The Devin Townsend Project – Epicloud (2012)

Posted: September 2, 2012 in Music

When you are as multi-talented and well-rounded as Canada’s Devin Townsend, your plate can get pretty full. When not lending his production talent to the rest of the heavy metal community, Hevy Devy continues to noodle his ideas on the next Ziltoid album, tours the planet constantly with The Devin Townsend Project, and tweets his steps along the way.

So – with so much going on, what does Mr. Townsend do in the few free moments he has? Well – he writes what just may be the album of the year.

Epicloud, set for a September 18th release in North America, is Devin’s 15th solo album since 1996 and showcases the growing maturity and style of one of music’s most diversified, talented forces.

Throughout his solo career, Townsend has dabbled in everything from ambient, new age music to downright nasty progressive metal, but Epicloud is something a little different from anything he has done in the past. If you don’t know much about Devin Townsend, the one word that best describes him – regardless of the style of music he’s performing – is “perfection,” and that attention to detail shines through again in his most accessible album to date.

“Accessible” and “Devin Townsend” aren’t exactly synonymous, however. Usually his albums are defined by chaotic, ear-bleeding explosions of sound that leave you grasping for breath. They are normally more complicated than the worst Sudoku puzzle in arrangement and structure. But such is not the case here (for the most part), and it just might be the recipe to land him into the mainstream of the modern heavy music scene.

Epicloud opens with “Effervescent” – an a cappella intro courtesy of the Marcus Mosley and Lonnie Belisle Gospel Choral Group that leads into the second track “True North” featuring Anneke Van Giersbergen – who shared vocals on Townsend’s “Addicted” album. The track is a harmonic, powerhouse of sound and structure. It hints at Devin’s progressive past, but introduces the record in a strong, melodic nature that should please fans old and new.

“Lucky Animals” is the album’s first single, and carries a heavy groove and catchy thump throughout. The song was originally intended as a follow-up to the old Strapping Young Lad tune “Monument”. It’s all about the mix here, though, as Devin shows that every note and drum strike has a purpose – and the end result is one of the most memorable tracks on the record.

By the fourth track, you sense that the album is more about human nature and emotions than it is the typical heavy metal or rock record. “Liberation,” despite its near-identical vibe to The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me,” is an enormous wall of sound featuring reverb guitars, personal lyrics and upbeat simplicity. Townsend himself admits “this record isn’t the definition of where I plan to go as an artist , but it’s where I am right now…” which sounds like an apology of sorts – but don’t be fooled. It still carries the precision he is known for. What Devin considers simple lyrics and sounds are still deep and interesting – he’s just a little more genius than the rest of us.

“Where We Belong” quiets things down a bit with Townsend showcasing the airy side of his vocals and acoustical strums of the guitar. The track grows stronger as it progresses, but doesn’t really get too loud. It does, however, still very very heavy.

That “soft-but-heavy” feeling continues with “Save Our Now.” It’s arena-friendly, and filled with more female choruses, but it’s just a setup for the next few tracks. The first of those is “Kingdom,” a redux of sorts from the version originally released on the Physicist album, released in 2000. Devin stated that “There are several tracks on Physicist that I’d like to redo, but we started with Kingdom, as it has become a staple on the Devin Townsend live set.” It was awesome 12 years ago, and it’s possibly even better now.

Townsend also points out “This record is full of big, heavy songs about being in an adult relationship. Why? Because that shit is heavy.” The best example of that philosophy is the powerful “Grace”. Devin is always good for an epic track or two on every record and “Grace,” coupled with “More!” is a back-to-back onslaught of heavy, powerful stuff that is as epic as ever. They are huge sonically, strong musically, and prove that Townsend is at the top of his game.

“Lessons” is a short instrumental interlude that lends itself to new age arrangement and quiet subtleties that, after a minute or so, blends into “Hold On” – another mid-tempoed, chorus heavy affair. While most of the album is a love song in disguise, Townsend wears his heart on his sleeve here. It’s personal, it’s meaningful, and it’s near-perfect.

Closing out the record is “Angel” which is a beautiful arrangement of vocals and guitars that marches along, building energy with each step. It’s a fitting closure to the album, as it presents the concepts of hope and forgiveness and really embraces the listener. The choir verse at the end will linger with you long after the disc ends, and you’ll hear the echoes in your head long after the goosebumps subside.

Townsend really had nothing to prove, which is why the statement here is so grand. If you’ve been a fan of his from the beginning, you will be impressed with the effort here – and if you are new to Devin’s work, this is as good of an introduction that you will ever here. It’s not very often you hear something that is absolute in its perfection, but for me – this was it. Highly recommended.

10/10

Tracklist:
1. Effervescent
2. True North
3. Lucky Animals
4. Liberation
5. Where We Belong
6. Save Our Now
7. Kingdom
8. Divine
9. Grace
10. More!
11. Lessons
12. Hold On
13. Angel

Buy at Amazon

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