Devin Townsend

karljant

Ancient Mariner
SYL - Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing:

First than everything bare one thing in mind: this record is a metal extravaganza and a parody of itself.
Now the title of the album says it all: the lyrics are a mix of ludicrous jokes and compressed rage, leaving the listener a bit astray every here and there but the main point here is simple: to be relentless to the point no one has been before, saturating the listener with samples (the dude had just worked with Fulber in FLA), breakneck speed paced instrumentation and screams to the point of being ridiculously fun.
If you expect anything from this record except except power speed great samples and fun then this is not for you. Plus the riff after Exciter isn't the Wicker Man: It's Running Wild by Judas Priest (same sequence as Unleashed In The East) that Maiden kind of copied. And what to say about young Devin's horror story as an Intro or Satan's Ice Cream Truck? Priceless.
Do you like extreme metal with an industrial edge, have a twisted sense of humor and don't mind laughing about the stereotypes of the genre? Pick this one and have a ball! (7.75/10)

Must Listen:
SYL, In The Rainy Season, Goat, Happy Camper, Satan's Ice Cream Truck (hilarious).


SYL - City:
Although keeping the ridiculous sped up pace and heaviness (even increasing it in certain aspects thanks to the recruiting of one Gene Hoglan) City differs a bit from the band's debut both in form but mainly in content.While HAARHT was a "big kick in the balls" violent yet somehow funny sketch, City is way more serious. Keeping the over the top attitude (a reflection of Devin's bipolar personality) this album is a complex and explicit essay on nihilism and misanthropy.
Velvet Kevorkian opens the hostilities with a pompous and dense mental landscape and in a no time AATNF makes way like a supernova exploding 10 inches away from your eardrums. Ultra heavy, hyper layered and full pedal to the metal this track shows Devin bringing his a-game as a composer fully into SYL thus increasing the quality considerably. There are some less bombastic cuts like the MTV aired "Detox" but nonetheless the decrease in pace, the intensity remains in the red. AAA is a slow heavy crusher and perhaps the weakest link here. Cop Shoot Cop's cover is superb and eerie (perhaps Dev's best vocal cut on a record this man's voice sounds out of this galaxy in every of the many different inflections he brings to the table).
Make no mistake... this is the work of a genius on the rising, angry and vulnerable and firing at all cylinders. I think back in 97 young Mr. Townsend was unaware of the metal masterpiece he was creating. This was Dev's first state of the art release and he seized the momentum well... because that very same year a thing called Biomech - Ocean Machine would hit the shelves. But that's a different story. (9.5/10)

Must Listen:
everything except AAA (merely enjoyable).


SYL - SYL

Before everything else, this was SYL's record where Devin intervened the less regarding song composition... and that's an immediate red flag. Secondly there's the Guitar tuning and way more stripped down and less layered song style.
Let me put it simple: if you want to introduce SYL to a Death, Thrash metal fan pick this one. Although it features some resemblances with the paranoia peaks from the first two lp's (Like Dirt Pride, Rape Song and Relentless) this disc points more to other directions. Dire seems like an intro penned by Quorthon while other cuts really dwell between Morbid Angel's Trey/Sandoval grinding mid pace effect (Consequence, Force Fed), Emperor (Aftermath, Last Minute), and mostly the rest of the fellas's other band: the infamous Zimmer's Hole. All this coated with sparkles of Fear Factory.A special note for the last song, a somehow Devin interpretation of Candlemass soundscape, featuring a jaw dropping vocal performance.
That being said this is the ideal SYL album for people who are not into SYL. Not my case. Perhaps that's the reason why I may be unfairly underrating this record. (7/10)

Must Listen:
Consequence, Relentless, Devour, Dirt Pride, Bring On The Young


SYL - Alien:

