Many of you already know of my obsession with the Devin Townsend Project. I’ve spewed forth a veritable litany of how the music of this band inspires me (on both a personal and professional level). I’ve gushed on social media, sharing videos and links to the point where friends and contacts may have thought me a stalker.
Let it be known that I am not an official member of the DTP Stalker Union.
Even though I slack in the area of stalking the band, I make up for it in time listened to their music. I was very late in discovering this gem of a group; but since then, I’ve probably pumped their sonic gold into my ears on a level that would rival Rush.
Bold words, I know.
And so, when Heavy Devy announced a new release in 2016, I was instantly school-girl giddy at the prospect of hearing something new. That release is Transcendence. Because I purchased a VIP pass for their upcoming show, I received an early release copy of the album and I want to offer up a track by track review of what is the best music to come out of DTP.
Without further ado, let’s run through the tracks in true Jackverse form.
The first track on the album is a re-recording of an old tune that I first heard on the Retinal Circus album. Originally released in 201 on Infinity, Truth was an incredible instrumental that suffered from a bit of heavy-handed mixing. Thankfully, Devin opted to bring this wonderful song back to the fore…because it deserves it. This is one of those instances where you wonder, “How in the hell can he make that song any better?” Would magic be involved? Mabye he’d sell his soul for Truth. He did. Maybe. Okay, I don’t know if Devin Townsend sold his soul, but he did masterfully improve on Truth. Beyond the magic that Periphery’s, Adam Nolly Getgood did with the mastering of the album, Devin managed to tweak Truth in all the right places to give it an immediacy and depth the original recording didn’t have. Plus, Anneke Van Giersbergen. ‘Nuff said.
This track offers us our first glimpse into the evolution of DTP. It offers that thick, metal orchestral sound all DTP fans are familiar with, along with the gorgeous wave of melody that has slowly infected their music. Stormbending starts out with a lyric that stuck in my head night after night…causing me no end of frustration to force it out. “Time is a human construct”. Yes, Devin, we know that. But thank you for forcing a lyrical ear worm into my brain and refusing to let it escape. Stormbending also gives us that typical Devin massive sound that makes you want to turn your stereo well beyond any level suited for the human hearing mechanism and toss your fists into the air (like you do fucking care) in celebration of all things glory.
The next track was the first single released from the album. With good reason. This song punches you right in the junk with so much goodness, you’re really not sure if you can survive the onslaught of prog metal wonder. It’s Ryan Van Poederooyen toying with rhythms in ways that would make most drummers melt with jealousy. It’s Devin’s signature drop tuned guitars drawing dangerously near that elusive brown note. It’s a wall of sound written by God himself and mixed by the devil. To further enhance your listening pleasure…there’s a guitar solo! Praise be to metal, Devin lets loose and does the thing he thinks he can’t do and plays a solo. Turns out, the man can hang with the best. The emotion packed into this one song might make you weep the tears of angels.
You’ve been warned.
When I first heard this song, I was certain it would wind up my favorite. Why? Let me explain. Secret Sciences is like prog metal incarnate. It’s a song that twists and turns and makes you feel all funny inside and possibly even makes you truly believe you’ve answered the question, “What is the meaning of life?” Starting out a bit ballad-y, Secret Science teases us with Anneke’s voice (aka the “Voice of glory”) and makes you think you’re going to get about 7 and half minutes of lighter-wielding calm. But then Devin injects just enough progressive rock into the mix to make you wonder if this song might hold the key to you losing your mind. The second you think you “get” this song, another layer comes into make you understand just how little you really know. The end result might very well have Thomas Dolby himself choking on a science he had no idea existed.
Remember me just saying that I thought Secret Science would be my favorite track? Yeah…that lasted all of 7 minutes and twenty eight seconds. Now, I have to preface this with a confession. I was listening to Higher the other day while walking home from something (said something is irrelevant). It was the first time I really gave Higher the attention it deserved, and even that was accidental.
Back to my story. As I walked home, the sweet acoustic portion of Higher ended and what I assumed was a repetition of the phrase “I Am” smacked me upside the muse (I could be wrong about the lyrics, I’m still not sure). After catching my attention, I did that listening thing I like to do (where the act of hearing extends beyond my ears, to my heart and my soul) and realized my muse was trying to tell me something. After taking in the entire 9 minutes and 40 seconds of Higher, I realized, thanks to that phrase “I AM”, I had the plot for the sequel to my cyberpunk novel Lament.
