure, it’s still metaphor because that’s how I write, but the surface of this is much different. It’s for people to enjoy. I think the Sky Blue element of it is where the emotional aspects of it went because I was frustrated by it, and because some heavy things happened during the making of the record. I listen back to Z² and I’m proud of it, but at the same time there’s a part of me saying ‘Okay, next!’ (laughs).” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Over the last couple months I’ve been subjected to some unsigned bands that have done a great job of knocking me on my ass. Call this Round 1 of what will hopefully be an ongoing column on this site assuming the music continues to grab my attention as these folks have. Read on if yer curious….
Over The Coals out of Vancouver have started make a buzz outside of their regular haunts thanks to the video for the song ‘My Worth’, a track taken from a forthcoming EP. It’s my understanding that they used to have a male singer – YouTube footage supports this – but the addition of one Susie Myers seems to have been the clincher in terms of solidifying the band’s sound. First thing that came to mind when I heard ’em…. it sounds like Strapping Young Lad and My Ruin had a baby. Must be a West Coast thing. It’s impossible to judge them on one song, of chorus, but I like the sound of serious potential
Check out Over The Coals on Facebook here. The video for ‘My Worth’ can be found here. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
“In his music he has the perfect symbiotic relationship between heavy and melody and true emotions and feelings. It’s just so pure and so heavy. When I was singing for the Epicloud album I told him I could hear West Side Story in the music. It’s so fairytale-like but so damn heavy.”
The above comment from vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen with regards to the Devin Townsend Project’s new album, Epicloud – offered during a May 2012 interview with yours truly – could have turned out to be a glaring case of too-close-to-the-music enthusiasm. Understandable given the high of her first successful foray into Hevy Devy’s world with the Addicted record in 2009, but from a discerning open-minded Townsend fan’s perspective her words sum up the album perfectly. It plays with his trademark heavy on a canvas of melody, seemingly executed with a musical stage play in mind, and Townsend clearly unafraid of mixing his not entirely hidden pop tendencies with the crushing metal he’s known for. In fact, he doesn’t give a good goddamn what people think in the grand scheme of things if they choose to dismiss Epicloud as worthless. Townsend made the record for himself and anyone else who gets off on being entertained.
“I think for me, because I spent so many years writing records that threw curveballs at people out of a fear of success or failure, I never really allowed myself to make a record that was just straight up,” says Townsend. “I let myself go on autopilot for this one and I was actually surprised by what came out naturally. When I finished it I sat back and listened to it the same way I did with Alien (Strapping Young Lad), and I was thinking ‘What the hell did you make here?’ (laughs). I just allowed myself to write a bunch of stuff that seemed to be appropriate, and when all was said and done my first reaction was that Epicloud was too vulnerable, too exposed. They were going to kick me out of the Chess Club for not being progressive. I thought I was going to get lambasted for doing something like this.” Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Devin Townsend has never been shy about his love for, as he puts it, the “big dumb rock record.” Trace his career back to the beginning and even when his tripwires n’ landmines Strapping Young Lad playground was his ground zero, Townsend was plenty capable of taking a lighter approach to getting his message(s) across. Hell, his first real foray outside the box with Punky Brüster in ‘96 put the “F.U.” in “fun” for all eternity. Songs like ‘Life’ (Ocean Machine), ‘Bad Devil’ (Infinity), ‘Slow Me Down’ (Accelerated Evolution), ‘Vampira’ (Synchestra), ‘Sunshine And Happiness’ (Synchestra) and ‘Bend It Like Bender’ (Addicted) are solid examples of his upbeat tendencies – at least as far as the music is concerned – all of which are worthy starters as a build up to Epicloud’s monstrous rock n’ soul delivery.
And there’s nothing dumb about it.
Call Epicloud the bigger, more emotional, deeper, curveball-throwing sibling to the stellar Addicted record. In what amounts to theater for the ears, Epicloud is an album of scene-by-song contrasts. For all the heavy – and there’s plenty of it – Townsend takes the all too common “You can’t do that in metal” mentality and chucks it out the locomotive window. Case in point with the gospel choir that kicks things off with ‘Effervescent!’ and sticks around for a good chunk of the record: symphonic metal be damned, you’ve never heard a choral group sing on a summer cruisin’ pseudo-punk tune with “bullshit!” as part of their score.
Anneke van Giersbergen makes a grand return as Townsend’s female counterpart, dishing out lead vocals and trading backing harmonies as required, up front no less than 50% of the time. Even half way through the album it’s hard to imagine what Epicloud would sound like without her. It certainly wouldn’t be as in-your-face as it is, and that’s without taking anything away from Townsend’s vocal performance, his band (Waddell / Van Poederooyen / Young) or wall of sound production values. Hard to pick where she shines brightest, though I was partial at press time to her performances on ‘True North’, the pop-ish ‘80s feelgood groove of ‘Save Our Now’ (reminiscent of her latest solo album Everything Is Changing), and the crushing metal assault of ‘More!’ in particular. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Anneke van Giersbergen is the personification of positive energy.
