I have to say, this release perplexes me more than a little. Formed by multi instrumentalist, Devin Townsend, The Devin Townsend Project originally was supposed to be a four-album cycle, each album exploring a different sound. It started with atmospheric rock album Ki and a strangely workable heavy pop rock album Addicted! in 2009 and supposedly concluded with the crushingly heavy and insane Deconstruction and ethereal atmospheric Ghost in 2011. Yet we have gotten three more releases since then. I am just curious as to why Devin is continuing to release under this name. Maybe he really liked the logo they came up for the project and wanted to keep using it? Anyways, this is pretty meaningless musing, so let’s get into the meat of the mad Canadian musician’s latest release, Transcendence.
I have to get it out of the way, I am a massive fan of Devin and will pretty much check out anything he puts out, even stuff I normally wouldn’t (looking at you Casualties of Cool, which ended up being pretty awesome). So obviously I was going to check this out quickly. And to be honest, I was a bit disappointed. That’s not to say this is anywhere near a bad album, it is very solid throughout with a few songs I am definitely going to listen to with a bit of frequency. But that really sums up the whole album, solid. Not great. Just all around decent.
If anyone listened to the DTP release Epicloud, you have a pretty good idea what this sounds like. It is an upbeat sounding, heavy rock album with some progressive flourishes. Devin still sounds great, his crooning vocal style really fits with the music and there are plenty of interesting guitar melodies and riffs. There are a number of intriguing musical moments, but not nearly as much as I have come to expect from Devin, which is probably this album’s bane. It just feels very safe, especially coming off the heels of Z² and Casualties of Cool.
There are plenty of promising ideas here, especially the opening track Truth seems to really try to fuse the pop sensibilities of a lot of Devin’s latest material with some of the heaviness and riffwork of Devin’s early days of Strapping Young Lad or his Deconstruction album. If the entire album continued in this vein I would be more than happy due to how interesting that style comes across. Unfortunately, aside from a few scattered moments, this idea is dropped in favor of longer, meandering tracks that just don’t hold the interest that I really expect.
The album highlight comes pretty early on, with the third track Secret Sciences. This is where the experiment promised by Truth comes to fruition, with some heavier guitars, catchy vocals, and an interesting solo that shows what Devin really can do. There’s not a wasted moment on it’s 7 and a half minute run time. Another excellent example is the song Offer Your Light which is fun and has a great main riff of combined guitars and keyboards and Anneke and Devin’s dual vocals contrast incredibly well. This fast paced little number is just brimming with energy and ideas all crammed into a 4 minute run time.
However, this doesn’t really correspond to the rest of the album. There is plenty of fat here with long, meandering tracks that really didn’t need to be as long as they were. The biggest offender here is Higher. It’s near 10 minute run time goes all over the place, never seeming to have a fully coherent idea of what it wants to do. There are moments of brilliance on it, but it is generally suffocated by the mediocrity surrounding it. Devin really needed to trim this album as a whole, it’s over an hour run time makes it hard to stay completely enthralled all the way through.
Despite my harping on my general disappointment, this is still Devin and anything Devin does is still going to be at least a little interesting and worth at least one or two listens. Unfortunately, this is also probably his weakest work in years. Perhaps he just tried to do too much at the same time, with this being his third album (or fourth depending on if you count Z² and Sky Blue as separate albums) within two years. There are definite tracks that will get repeat listens, but the album as a whole is rather forgettable.
Must-listens: Secret Sciences, Offer Your Light, Truth