If there's a record out there that should warn about listener's discretion it's SYL's Alien. To put it simple Dev's goal on this one was to explore the deep sense of estrangement he as a human being sometimes feels about his own race. More than that: even pure Alienation (thus the record's title) and the anger this conflict brings. And let me tell you it brings looooooooooots of anger. To take things to an even more serious level the man SUSPENDED HIS TREATMENT for bipolar disorder while composing the damn thing. That alone is bananas. The results couldn't be more visceral and schizophrenic, a true manifesto on Paranoia.
Imperial kick in as a violent preamble at full speed, with resemblances of an even angrier Velvet Kevorkian till it crashes into the complex and truly amazing Skeksis, a extreme prog metal extravaganza that, through twists and turns, paints the background of what this insane journey is about to become. Yet nothing can prepare us for Shitstorm. This fucker is simply put one of the most angry, chaotic and borderline insane tunes I ever listened to. Really... this features as much insanity as mastery and keeps you in a masochistic conundrum: your eardrums may hurt but the composition is so much state of the art your brain wants more and more of it. Love? kicks in with its bass blasts and its groovy hooks, bound to become the more approximate to easy listening one can find here. We ride is truly wicked and the punch of Possessions (cool and once again insane metaphor for pregnancy) is absolutely genial and powerful. The intense Zen and the brain screw that is Info dump close this monster of a twisted perspective of mankind through truly smudged lenses.
In one word this thing is massive in all aspects: quality, insanity, creativity, intensity... you name it. It's SYL turned at 11 without any kind of filter. It my sound overwhelming too many times but that's what it's all about. And it does its job in a masterful fashion. (9.25/10)

Must Listen:
Skeksis, Shitstorm, Love?, Possessions


SYL - The New Black

As the albums first track kicks in any SYL old fan can immediately notice one thing: something's off. Decimator is somewhere between what Dev would compose in his most aggressive approach of his solo career but far from the whirlwind SYL's psychotic catalogue demands. Plus its a short and way too basic composition to fit either hemispheres of Devin's main projects. Perhaps that's just a prank the man wanted to play on his fan base and the following hilariously manic and brutal as hell You Suck seems to sustain that (that would give a much better opener) but unfortunately that's not the case. Songs like Anti Product and Monument are two more limp and sub par compositions that seem to be trapped on the very same limbo Decimator dwell in. Another song that would actually be rightfully so reworked in Devin's solo catalogue is Fucker. Not that it is a complete lackluster like the others - far from it... this song rocks - but because its sonic morphology is much more fitting in those shores. Other than that we're presented with some really amazing stuff: the long awaited studio rendition of Far Beyond Metal, the hallucinating arpeggios in Wrong Side and the monster extreme prog metal combo of Polyphony and the epic title track . But the very highest point in The New Black is Almost Again. When you can convey the amount of melancholy this masterpiece does while using blast beats, bass explosions and vocal chord injuring screams you come to the conclusion this is something unique. So, this is a really uneven record that only features fillers or absolute killers. That's what playlist options are for, I guess. (7,5/10)

Must Listen:
You Suck, Far Beyond Metal, Almost Again and the title track
 
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matic22

Ancient Mariner
Devy is uploading podcasts where he is discussing his solo albums. He already did Ocean Machine during the 1st episode.
 

karljant

Ancient Mariner
Devin Townsend - Ocean Machine

Already having lots of experience in his short career, Devin Townsend decided to create yet another project: Biomech. His long time love for prog rock and particularly famous countrymen Rush pushed Devin to this new chapter of his life. Tired of the LA Rock style Steve Vai thing and saturated with the aggression of SYL, this man would create this beauty of a concept record that would ultimately work as the fuse of his success several years later when Ocean Machine was re dubbed as a Devin Townsend solo album.

