September 20, 2016 Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence (Album Review)
Chances are, anyone who fancy themselves a Metal aficionado, know the name Devin Townsend as one of the most respected composers and producers on the scene. A rather interesting individual, the Canadian musician is often associated with his band Strapping Young Lad, but those who have been paying attention are also well aware of The Devin Townsend Project. Debuting the new project back in 2009 with the studio album Ki, Townsend has since released six more albums under the moniker, including 2016’s Transcendence.
Released on September 9th via HevyDevy Records (Devin Townsend’s own label), The Devin Townsend Project’s seventh album follows the endlessly strange, yet wonderful 2014 Z2. Ethereal beauty is brought to fans by the excessively talented singers Anneke van Giersbergen and Ché Aimee Dorval, as well as extremely talented musical performances that take the listener from swooning to stomping. Complementing Townsend himself, Brian Waddell on bass, Ryan Van Poederooyen on drums, Dave Young on keyboard/guitar, and Mike St-Jean on keyboards, the album certainly feels like Townsend’s attempt to transcend what he has done in the past, in a purely musical way that is true to what fans have seen to be as the core of his work.
Opening with deeply Djent-like guitars, one simply cannot believe that “Truth” is the truth about why The Devin Townsend Project keeps making more albums; especially given the main chant sounds like “Money, money, money, money, money…” before it fades out like a Disney movie fades in. Then, “Stormbending” sounds like an epic send off, especially at a minute and forty-five seconds in. Being the second album on the track, it uses this, and what it demands is the listener’s attention. There is a full and forceful use of The Devin Townsend Project’s choral accompaniment in this track; adding to the sense of finality on which it begins and ends. Despite that sense of finality, it transitions smoothly into “Failure.” The guitars in the intro foreshadow the impending chorus and the bass line carries the listener there with a steady militaristic gait. The best part though is the sweet and subtle touches at the ends of the chorus where harmony spirals down- just quiet enough that one must listen intently, but oh-so satisfying.
Moving on, “Secret Sciences” goes to show how surprisingly memorable The Devin Townsend Project can be on such a regular basis. The way Townsend sings the line “Unable to react in a way that’s even logical” gives the song a reliability that lends itself to memorableness, but also holds a sense of irony as the by-the-book way that line is sung is in fact very logical. The biggest little treat in this song are the subtle vocal appearances; the ladies Townsend can get on his tracks are amazingly talented. Luckily for fans, guest vocals get a much bigger role in the next piece, “Higher,” which starts of soft and acoustic with Townsend crooning and his guest coming in to offer her company, but culminates in a violent frenzy halfway through.
The destruction fades into triumph as he goes higher into “Stars.” A somber Metal ballad, “Stars” is a nice change in pace, but leads to the slightly strange titled “Transcendence.” Another song that makes the listener feel as if the album is ending, perhaps again, due to the heavy use of Townsend’s choral accompaniment and guests. It becomes very dense at the end before it collapses into nothingness. Thereafter, “Offer Your Light” is a great pickup cut for the final act of the album. Here, the synth-filled intro brings back memories of Dance Dance Revolution, but quickly gets to sweeping guest vocals. The shortest piece on the album, it constantly drives home the amazing riffage that The Devin Townsend Project is capable of.
Approaching the end, halfway through “From The Heart” begins meandering in that endearing way Townsend does. Reminiscent of Steven Wilson, the two have a clear path they tread, and even if one cannot always see it, rest assured it is their wisdom. Finally, “Transdermal Celebration” is a cover of a 2003 song by Psychedelic Rock band Ween. It fits so well that anyone could be forgiven for not even realizing it is a cover as the song fades about three minutes and thirty seconds in, trailing off into abstractness.
Thank you to Devin Townsend for his endless individuality and unwillingness to settle. Because of this, he is able to come out with gem after gem. Not quite 2011’s Deconstruction, yet not quite 2012’s Epicloud, Transcendence lies somewhere in the middle. That being said, there are few bands that make listeners think as hard as Devin Townsend Project does when trying to decide which album to put on. That is why CrypticRock gives this album a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars.