DEVIN TOWNSEND DISCUSSION-VIVOR 2018: Round 5 - Infinity

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Night Prowler

Customer Deathcycle Manager
Staff member
Welcome to the first Devin Townsend Survivor!

This game will have a different format compared to my other Survivors, because discussion will be the focus instead of voting (but there will still be voting!).

You will be able to vote for your favorites from each album during the discussion part and after we're done discussing every release, the songs which had votes (or most of them, depending on how many there'll be) will qualify for the Survivor part. This is because there are 24 studio albums and it'd take ages to do it the old-fashioned way, plus we won't have so many voters anyway, so eliminating songs would take a while. If a song isn't anyone's favorite, there's no point in including it in the Survivor part. So while the voting limit will be limited to maximally half of the songs from the album, vote only for songs you like (although, try to pick at least one from each album even if you don't like the album).

Every single studio release from Devin's main 7 projects will be covered: Strapping Young Lad, Punky Brüster, Ocean Machine, Devin Townsend, The Devin Townsend Band, Devin Townsend Project and Casualties Of Cool. I will also list all the bonuses and live albums from these bands to properly cover Devin's entire discography, and we will discuss those too.

This game will take a while. Not all of these albums will be liked by everyone. If you never heard anything Devin recorded, don't get dissuaded from the game until we at least reach Ocean Machine (which is the 4th album). His early releases with Strapping Young Lad aren't really well produced, accessible or representative of his music. If you don't have time for full reviews, just short comments and/or voting is still appreciated. If you miss a few rounds, you can also drop back in whenever. I'll try to post YouTube links for every round too.

I think moving on to a new album every 7-10 days is enough. Obviously if life gets in the way, rounds might last longer. Since this is the first round, I'd suggest you to post that you'll participate so that I can wait for you to vote/post before I move on to the next album :)
 

Night Prowler

Customer Deathcycle Manager
Staff member
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Devin Townsend started his career as a singer in Steve Vai's band and later as a guitarist for The Wildhearts. After those stints, he said that he had been a "musical whore", spending the first five years of his career working at the behest of other people. He got an offer from Roadrunner Records which was later rescinded when record label head heard the music which he labeled as "noise" (which is probably true for this album :p). Anyway, Century Media liked it, he signed a 5 album contract and they let him do what he wants. He made this album on his own, playing all the instruments and programming the drum machine. He had the help of a few session musicians, of which the notable ones were Jed Simon, who later joined the band as guitarist, and Adrian White who played on the Punky Brüster album Cooked On Phonics.

(Songs 11-13 are bonuses)

  1. S.Y.L. - I don't like the techno beats at all... The clean vocal chorus is cool, but it's the only good thing about this song.
  2. In The Rainy Season - Vocal parts are good but music is painfully repetitive for the first 3 minutes or so.
  3. Goat - Unpleasant song to say the least. Super annoying riff and it plods the entire time.
  4. Cod Metal King - Catchy but super annoying and repetitive song with an awful drum machine.
  5. Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.) - Noise. Even Anaal Nathrakh which is just as chaotic has song structures and catchy choruses. Awful drum machine.
  6. Critic - Same as the previous song.
  7. The Filler - Sweet City Jesus - This one is actually OK. Main riff is cool and the song isn't too repetitive.
  8. Skin Me - Just awful. Really unpleasant album to listen to.
  9. Drizzlehell - Awful again.
  10. Satan's Ice Cream Truck - At least it's not another mindlessly aggressive song.
  11. Japan - Cool clean vocal chorus, but overall a super plodding song.
  12. Monday - Sounds like this one wasn't made during the album sessions so production is a bit better, but it's still a bad song.
  13. Exciter (Judas Priest cover) - OK cover, but brings nothing new to the table. Devin Townsend confirms that he's a time traveller by playing The Wicker Man riff at the end of this cover :eek:

Overall: I don't think there will be a worse album in this game. Nothing here makes me want to revisit this album ever again. Too chaotic and immature. Hard to believe the same guy wrote The Death Of Music only 2 years later.
Best song(s) / vote(s): S.Y.L., The Filler - Sweet City Jesus
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
First SYL is pretty bad. Very incoherent and noisy. I don't mind noise music if done well but it just seems like not much thought or effort was put into this. The great thing about Devin Townsend's albums is that they all have a purpose, except this one. Probably the worst album that we'll cover in this game.