After a spoken words intro Seventh Wave's first chords reverb and unfold what this Ocean Machine is all about: larger than life riffs that come in deeply worked out layers, serving as a channel to express the most various emotions, not in a chaotic way SYL's roller coaster splatters them in your hear drums but rather in a strangely organized and yet echoing fashion. From the lightness of Life to the resentfulness of Bastard and Funeral, passing through the soothing Sister and the intensity of both Regulator and Hide Nowhere, Ocean Machine has every trait an amazing rock album should have and wraps it all in the state of the art that is The Death Of Music, something so intense that if you don´t feel your soul bouncing to this thing you might as well don't have one.

Overall this is a genius in the making, a singularity in a late 90's world of copycats. As for the concept of the album Devin never talked too much about it so it's open to your interpretation to this very day. And things only got started. (8.75/10)

Must Listen:
Seventh Wave, Hide Nowhere, Regulator, The Death Of Music
 
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matic22

Ancient Mariner
Overall this is a genius in the making, a singularity in a late 90's world of copycats. As for the concept of the album Devin never talked too much about it so it's open to your interpretation to this very day.
Actually, until exactly today. 2 hours of Devy talking about Ocean Machine, the genesis, the songs, the meaning...

 

karljant

Ancient Mariner
Actually, until exactly today. 2 hours of Devy talking about Ocean Machine, the genesis, the songs, the meaning...

Thanks man! I confess I fast forwarded a bit to the point he starts to explain the whole thing song by song. It's always nice to put every single piece of the puzzle in its own context and while some of those pieces were really similar to what I imagined others such as 3AM or Regulator are amazingly enlightening. I always thought that Ocean Machine mainly dealt about the way Devin tried to fit into his world but truly it's a process that goes from escapism and illusion to deception and anger until acceptance settles. Really cool.
 
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karljant

Ancient Mariner
Already listened to it... this one was way more less surprising but nonetheless as much interesting.
 

karljant

Ancient Mariner
Devin Townsend - Infinity

Infinity was my gateway to Dev's solo work (already knew him from SYL) and Christeen was the very first song I heard back in 1999. While being nothing too complicated or far fetched there was a pungent uniqueness in every single aspect of that song, some kind of attraction that more than making it being stuck in my head made me gravitate towards it. As for the music itself my response to Infinity was unique. So I obviously got the record and man was I about embark in one of the defining musical trips of my life.

To add context to what this album is, by now Dev was recovering from a burn out caused by various excesses: too much boose, too much drugs, too many delusions regarding the music industry and too much effort put in the making and promotion of SYL and Ocean Machine. Finally he was diagnosed as suffering from bipolar syndrome. So, the man was quite obsessed to translate into music how that condition shaped his reality. And doing so one could expect he would drop drugs, alcohol and lighten his schedule. But he didn't... and the album reflects exactly that thin line between chaos and artificial drug induced harmony that marked this man's mind at the time. And a desperate and hallucinated search for answers too.

Truth is simply a glorious and masterful opening where Townsend displays his absolute geniality while creating various moods (especially regarding keyboard use) that explode in gigantic spires of glorious awe that pierce the musical ceiling of most venturous listeners. Christine is a quite catchy tune with a somehow poppy and innocent feel to it but nonetheless compelling. Bad Devil is pure insanity: a mix of fox trot with distorted voices possessed by the spirit of SYL that drags your guts through twist and turns. War is another trippy composition that seems to show us something Dali would paint while strongly on acids and Soul Driven goes even further down that rabbit hole after an excellent display of Dev's higher pitch. Ants continues to build the hallucinating landscape based in a hypnotic childish lullaby wrapped in slashes of prog rock and jazz tones. Colonial Boy lets us breathe much more easily, rocking us in its waltzy tempo. Dynamics brings us a more normalized template of Devin's solo work he would return to various times in the future but even here the bombastic effect of the song's zenith is over amplified. Unity comes as the most quiet moment perhaps serving as a mantra against all the chaos and confusion this whole thing piles upon those who dare to cross its path. Noisy Pink Bubbles closes the album and his morphology pictures with precision how disruptive and yet ingenious this record is: starting in a weird funk styled mood, the song progresses slowly into a prog rock song with deeply sad and dark undertones as if giving a glimpse to the listener of what it is like to live in this man's head.

