I’m gonna warn you guys right off the bat with this one. I may a bit ultra-biased in my assessment of this record. Whenever I’m asked who my favorite musical artist is in general, the answer that usually comes out is Devin Townsend. So many of my favorite records of all time have had the involvement of Hevy Devy, from Strapping Young Lad’s psychopathic masterpiece City, to his collaboration with Che Doorval, Casualties of Cool, an album that takes such a bizarre concept as spooky space country and displays an inherent brilliance not found in any other record. The dude is a genius. Everybody’s said that by now, but it’s worth reiterating. Comparisons with Frank Zappa often come up, and while Devin’s music generally doesn’t sound like Zappa’s, but his prolific nature and genre-busting antics certainly warrant the connection.
The Devin Townsend Project, which is the band he’s been playing with for the better part of seven years now, while dabbling in the weird genre-bouncing for the first 4 or so albums, has sort of settled into a variation on Devin’s trademark wall-of-sound symphonic metal sound. The last DTP album, Sky Blue (which came bundled with Dark Matters, the sequel to his 2007 bizarro concept album Ziltoid the Omniscient) was the first new Devin album since I’ve been a fan that I really couldn’t get into. With the exception of a few tracks like “Fallout” and “Silent Militia”, the album seemed to shoot for the brilliance of the gospel-choir, upbeat metal of Epicloud, but falling sort of short of the euphoria that album came with. After a reportedly stressful gestation for Sky Blue and Dark Matters (both albums being recorded at the same time), the man decided to take a year off and just let the new album come a little more naturally. The result is Transcendence, and thankfully, Devin and his band sound more energized here than they have in a few years.
While not quite matching the high-flying choruses of Epicloud or the earth-shaking stomp of Addicted!, the project here decides for less of an attack, and more of a flow. The tracks feel more like movements than individual songs, with one sort of picking up where the last left off. Whether this was intentional or just a by-product of really good sequencing is unclear, but with Devin hinting at an upcoming, entirely symphonic project in the works on his social media, this almost seems like a practice round for that sort of composition style. The orchestral elements have certainly been dialed up on this record, the first track “Truth” especially, a mostly instrumental overture for the record with massive horn stabs alongside the metallic guitar assault. I’d almost dare to say that this record is a touch more “prog” than Sky Blue or Epicloud, although not in the intentionally nutty way that the Ziltoid albums were.
One of the first things that really hit me with this album was how much clearer the mix was here than on past DTP records. Mixing one of Devin’s albums seems like an intimidating prospect, given the amount sheer amount of instrumentation and ambience that is pumped into any given song. Usually he would just produce and mix the records himself, but this time Nolly from Periphery was brought onboard to engineer the record, and in my opinion, a sharper, leaner sound comes through, especially when it comes to the drum sound, which cuts through the swamp of synths and guitars with ease this time around. The all around tempo is kept pretty slow this time around, with the notable exception of “Offer Your Light”, which ramps the instrumental baking up to a much quicker pace than the surrounding songs
This could very easily be dismissed as just another DTP record, but that would be a mistake in my opinion. Back around the release of, I saw an interview of Devin in which he sounded sort of worn out by the amount of work that had to go into making Z2 happen, and I think a bit of that wear went into the sound of that record. It may be really presumptuous of me to assume that much based off the contents of one interview, but still, that’s the feeling I got. I don’t really hear that tiredness in this record. There’s an enthusiasm I hear in this that’s pretty refreshing, given the oddly somber Sky Blue and the brilliant yet emotionally draining Casualties of Cool. I think you’ll come out of this one with a happy feeling, especially with the Ween cover that ends the record. I think you’ll really enjoy this if you go out on a sunny day and just take it all in.
-Offer Your Light
-From the Heart
Released September 8th, 2016 on HevyDevy Records