Whacky ‘ol Dev eh? Disappears for a while after the Strapping Young Lad release “The New Black” in 2006 and subsequent tours to support, with murmurings of discontent with life, his music and everything.
Then out pops an album called ‘Ki’ by the Devin Townsend Project in 2009. And another called ‘Addicted’… and another called ‘Deconstruction’ and finally one called ‘Ghost.’ 4 albums in a 2 and a half year period, and all of them as different as you could expect an album to be – from heavy discordant technical expose’s on the meaning of life as a cheeseburger (I kid you not) to highly ambient ethereal relaxation music with flutes and acoustic guitars.
Ah Dev, welcome back.
And so, after such an intense period of activity and creative labour, what sort of album follows this in 2012?
Well, the answer is ‘Epicloud.’ And it is both as natural a follow up to these wildly variant releases as you could expect as it is utterly unexpected.
Dev aims to give you insight into his mind’s eye from the first gospel triumphant choral notes – the aim of the game here is to uplift, to transcend, and to just downright bring a smile to your face with the sheer melody-mindedness of it all. Which, it must be said, this record achieves in spades. I smile every time I listen to it.
Not very metal that, is it? But very Devin.
The opening punch of Epicloud is hooky, chanty, and dare I say – commercial. Running through the tracks “Lucky Animals,” “Liberation,” “Where We Belong” (anthemic!) and “Save Our Now’s” cigarette lighter chorus, you cannot imagine a more commercial effort from a metal act since 1989. And I bet you this is better music for sure. Try not bobbing your head in the chorus of “Save Our Now”, I dare you.
Production is very layered in the vocal realm and there is some majorly creative use of delay to build the space. I have seen it written that this album is ‘sparse’ – hmm, I’m not so sure about that. Perhaps there are less guitar and key layers than some Devin releases, but it sure makes up for it in places with thick gobs of vocals. And, when you have the talents of Dev himself and the glorious Anneke Van Giersbergen, why the hell wouldn’t you pile on the vocal tracks?
Anneke has a more prominent role on this release than her previous association with Dev on “Addicted” – but she is so good, you still wish she was even more heavily utilised. But with melodies such a strong focus, it stands to reason that vocals remain a high priority in the mix.
That is not to say there are no moments where the hammer of the gods does descend – the remake of “Kingdom” is nice and thumping, and an improvement on the version on “Physicist,” giving us a little metal in the mix. But as the album slips by in unrelenting joyful tones, keeping that lighter aloft through “Hold On” and into “Angel,” as it eases the listener into silence, you could be forgiven for wondering at times how sincere the uplifting tone really is.
Is this Devin? Is he for real?
On this release, I truly think Devin is very much for real. Just enjoy it.