Make no mistake: this is not an easy record. It's confusing, dense, loud, strongly varied in hues that intermingle without any forewarning in a spiral of an intoxicating acid drug effect. It's the perfect portrait of a man whose notion of reality has been absolutely teared before his eyes and wants answers but still can't deal with his demons and ends up fucking up again. It's a chaotic crossroad that points to the myriad of aspects of a genius' mind, his come to grip with his own world and the traps he creates for himself in this quest with his vices, illusions and conditions. As for me I simply adore the whole thing. Yes, there are some parts I can relate to but perhaps the most important reason why this is one of my top 5 favorite albums ever is because every soundscape here (be it good or bad, chaotic or calm, revelation or delusion) is huge like nothing I've heard before or ever since. A mind blowing hallucinating Illusion that seems bigger than any measuring possible to man. Hey! For a reason this masterpiece is called Infinity (10/10)

Must Listen:
everything (obviously)
 
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karljant

Ancient Mariner
The song Irish Maiden is a derivative of Losfer Words, apparently.
Yup... the opening riffage is an homage to it. But if you heard it right the main intention was to apologize her mother for the awkward episodes he made her go through during the infinity period. The "crawlspace" episode is as awkward and yet hilarious as it gets :p
 

karljant

Ancient Mariner
It's funny to compare the analysis he makes of each song now with the brief ones he does on the Physicist CD media track. Some are still the same while others (due to being still in the eye of the storm or not having the due insight time and experience bring) are quite different.
 

karljant

Ancient Mariner
Devin Townsend - Physicist:

After the personal turmoil of Infinity, Devin Townsend reunited with his comrades from SYL to aid them build his third solo effort: Physicist. By the time it was released he roughly dub them "Pop speed metal songs". And yes... although those genres are definitely present there's much more to it than that. Physicist, musically speaking, still lives in the absolute gigantic landscapes of Infinity but with an even more abusive feature of reverb and with everything ticking at the speed of light... you know that image in Star Wars when you get to warp speed? Now imagine the acoustic equivalent to that. Curiously yesterday's Devin podcast added some context to why he decided to make that record that way. Physicist is like a space vessel that wants to go through as fast as he can through the toxicity and god complex Infinity built. And although it represents the way the musician found to apologize to the people he hurt, also portraits his need to close that episode in his life as quickly as possible.

Namaste begins and man... if you want intensity you can't get more bombastic then this. As a side note this is my favorite Devin song of all time and everything here is luminous, fast, reverberating, loud and intense.. reaaaaaaaally intense. Lyrically speaking its also a great way for Dev to start admitting he's no messiah, revering every other individual in the universe and professing his mea culpa, a theme that would be recurring throughout the entire album. One thing that also pops out immediately is the full of effects mixing creating an extremely dense wall of sound that can be a bit too much for some people (I personally like it). Victim is next, a fast paced track that seems like what Devin would do if he wanted to make a orchestral version of Ministry. I really love Material: it begins once again in the wall of sound and deeply layered metal department then flows into a chorus that reminds me of early Beatles stuff. It's amazing the easiness that Devin displays while mixing such different genres in a perfectly harmonious fashion. Then we get to the famous Kingdom, a song dedicated to his marriage ... I'm happy Dev re-recorded this song in Epicloud because, if the fuzzy full of effects mix works nice in the majority of the tracks of Physicist, the vocal workshop this man displays here is to be appreciated in full detail.

Death Comes as a chaotic dividing line on the album. It resembles the mannerisms of SYL: a moment of pure deconstruction, a catharsis while carrying a different message. Devoid is a short and delicious speed metal interlude and without losing memento The Complex keeps the pedal-to-the-metal mentality and man... the drum work from Gene Hoglan on this thing is pure gold. Irish Maiden brings us some Iron Maiden influences and works kinda like a tribute to what he put his mother through during the peak of his insanity. Jupiter is also a quite luminous tune while dealing with a darker subject (drugs) and the album closes with the most contemplative and more paused Planet Rain, a 10 minute long prog metal voyage through various melodies and a proper way to close the whole thing.

