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Devin Townsend - Devin Townsend Project: Transcendence CD (album) cover

DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT: TRANSCENDENCE

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.57 | 84 ratings

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FragileKings
Prog Reviewer
3 stars "Transcendence" is the seventh installment in the Devin Townsend Project discography and was released earlier this month. After a highly prolific release period from 2009 to 2014, which included the original four DTP albums, a live album, a box set of the four albums and live album and two discs of bonus material, a fifth DTP album "Epicloud", the Casualties of Cool album that had a special edition with an extra disc of bonus material, and the double album of DTP's "Sky Blue" and the Ziltoid sequel "Zed Squared", Devin Townsend prepared for a live performance of Ziltoid at the Albert Hall and then took a much-needed rest. On his web site he wrote that he had several ideas brewing for new albums including a project where he would play only bass guitar and another project that would include an Icelandic choir among other things. No matter what was to come, no one could be sure exactly what the Mad Man of Metal was going to do next, especially after surprise albums like "Ki", "Ghost" and "Casualties of Cool" which were so different from his more established, very loud wall of sound, aggressive pop metal approach.

At first I was a little disappointed with this album because it was exactly another installment in the very loud wall of sound aggressive pop metal approach. As we've heard on albums like "Terria", "Infinity", "Epicloud" and even "Zed Squared", Devin and the band play loud and layered heavy guitar music with a triad of screamed vocals that could make a poltergeist crap itself, soaring operatic vocals, and gentle vocals that could put a cranky baby to sleep. Guest vocalist Anneke Van Giersbergen, a regular on DTP releases, appears once again, though this time she takes less of a lead role than on "Addicted" and "Sky Blue". The music is generally a blend of aggressive heavy music and variations of adult contemporary progressive pop (by that I mean no bee-bop, bubble gum pop) but all filtered through the concept of overcoming lack of confidence and a tendency toward self-deprecation, hence the title and theme of "Transcendence".

As with "Epicloud" and perhaps even more so with "Sky Blue", the ultra heavy/aggro sound that Devin is known for at times is restrained here and only brought out in special moments that require that angst effect. There's actually a lot of acoustic guitar here compared to the other two albums mentioned above in this paragraph and even when the heavy electric guitars are thundering away it's possible to pick out the strummed acoustic guitar in some tracks. By the end of the album there's a noticeable change in direction toward lighter music with some very pleasing and beautiful moments. Of course, Devin's music often has what I call the audio equivalent of the swimming pool chlorine effect, which is because when I was a kid, after coming out of the pool I could see hazy rainbows around any light sources because of the chlorine in the water. Devin's mixing approach has a hazy, nebulous, echoing cloud of sound around the vocals, keyboards and guitars, and there's no exception here.

As I stated earlier, I was originally disappointed and that was because I had been expecting possibly hearing something really new and refreshing instead of what I quickly concluded was part three in the trilogy of "new" DTP albums that includes "Epicloud" and "Sky Blue". Remember that the original concept of the Devin Townsend Project was to release four distinctly different albums which is what we got with "Addicted", "Ki", "Deconstruction", and "Ghost". These latter three follow a more similar formula which could be considered the Devin Townsend style of the 2010's. However, after the third and fourth listen through, I found myself enjoying this new album more. It also made me want to go back and listen to a variety of songs from Devin's catalogue and I listened to a 58-song mixed playlist that also included songs from his other band, the defunct extreme metal outfit Strapping Young Lad. Thinking about it now, "Transcendence" is very much a Devin Townsend album.

I bought the special edition with a bonus disc called "Holding Patterns" which features two additional completed tracks and a bunch of demos which actually sound good enough to not be called demos (Devin says that demos are prepared ready to hear as they should sound though the songs might still undergo some changes in the mixing before growing out of their demo status). While the songs on "Transcendence" are meant to be based on deeper and more profound notions, the tracks on the bonus disc are a variety of moods including high-speed, aggro metal, pop metal, a song resembling a dance remix of an eighties dance rock song done in DTP style, and a classic rock and roll song with piano but also done in the wall-of-sound, in-your-face style of DTP. There's also an instrumental featuring Devin's lead guitar playing, which is actually very good but he downplays it in the album notes.

Fans of Devin will have nothing to complain about here. It's yet another solid album. Newcomers will be alright to hear this album first, though I personally would recommend starting with "Terria" and "Synchestra". I have been wavering about the star rating, unsure of whether to award four stars or three. I would choose either depending on my feeling at the time of listening to the album. For today, I will give it only three stars simply because I don't feel Devin has given us anything really new. For someone who really has tried to stretch out and create his own distinct concoctions of music, this album is in a way an easy approach for him to follow.

Incidentally, the Japanese edition comes with three additional demo tracks, and I was very tempted to pay the extra 1,000 yen to get them. I really wanted to hear the song called "Sophie's Boobies". But economy and reason got the better of me and I just bought the regular double-disc edition.

FragileKings | 3/5 |

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