Holy shit, thank you for that Devin Townsend Project.
Long story short, Higher quickly became my favorite track. Of course, that favoritism goes beyond me being inspired. Higher is a kitchen sink song where Devin tosses everything he has at you. Every single thing that has ever been a signature of Devin and DTP can be found in this one track…and it works! That’s some serious songwriting skills.
Alliteration be damned.
This song was originally written during a live broadcast in which Devin wrote and recorded the tun in (I believe) a twelve hour span of time. I watched that (not the whole twelve hours…I do have a life) and couldn’t believe the man pulled it off. Truth be told, I did believe it…Dev’s that good. What I didn’t believe was he managed to write and record a song in that span of time that would turn out to be incredible. Naturally, Devin re-recorded Stars with his trusty (and immensely talented) band. It paid off. This is a song that might well make you dance around in the privacy of your own home. Use caution or you might accidentally air guitar or drum. Don’t worry, that secret remains with me.
Title track time. This is the song you will hope is played as you pass from the mortal plane of existence. During that transition from a living being to whatever’s next, if Transcendence is playing…you’ll know something good awaits. I can close my eyes and see that chorus of angels, devils, or what you will singing this song to herald my entry into the Big Whatever. If those angels (devils or whatever) have the voices of Devin and Anneke and the music is as good as this track, I’m fairly certain the afterlife will be pretty fucking groovy.
Offer Your Light
Holy crap, did I accidentally attend a rave? Do I have glowsticks in my hand? If not, after listening to Offer Your Light…I will. Of course, the ravetastic-ness of this track works because of, you guessed it, the Devin Townsend Project. Only this band could get away with adding a layer of EDM into the mix and turn it into a metal anthem. I love this song. I might want to marry this song…but my wife would probably have issues with that. So maybe I’d be better served with grabbing a handful of glowsticks and dancing around the neighborhood with Offer Your Light blaring from every damn speaker on the planet.
You go, girl!
From The Heart
This song makes me want for another day with my father and mother (RIP) or to rush home to my wife and wrap her in a never-ending embrace. When I first heard From The Heart, I choked up. I couldn’t tell if it was just me getting caught in a whirlwind of the feels or the massive outpouring of raw emotion found within the words, rhythms, and melodies. I promise you this, you will get lost in this track. You can’t help it. It happens, you go for the ride, and you’re better having done it. If you don’t come out of From The Heart needing a hug, something’s wrong with you.
I’ll be honest, this was the song I was sure that I wouldn’t like (It’s a Ween cover and I’m not a big fan of the band). It starts out with what sounds like Dave Grohl (of Foo Fighter Fame) playing a standard Foo Fighter Riff, but then takes a quick DTP turn. Don’t get me wrong. I like Dave Grohl and the Foos (unlike Ween…did I mention that how I wasn’t a fan? Yes? Okay). I think they (FF, not Ween) write quality tunes. But the Foos aren’t DTP (and vice versa). So I soldiered on and gave this gem a chance. Two words hit me: “Tectonic Tribulation”. A man after my own alliterated heart. Honestly, this is a track you’ll need to give a few listens to…but in the end, you realize the album just wouldn’t be the same without (Even though it is a…cough cough…Ween cover). This might be the single most radio-friendly tune Devin has recorded (cough cough, radio stations). Maybe someday we’ll all be driving down a deserted highway and the Zombie Radio DJ will spin this baby to help us all get through the apocalypse.
No, this isn’t a track on the song…it’s me drawing a neat and tidy conclusion for this review. With that said…
This might sound cheesy, But Transcendence is the album I’ve been waiting for my whole fucking life. It wasn’t just the build up (although I’ve been anxiously awaiting this record for a long time)…it was the payoff. The Devin Townsend Project has put together a collection of songs that play at your heart, your mind, and your soul in ways other bands could only dream of. I’ve never said this of an album before, but Transcendence is perfect. It really is.
And now to wait until September 25th, when I get to wield the might of my VIP pass to not only see DTP fill Louisville with its special brand of glory, but meet the band in person. That’s right…I will be in the same room with Devin, Ryan, Beavs, Dave, and Mike.
I hope they are as excited as I.
Purchase your copy of Transcendence on Amazon.
I sleep now.