Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Review - Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud

Devin Townsend is one of those guys upon whom you could waste an entire review trying to describe, which means that for most people the adjective “weird” suits just fine. “Oddball” might also be allowable (the man has sold puppets on his web site… PUPPETS!!!!) During the last few years Devin did a massive personality probe, fracking it into four distinct parts and recording an album for each facet. Admitting that this was self-indulgent Mr. Townsend decided to clear the air by unleashing his “inner Def Leppard,” which in Devin’s hands turns out to be something quite different, but oddly similar to, the arena rock we all know and (go on, admit it) love.

Epicloud is that carnival view of arena rock and it lives up to its name. It’s big (epic) and it’s loud. Except the first track, where Devin apparently though it would be humorous to have a churchy choir singing a harmonious theme that makes appearances elsewhere in the album. It’s hard to kick that self-indulgent thing. “True North” follows and it’s fairly characteristic of the rest of the album. Heavy yet catchy guitar rhythms float on a spacey bed of reverb while Anneke van Giersbergen adds angelic vocals and Ryan Van Poederooyen (I’m not making that up, to steal a line) goes completely donkey kong on the drums. Now and then the band may change things around but mostly the songs are intentionally much simpler than much of Devin’s past work. This is never more evident than in the single “Lucky Animals (The New Beige)” which is so refined and streamlined that it will make a bee-line for your brain and stay there for weeks. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT watch the YouTube video Mr. Townsend made of himself for this song… in his back yard in one take. Okay, go ahead. I’ll wait. “Liberation” is another killer song, a kind of trip to the moon with Cheap Trick at the wheel and the cast of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in the cargo bay. I’m perfectly serious here. The entire album is a kind of raucous tent meeting as a full choir makes an appearance on many songs. But instead of, say, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” by The Rolling Stones where a choir signifies that you’ve jumped the shark, Devin pushes past irony with his use of the choir, having them sing such glorious lines as “Rock! Let’s rock! The time has come to forget all the bullsh!t and rock!” It’s impossible to listen to this album and not smile. To keep things balanced there are a few slower songs such as the touching “Divine” which features lyrics of “Loving you is the best thing in the worst thing in my life.” I think it’s a love song. In fact, maybe the entire album is a love song. Maybe it’s to himself. Or maybe it’s an anti-love song/album. One never can be too sure about such things.

While at times a bit lean in the ideas department, at least compared to his past albums where layers exist to enhance the layers that augment the layers of layers, Epicloud is a joyous, happy album that has more than its share of highly accessible songs. Sure, it’s a little off the beaten path but it’s a journey well worth taking.

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