Devin Townsend Project - Transcendence

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Inside Out Music
Produced by Devin Townsend & Adam Getgood

At one point (Secret Sciences) on the new Devin Townsend album he sings the words "let it go", which may or may not be a reference to how the new album Transcendence was made. Devin admits he is normally a control freak when it comes to making records but on this occasion he has allowed others more involvement. This may explain some of the freedom drum wise (some of the work is unbelievable) and the fact there are guitar solos on a good number of tracks. Ryan Van Poederooyen excels throughout on the drums and there is some great guitar work and soloing from Dave Young (and possibly Devin) hinting at Alex Lifeson, Dave Gilmour, Zappa and even Mark Knopfler.

It is a brave beginning and end to the album as they start with a track previously released and finish with a cover, however both fit so well into the piece as a whole that these versions really feel like they were written at the same time as the rest. The wall of sound fans have come to expect and the choirs are there, so it is instantly recognisable as Devin, but to the only real likeness it has previous works is maybe as an amalgamation of the melody of Ghost with the heaviness last heard on its counter-piece Deconstruction, but with the pop feel of Epicloud in there as well.

On first listen it is a good album, but seems a little safe, nothing too extreme. Then like a fine wine, given time it reveals more, and the flow is excellent. Third track in, Failure has a riff which is superb and features a wah-wah style guitar over it leading to a Floydian guitar solo. Vocally the variation of falsetto vocal with a deeper resonating and almost threatening one, work particularly well on this, then Secret Sciences has one of the catchiest hooks Devin has ever recorded. It is a track which is easy on the ear yet quite intense. It's likely to be a particular favourite live due to the chorus.

Higher has a beautiful, gentle opening into a choir section built around drums, eventually leading to a frantic midsection and bonkers guitar solo. It's a track which kind of encapsulates the different facets of Devin personally and musically, as both are seemingly inextricably linked. Again vocally he utilises different voices from sweet to gruff and also operatic with such clever thought, capturing moods and feelings. For a man who says he only sings as he couldn't find someone else, he is immense; power and variation but with real emotion. On each album he seems to get better and is really one of the best around at this moment in time.

The title track is a piece built round distinct musical passages. The beginning has a vibe of classical composer Nabucco about it, with the drums and deep male choir, a guitar sound at points which recalls Lifeson, and a hypnotic feel - a spiritual feel - in keeping with the meaning of the word itself. Offer Your Light has some first class vocals between Anneke Van Giersbergen and Devin himself, and From The Heart, a power ballad - but not in the normal sense, it is a Devin power ballad - is beautiful. The words are thoughtful and intelligent, don't resort to clichés, and the guitar at the end is delightful, with a slight Celtic feel of Knopfler-meets-Gilmour.

Once again Devin has created something in his own style, an album that gets better on each listen with so much going on. No surprises at the quality, or indeed that now famous wall of sound of his, along with his use of different voices to carry the songs, which are some of the best he has written. It is however really good to hear the drummer being able to shine as well, with well-crafted guitar solos, making this a bit different to the last few albums. Special mention must be given to the man behind the orchestrations, Niels Bye Neilsen, who has enhanced the album, Never out of sync with the melodies or moods of the songs. This is impressive work indeed.

“ encapsulates the different facets of Devin personally and musically ”

Tracklist: Truth / Stormbending / Failure / Secret Sciences / Higher / Stars / Transcendence / Offer Your Light / From The Heart / Transdermal Celebration

Written by Tom Cornell
More: 2016, Albums, Progressive, ,

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