In sum Physicist is way easier to listen to than the previous record. Mainly because the compositions here have a really lighter and even happier feel to it, despite being faster and heavier and the mix being more dense and fuzzier. Perhaps that's the musical equivalent of a sigh of relief when your apology is accepted by the people you once hurt. Whatever that is, Physicist is an exciting and amazing album that is unjustifiably put in the lower shelves of Devin's discography. (9/10)

Must Listen:
Namaste, Material, Kingdom, Devoid, The Complex
 
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karljant

Ancient Mariner
Devin Townsend - Terria:

By 2001 young Devin Townsend already explored more sides of his inner self than the majority of artist do in an entire career. After the turbulence of the previous albums, Dev was more resolved regarding his issues but kinda in no man's land, motive wise speaking. So, while travelling on tour through Canada, another epiphany came to the man's mind: the landscape's beauty. Of course a regular artist could make an entire album simply subjected to that concept alone. But we all know that this is far from being a regular artist.

Olive starts building a cozy yet somehow surreal ambiance, with the artist inviting us to sit, take a drink and listen what he has to sing. All of the sudden Mountain explodes from nowhere, an immensely powerful and majestic composition with a curious time signature. Dealing with mountains as the obstacles one must climb this is another obvious metaphor. In Dev's case its his mistakes, medication and the death of his dog whose howling is immortalized here. Comes Earth Day and Dev simply brings his whole arsenal for this one: from the aggression of SYL to heavenly melodies everything is featured on this cautionary tale. If you take the ecological literal projection of the lyrics the message is simple: you may not chose to recycle and eat your beets but the consequences may be quite dire... but the lyrical content is once again a relating to Townsend's choices in life. Anyway do your daily life stuff right and things will be just fine.Deep Peace is a melodic act that deals with acceptance and features a gorgeous guitar solo. Canada is the catalyst of the aforementioned epiphany that kinda served as the starting point for Terria. It feels like a coming back to the place the author belongs (the word "place" having more than one meaning of course). Down and Under is a cool folk driven theme and we're off to one of my favorite tracks from the lot: The Fluke. Based on an uptempo beat and somewhat happy melody the dynamics on this track is absolutely breathtaking and refreshing, while once again we're told of the process Devin had to go through to find his "own vision of pearl", an oasis of temporary clarity after the turmoil of his delusions.

Then the tone shifts a bit towards the final stretch of the record. Nobody's Here reveals another strong trait present in Terria: the need to face one's fears and self acceptance instead of the acceptance of others, all wrapped up in a calm and intimate melody. The very same deal of self acceptance and consequence for your acts (complemented with a special "I'm Sorry") is even more stressed in Tiny Tears, a 9 plus minute Pink Floyd like immense build that marks another of the records sublime moments. To close the album we get Stagnant, a cheered up, really positive tune dealing with the inevitable change of things: no matter how bad they come to be we must remember that, for every winter there's a spring,.

Terria is a masterpiece of an album in various perspectives. Either being the constant metaphor of our connection to earth regarding Dev's own issues or the thin balance between strength and finesse only a top notch composer can aim to this thing is a treat to listen to. Gone are the immensely dense and confusing walls of sound of Infinity and Physicist... but it couldn't be any other way. Terria is Devin's earth link: the tale of a man trying to accept his own reality with his feet on the ground. And like everything his solo career offered us till now it's a feast to your senses. (9.25/10)

Must Listen:
Mountain, Earth Day, Deep Peace, The Fluke, Tiny Tears
 
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karljant

Ancient Mariner
Devin Townsend - Accelerated Evolution:

