With a career now spanning over twenty years, few musicians can claim to have had as prolific a career as Devin Townsend. With a discography of some eleven albums in the last decade, the Canadian guitarist and frontman can also lay claim to having dabbled in almost every genre, from the crushingly heavy extreme metal of STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, to spaced-out acoustic folk of CASUALTIES OF COOL. His current ‘main’ project (for lack of better phrasing), the eponymous DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT, are now set to release their seventh studio album Transcendence.
Thematically, Transcendence feels much in the vein of 2012’s Epicloud, with colossal-sounding. Opening track Truth (a re-recorded number from 1998’s Infinity) wastes precious little time in building to a huge choir-led crescendo as crunchy guitars chug away in the background. Near-gospel-like in tone, it’s the perfect summary of what this record is all about – building-sized choruses and the most upbeat sounding material Townsend has ever put his name to. First single Stormbending possesses all of these qualities and comes across as the natural successor to something like
Where Transcendence may flounder slightly however, is in that it simply feels at times like one continuous piece. So overwhelming and constant is the bombast of the record that it can begin to feel samey on occasion. That said, when this record really works, it genuinely transcends a lot of Townsend’s other work. Higher straddles the barrier between melody and sheer chaos extremely well, ending up as one of the album’s overall highlights. Producer Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood (of PERIPHERY fame) has clearly found a way to harness Townsend’s vision in a way that truly highlights both aspects of their sound, creating an impressive tone that sounds both toweringly large and complex, and strangely simplistic in melody.
Originally demoed as part of a livestream for music production software company Toontrack in December of 2015, Stars is easily one of the best songs on display in Transcendence. Led by Townsend’s impassioned vocals, it’s a huge ballad that sounds like Epicloud taken to the absolute extreme. Anneke van Giersbergen gives a fantastic vocal performance not only here, but across the entire record – her beautiful tones complementing Townsend’s to near-perfection on the ballad.
Anyone crying out for the sheer lunacy of Townsend’s earliest work need not worry either, as Offer Your Light more than scratches that itch. At just a touch under four minutes long, it’s the shortest track on Transcendence, but also one of the most interesting numbers. Kicking off at breakneck pace, it’s an unrelentingly jaunty piece, led by synths and more akin to power-metal than anything else. Keyboard player Mike St-Jean is clearly having a blast, and his letting-loose over the vocal interplay of Townsend and van Giersbergen is simply a joy to listen to.
Another interesting choice on Transcendence comes in the decision to end it with two tracks over eight minutes in length. Townsend has always been unashamedly clear with his artistic vision, and this pair illustrate that extremely well. Penultimate number From The Heart is arguably overly-lengthy, but it does enough overall to remain interesting. Capping off the record meanwhile is, somewhat unusually, a cover of Transdermal Celebration by Pennsylvania alt-rockers WEEN. Subdued in its power and beautifully melodic, it feels almost entirely at contrast with much of what precedes it, however it’s still a strong performance from the whole band, and one that proves they’re more than capable of paying homage to their peers in impressive style.
On the whole, Transcendence is another incredibly strong record from Townsend. By opening up the creative floor to his band for the first time, the bandleader has managed to construct his most cohesive-sounding piece of work in some time. If indeed the rumours are true, and this does turn out to be the final release from the DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT, then they’ve certainly gone out on a high.
Transcendence is out now via HevyDevy Records.
For more information on Devin Townsend like his official page on Facebook.