People that remember her as the vocalist for The Gathering wouldn’t think so given the melancholic nature of the band’s music, but her latest solo album Everything Is Changing is a rock oriented journey fused with generous doses of pop music, light-hearted and almost playful in its execution. It was therefore appropriate that this interview took place on a warm and sunny day outside the venue where she was performing that night, ultimately delivering a show reflecting her upbeat state of mind. It was one of several gigs lined up for the remainder of 2012, and while Anneke refers to her schedule as being “murderous” on occasion, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It looks very busy, and we are very busy, but when I was with The Gathering we toured way more than I do now. Usually I don’t tour more than two weeks at a time. It’s a balancing act. Every Sunday that we’re home, we (Anneke and husband / drummer Rob Snijders) look at this kind of mathematical schedule and try to figure out how the hell we’re going to fit everything we have to do into one week (laughs).”
Although she left The Gathering in 2007 there are plenty of people that only clued into Anneke’s work as a solo artist with the release of Everything Is Changing. She has in fact been quite active since her departure, releasing a total of four albums under the Agua de Annique banner before deciding she wasn’t doing herself any favours using a band name. It turns out that while the group dynamic was a comfort zone for Anneke, it was also something of a crutch and often confusing for the fans.
“That’s exactly why I dropped the band name. Nobody got it. And the thing is, it was only a name because for some reason when I left The Gathering, the first thing I did was come up with a band name even though I was going solo. I think it was just because I was used to being in a band. I hand-picked the people who work with me and it’s my band, but I’m a solo artist, so it’s a curious thing. Maybe it was a case of being a little bit shy at the beginning, because to go out under your own name is tough. I also thought that the name Anneke van Giersbergen would be a tough name for people abroad…” Continue Reading
Fasten your seatbealts for another year. And with it comes more noise to piss off the neighbours, annoy the kids, and make your significant think very seriously about soundproofing his or her personal space…
As most people know, Woods Of Ypres frontman and founder David Gold was killed in a car accident on December 21st, 2011. It’s a tragic loss for his family, friends, any anyone that was a fan of his music.
I’ve posted a tribute to David, who was a good friend. It can be found here.
David’s family is selling the remaining Woods merchandise on hand, with all proceeds going directly to fund his funeral costs. Items remaining are as follows:
– Woods 1
– Woods 2
– Woods 3
– Independent Nature (Best Of Woods 1-3)
– signed Allure vinyl
– signed Home vinyl
Send your order along with your shipping address to David’s PayPal address at firstname.lastname@example.org. Note that his sister Marie is in charge of all orders, so this is 100% legitimate. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Devin Townsend has been on and off the road for the past year pushing his “this was me, this is where I’m going” tetralogy, kicked off by the Ki album and yanked into motion with Addicted in 2009. At press time he was gearing up for the release of Deconstruction and Ghost, totalling four very different records that scared the hell out of a large part of his fanbase.
“It’s funny,” laughs Townsend. “I think of the whole process of these four records – and granted, I’m completely self-centered when it comes to why I write because I’m not catering to what people want (laughs) – a lot of it came down to confronting a fear I had of myself and my own process. I remember years ago, I was always second guessing what I did under the assumption of ‘How are people going to perceive this?’ These four records, the whole thing was saying ‘Fuck it.’ If I’m accountable to myself in terms of trying to be the best person I can be, if I let it flow naturally, there’s no more that needs to be said. What I can say about these four records is that there’s nothing on them conceptually or lyrically that I can’t stand behind.”
Which brings Townsend to the point he’s been trying to make since the release of Ki; there won’t be another Strapping Young Lad album. Talk of Deconstruction being the heaviest, craziest music he’d ever written – a claim made by Townsend and several people around him – had fans thinking it would be SYL music under a different name. Turns out it’s anything but that. Continue Reading
By Carl Begai
Small town Ontario has given the world big name pop stars Shania Twain (Windsor) and Avril Lavigne (Napanee), and coughed up metal artists that have received international recognition including Helix (Kitchener), Kittie (London), James LaBrie (Penatanguishine), Sebastian Bach (Peterborough), Woods Of Ypres (Sault Ste. Marie) and Protest The Hero (Whitby). Add to this list one Cory Manahan from Keswick, a 17-year-old shredder / singer out to make extreme metal a little more dangerous. His debut album, Commence was released in 2010, quickly marking him in and around Toronto as an up-and-coming talent to watch. It also makes him a little intimidating when one considers the high level of creativity coming from a teenager, following in the footsteps of some of metal’s finest.
For the record, Commence is clearly influenced by modern metal-edged acts such as Slipknot and Lamb Of God, but there’s no mistaking the old school undertones that put the record on par with some of Manahan’s heroes. No small feat for someone who is still learning the ropes.
“I got my first guitar for Christmas when I was 10 or 11,” Manahan begins, “and I started with playing early Zeppelin and Sabbath. When I was about 14 I started getting into the more extreme metal, and I’ve been listening to everything since. And playing and practicing. The first couple years that’s all I did, 12 hours a day. I’m such a nerd (laughs).” 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