Devin Townsend has had a long and storied career in music as both an artist and a producer. He has performed vocals for Steve Vai, heralded projects such as Strapping Young Lad, and has released over twenty albums since the 1990’s. Known as a diverse and talented songwriter, Devin Townsend has a wide array of influences and stylistic tendencies that meld together to form his unique and distinguished sound. His style has roots in metal, but he reaches deep into the wellspring of other genres across the musical spectrum to explore new sonic frontiers. The most recent Devin Townsend Project album is yet another effort by this prolific artist to stretch the boundaries of his creativity and create a unique experience for the listener.
Transcendence is an aptly named and ambitious album which evokes familiarity with the eclectic style of Devin Townsend while also feeling fresh and invigorating. The songs could be described as intricate, colossal, atmospheric, and emotive – In many cases, all of those descriptors at once. From album opener “Truth” onward, Transcendence feels like a harmonious marriage between excellent songwriting, masterful production, and musical exploration. The heavy songs have an earth shakingly massive sound, whereas the lighter ones almost seem like they’re permeating the spaces inside of the skull. The music has been written and produced in such a way that it is incredibly immersive, and I found that I was picking up on new subtleties and nuances the more I allowed myself to sink into it.
One of the things that I liked best about Transcendence is that it feels inspired, as if the music was pulled directly from the aether and given the breath of life. As I listened and re-listened, I found that each song contributed to an exceptional and cohesive whole; yet they each have their own unique life, atmosphere, and feeling. All of the material found on Transcendence has been crafted with care, which really keeps this album fresh after many listens. My own sensibilities found me drawn to the third song -“Failure.” In my humble opinion it was the highlight of an album that is absolutely filled with excellent songs.
I truthfully believe that “Failure” perfectly showcases Devin Townsend Project’s songwriting talents. This song has it all – powerful and multidimensional vocal delivery, a heavy and groovy backbone driving the song forward, delicate layers of atmosphere, and tasteful lead guitar really make this song shine. As of this writing I have listened to it over 40 times, and I might just have to listen to it again after finishing this review.
“Higher” is another standout song that I found myself listening to repeatedly. Over the nearly ten minute runtime, “Higher” employs all kinds of sonic madness to keep you entranced, wondering where the song will take you next. By the halfway point you’ve gone from a slower and softer beginning to a frenzied arrangement of hard hitting guitar chords, technical riffing, and screaming vocals. “Higher” feels chaotic yet deliberate in execution, as if it’s taking you on a journey and telling you to hang on tight.
The latter half of Transcendence doesn’t hit quite as hard, but it is still fantastic. Tracks like “Offer Your Light” feature Devin Townsend trading vocal duties back and forth with Anneke Van Giersbergen, which really adds to the textural diversity of the album. The ballad “From The Heart” features a more personal tone, employing soaring vocals, atmospheric elements, and a relaxed instrumental outro that really helps to cleanse your palate and wind everything down for “Transdermal Celebration” to close out the album.
Devin Townsend has really captured inspiration in a bottle with Transcendence. The songwriting is nothing short of genius, the production is incredible, and afterwards I found myself wishing for more. Outside of a slightly diminished latter half, this album is flawless and an outstanding success for Devin Townsend Project. Just as the album title suggests, his music has truly transcended to an entirely different level.
Notable Tracks: “Failure”, “Stormbending”, “Higher”.
FFO: Scale The Summit, Cynic, Judas Priest.