DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT
As emotionally personal and introspectively cathartic as Devin Townsend's music has always been for the man, it's proved, time and again, to be a transcendent experience for others. Ubiquitous critical acclaim for the consistently high standard he maintains in his work, as well as an unmitigated adoration for everything he does among his ever-widening global fanbase, is evidence of such. Therefore, the title of his latest album under the, now long-running, Devin Townsend Project guise, is rather apt - 'Transcendence'. It could be interpreted as autobiographical for Devin himself, as a statement of his always evolving, genuinely progressive aesthetic; and an outward expression of precisely what others take from his art in their own interpretations and love of his musical individuality and innovatively progressive journey. Devin's music is, without a doubt, transcendent.
Opening with a big slap of familiarity for longtime Devy devotees, a re-worked version of 'Infinity' track 'Truth' kicks things off in spectacularly epic, albeit déjà vu, fashion. There's transcendence right there, as this new rendition most definitely transcends its 1998 counterpart. More expansive in its sonic depths than the original, this new version is simply awesome. Of course, recycling older material is nothing new for Devin as he's previously reworked 'Ziltoid the Omniscient' track 'Hyperdrive' for 'Addicted', and lifted 'Kingdom' from 'Physicist' for a re-recording with added zest and heavier bite on 'Epicloud'. As he proclaims in the lyrics of 'Earth Day': "Recycle... Recycle..."! While helping transform the man's sonic universe into one big, overtly intertextual whole, for the 'Infinity' enthusiasts out there, it will undoubtedly also prove a little jarring, at least on the initial listen, when 'Truth' isn't followed by 'Christeen'. However, this isn't merely about recycling old tunes. It is this, of course, but it seems to be Devin discovering new, apposite contexts for established pieces of music; sometimes, years after he originally composed them, as is the case here. And making them even more expansive and epic in their delivery.
Of the other tracks on this lengthy album (which were, apparently, pared-down from a whopping sixty!), they're generally heavy and intense, but without in-your-face intensities à la Strapping Young Lad, or 'Physicist', or 'Deconstruction'. This is an album more about sema than soma; one that feels introspective rather than extroverted bombast. It's emotionally and epically heavy. And while many of the instrumentations are the usual rich tapestry of fused elements, this time, entire songs feel like emotionally-charged crescendos, rather than breaking out into moments of climax. It's almost as if the album's one big climax throughout... or, at the very least, always on the verge of climaxing. As such, 'Transcendence' packs some serious epic punch and, well... transcends its own compositional core through the skilful arrangements, production, mix and execution of the music itself. Of course, it's not all that way - 'From the Heart' feels like a more laid-back number, as does 'Secret Science' in parts. And the album's lengthy, ambient outro during the last two thirds of closing track 'Transdermal Celebration' delivers a final message of serenity, despite a degree of latent menace bubbling away in the sonics.
Apparently, 'Transcendence', in its conception, was not so much the autonomously controlling experience as his previous works, as Devin permitted input from others into his usually guarded creativity; predominantly, from his DTP brethren. The music on the album is still idiomatically Devin through and through although, dare I say, it's a little more expansive and diversified here. However, as he progresses and evolves with his own sound anyway, with each new release, it's difficult to tell the overall impact of opening up his creativity to peripheral input. Plus he's been playing with the DTP guys for so long now, that they would have, undoubtedly, been instinctively aware of just what does and doesn't work within the context of a core Devin composition. And a trio of female voices contribute on this new one, so we're treated to wonderful performances from longtime participator Anneke Van Giersbergen, Casualty of Cool's Ché Aimee Dorval and Katrina Natale (who, I believe, was last heard on 'Ghost'), as well as a five-person male/female choir called Tigers In A Tank.
As usual, the production and mix are magnificent. In particular, drums have been authentically captured and given just enough bite and polish so as not to take away from Ryan Van Poederooyen's original performance. Guitar sounds are also amazing, both rhythm and lead, which are incredibly warm and lush. The tonality of the lead guitar on the beautiful solo in 'Secret Sciences' is particularly sublime. In fact, the whole thing is a warm and lush listening experience on what is, in essence, a truly beautiful album. Then again, listening to Devin Townsend is always a transcendent experience, and this new one is no exception. While 'Transcendence' might be just a whisker away from Devin and the DTP's finest, most flawless work, this is still mightily phenomenal stuff, and it's still (nearly all) the cat's whiskers of an album.
Review by Mark Holmes
9th Sept 2016
4) Secret Sciences
8) Offer Your Light
9) From the Heart
10) Transdermal Celebration
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"...listening to Devin Townsend is always a transcendent experience, and this new one is no exception."