Anyway I went with SYL, In the Rainy Season, and Japan. None of them are particularly great but they all have their moments and feel the most like actual songs that had some thought put into them.

Exciter cover is pretty straightforward but Dev's performance on it is awesome. He should've replaced Rob Halford.
 

MrKnickerbocker

clap hands
Unfortunately, I have never really been all that interested in Devin Townsend and it's mostly a vocal problem. He's got range, but I really don't enjoy his singing.
 

soundwave

Educated Fool
It's definitely a strange album - a mix of Godflesh, Fear Factory, Ministry where overwhelming sonic mayhem and texture are prioritized over traditional song structure.

Even though I was a fan of industrial/noise bands of the early 90s, this album was still a little tough to really embrace as much as the others. Though he does display the qualities that I've always appreciated from him:
  • Ethereal production. Maybe I'm just a sucker for that drenched in reverb SIT sound, but it adds a sci fi/expansive vibe.
  • His vocal range. I love that he can go from from shriek/scream/growl to Bruce-esque operatic wail to soulful croon. He doesn't display that all the way on Heavy, but does hint at what he's capable of. I love the mix of melodic clean and snarling grit on SYL.
  • His heavy use of suspended chords. It gives many of the riffs a mysterious quality that he exploits on future albums.
  • His unbridled emotion/rage. When Townsend goes crazy.... He goes crazy. It's hard to explain, but his aggression in the riffs and vocals often feels more 'sincere' than most other metal acts. Skin Me is a good example.
  • His use of production to create immersion. The keyboards, the ambience, the samples, the layering...it's like listening to a dystopian sc fi movie sound track mixed with a metal album. Cod Metal King highlights that.
  • His sense of melody. His melodies get stuck in your head. The chorus to Japan is evocative and memorable.
  • His sincerity and unpredictable nature. He simply does what he wants. When you first listen to his albums, you have no idea where you're going to go as a listener....whether that's a tempo shift with something like Rainy Season or an increasing cacophony of noise, it's quite a journey to go on.
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
You definitely get glimpses of Devin's greatness and all the essential elements are there. It's just so poorly arranged and none of the songs are that memorable. Compare that to the level of detail in Ocean Machine and City, released just a few years later.
 

JudasMyGuide

A Moravian soul
I'm probably going to write something more substantial tomorrow, just dropping by to say the following:

- there are times when I'm in the mood for SYL and I believe it has its usage... but I'm sure as f*ck not in that mood now and I seriously have to force myself to listen to it because of this thread. It's a pity, because this way I'll probably invest more time and effort once we get to the Devin albums proper, but later on I'm probably going to regret the fact I just kinda "endured" this part when it was happening, because it would deserve more. You get what I mean?

- despite the above, I actually don't think that the debut really is that worse compared with the other SYL stuff. Yeah, City is better, but after all, it's still more or less chaotic noise. That's kinda the point. The music is supposed to put you inside of a jet plane engine, to quote an old review. That's what always put me off Anaal Nathrakh, tbh - for me they didn't really surpassed Devin's intensity and ferociousnes, only took themselves much more seriously, which might be useful if you really want to be a fan of the band (it's easier to "seriously love" a serious band than a "joke" band), but was never a plus for me. There's way too much seriousness in the metal paradigm, methinks. I'm not saying everything should be like Metalocalypse, I'm just getting really tired of the sombre seriousness and tr00 approach. In that regard I really like what Devin brought to table. I mean, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing? Cool, man! :D

Although it's possible current mood/taste does not allow me to properly assess this one and differentiate from genuinely better stuff. So take that with a grain of salt.
 