After the catharsis that was Terria, Devin was really excited with his new possibilities and, after reviving SYL the first thing he thought was to hire a permanent lot of young and without experience band members under the name of "Devin Townsend Band". The point on doing so was to create a stable line up thus being possible to manage both bands at the same time, in what seemed to be a good idea to cope Townsend's Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde hemispheres of his bipolar personality with both projects (although he later admitted DTB was his major priority). The lack of experience of the band's members was a peculiar trait that later Devin said was in order to "prove that anybody who was decent could make a great band (...) and it seemed like a way for me to work with people and 'teach' them what I had 'learned' in my experiences touring and being in bands" . The process would turn out to be way more difficult than it seemed, thus the album being dubbed Accelerated Evolution. At the same time Devin was still immersed in his questions about how to interact with the relationships in his life (namely with his wife and family) and his obsessive need of over analyzing every little thing. All this wrapped in an excessive use of marijuana. So one can easily deduct Devin's personal problems were far from being solved.

As for the album itself it is really song oriented and generally displays the most simple structures of Dev's solo works to date. Hendrix and Rush are cited as some of the major influences and stylistically one can witness a strong return to that really familiar wall of sound effect in the opener Depth Charge. While being really heavy and intense serves perfectly the propose of diving head first into all the questions and discoveries this record's subject is all about. Storm is a really easy listening melodic tune that once deals with his mistakes regarding his marriage and has once again an deep apologetic intent. Still centered on his marriage and how it is dealt along with the other facets of his life, Random Analysis has a really strong and marked rhythm resembling fellow Canadians Voivod here and there and features some really ingenious hooks. The song that follows would become one of Devin Townsend's classics and rightfully so: Deadhead. Combining intensity, melancholy and even rage in a really "in the flesh" manner, the way the guitar almost cries throughout eight of the most intense minutes in rock music combined with this man's off the charts vocal delivery is something that will leave you in awe. Lyrically speaking we're once confronted with a pretty intense interaction, although this time its content is much more cryptic.

Suicide starts the second half of the album in a rare low pizzicato quiet pitch only to transform itself into a oppressive slow paced monster filled with depressive melodies announcing something really bleak is about to take form. Dealing with his depression during the Physicist era this is without shadow of doubt one of the darkest, most toxic yet anesthetizing moments in the record. Traveler is a quite cheered up song about the dichotomy of life on the road and the husband role and then we're left to drown in Away, a soothing prog rock composition that infiltrates our ears like a 8 minute long daydream of calm landscapes and leads till it bursts in a fountain of arpeggios. Sunday Afternoon is another massive theme full of melancholy making a sublime use of keys in the pre-chorus that explode in one of Devin's strongest refrains. The record closes with the Slow Me Down, another happy song blatantly about his marital relationship... a call to sobriety, an assumption of priority after all the day dreaming that ensues for the majority of the album.

Personally, Accelerated Evolution came out during a really hard moment in my life regarding among other things relationships. So, anytime I pick it up it reminds of that period and always brings a sour taste to my mouth. On the other hand, unlike the more resolved Terria, this record is quite depressive here and there: a retrospective and over analysis of Devin's darkest days, implying he wasn't quite done with those ghosts. As matter of fact Devin was committing similar errors. Either by overloading in work with two bands, by smoking too much pot while being medicated or simply by wanting to prove how special he was by "teaching" young musicians "how things are done", once again the relationships he wanted so hardly to dissect were being put at stake. A twist of irony taking in account the main theme here: relationships and how sensitive we have to be. In turn the record ends up being quite cold and synthetic during various passages (both lyrically and musically).

So don't get fooled: while being a really good album with really beautiful parts there's a certain darkness to Accelerated Evolution, some sort of unresolved conflict in it. And if it's true the Devin Townsend wall of sound blueprint is back in high doses, it lacks the grandeur of the first releases. Yet I still feel it's a must hear and has a myriad of great moments to enjoy. (8/10)

Must Listen:
Random Analysis, Deadhead, Away, Sunday Afternoon
 
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