Night Prowler

Customer Deathcycle Manager
Staff member
I will be updating today or tomorrow, so get your votes in even if you can't write a long review :)
 

Night Prowler

Customer Deathcycle Manager
Staff member
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Cooked on Phonics is Devin Townsend's debut studio album, released under the fictional band name Punky Brüster. It is a metal/punk rock parody concept album. It tells the story of a fictional death metal band "from South Central Poland" called Cryptic Coroner that sells out their metal look and sound to become a pop punk rock band called Punky Brüster (the band's name being a pun on the 1980s U.S. television series Punky Brewster). At the end of the track "Larry's O," Townsend says the album took "A week-and-a-half to write, six days to record, 12 hours to mix". Punky Brüster was comprised of Devin on vocals and guitar, Adrian White on drums (who also contributed to SYL's debut) and JR Harder on bass (who later appeared on the Ocean Machine album).

(Song 11 is a bonus)

  1. Recipe For Bait - The "narration" voice is kinda annoying. But this is already way more enjoyable to listen to than SYL. Fun song overall.
  2. Fake Punk - Another fun song. Simple but catchy.
  3. EZ$$ - This one is also mostly fun. One of rare moments with funny narration tbf, but I still would've liked it more if there wasn't any.
  4. Metal Dilemma - Best song on the album. "Heavy metal now!" part is super catchy.
  5. Oats Peas Beans & Barley - This one was pretty bad, too frantic.
  6. Wallet Chain - Catchy but the vocals are too frantic for this type of song.
  7. Heinous Anus - Seems like they ran out of good material pretty early, pretty bad song again.
  8. Heavy Metal Mama - Another bad one. The album needs more poppy choruses :p
  9. Crusty's At The Ivanhoe - Catchy but not really a good song. And most of it is stupid narration.
  10. Picture Of Myself / The Girls Next Door / Larry's O - First of these 3 songs is fun, but everything after drags... 15 minutes is too much. "The joke is getting old" indeed.
  11. Metal Heads Are Punk Rockers - This one is the best song since Metal Dilemma.

Overall: Much better album than the SYL debut, but again, not really representative of Devin's music. Some fun songs, but most of it is cut from the same cloth and the joke gets old pretty fast.
Best song(s) / vote(s): Metal Dilemma, Fake Punk, Recipe For Bait, EZ$$
 

soundwave

Educated Fool
This was the album that I realized that Devin isn't like most other artists. He certainly doesn't care about building a specific brand, and he isn't afraid of having a laugh ( for an entire album). I have to admit that it was really weird at first - especially coming from a 'serious/traditional' band like Maiden that spends years crafting a particular sound/image.

I remember this time period well. Punk pop was the 'second wave' of alternative...it was annoying as hell to see nearly everyone embrace the Green Day/Offspring sound. The fact that Devin was having fun with this was awesome.

This particular album has some great moments, but is undone by its inconsistency. EZ$$ is awesome with a terrific, soaring chorus. Fake Punk rocks. Metal Dilemma is great....but the back half of the album suffers from blandness...perhaps this is a case that the idea of the joke is better than fully executing the joke. I don't think he really had enough material to really make this a full fledged album. I still put this on for the occasional laugh.

Then again, this is my general gripe about Devin. He usually has these amazing ideas, but he moves/writes/records so fast, that many of his albums, while really, really awesome, are always lacking something that would put them in 'legendary status' (another epic, another rocker, another anthem etc...). If only he slowed down and did some editing....but that's not really his style.
 

Mosh

Winner of the 2020 Dumbest Comment Ever Award
Staff member
Why are the last three tracks combined in the poll? They're three different songs to me. I would've voted for just Picture of Myself, great song. Otherwise, I'm only voting for the first three here.

It's an interesting album, I mostly agree with what everyone else has said. Starts off really strong but then quickly drops off and becomes kinda same-y. It seems like the sort of fun side project that was never meant to see the light of day but somehow got finished and released. The story is entertaining though, I'll give it that. There are also more flashes of the Devin that would go on to write albums like Ocean Machine. The taste for great melody is already there. It's also pretty good sounding for such a low budget production. It's not a great album, but it does have me looking forward to what's next, which is more than I can say for the first SYL.

BTW anyone know what tuning Devin was using on his guitars here? The riffs and guitar solos are pretty standard rock and there aren't any of the suspended chords you usually hear in Dev's work. Makes me think he was just in standard tuning for this.
 

Night Prowler

Customer Deathcycle Manager
Staff member
Can you give me the song lengths, so that I can split them up for myself? :)

Also, I will probably update tomorrow. I've neglected the games in the past 2 weeks or so.
 
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