Fans of Devin Townsend must be the luckiest in the metal industry if sheer volume is any measure. I count 21 full-length releases since Strapping Young Lad’s 1995 album Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing and that’s not to mention all the EPs, live albums, various collaborations, contributing sessions and the fact that I probably didn’t count them all accurately in the first place. It’s been a few years since I did anything other than dip into a Devy release – probably since the aforementioned, and now defunct, SYL ceased to be a productive organism for Townsend’s overactive creative genius back in 2006. But how far he has come since he released that burst of Heavy Thing anger as a big ‘f-ck you’ antidote to the ills of the early 1990s metal scene.
Funny how things come full circle. Because of all the bloated, exceptionally well produced and airbrushed and powerful power metal releases I’ve heard this year, (or even any year) this threatens to top them all. Because power metal is what this is – progressive, no doubt, but nothing too challenging. Because switch Fabio Lione, Floor Jansen or even Vince Neil for Dev’s unmistakable vocals on From The Heart and you’ve got a track you could email to your girlfriend on Valentine’s day. It could almost make you, well, er, angry.
Yes, gone are all the industrial influences, the anger and any negativity, unless you count blissed-out sentimentality as a mortal sin. The Devin Townsend of today is a little bit Queen, a bit Pink Floyd and, yes, all a bit Gamma Ray-meets-Rhapsody of Fire. Is any of that a bad thing? Well that’s very much down to personal opinion. If euphoric, sunshine-breaking-through-the-clouds kinda metal is your bag then look no further. In fact, in that context, this is an utter masterpiece. Never before have I encountered such a fuzzy ball of cosmic love. A warm hug of galactic proportions. Life affirming lyrics and all very much in keeping with previous ultra-positive ‘Project releases like Epicloud. Not quite cheese, but if this was, it would be a great big sloppy ball of mozzarella – free of all evil odour, perfect for making your favourite pizza and all washed down with a glass of beautifully popping and sparkling mineral water..
Transcendence has all the heavily Devy-stamped hallmarks that even I, as a lapsed semi-fan of a decade ago, can recognise. The rousing synth-fuelled orchestration, the pounding drums, chugging riffs and the soaring choirs that build into those trademark choruses. Unless you already feel like you’ve had enough of all that, then just imagine if it was all delivered distilled through the light of a thousands rainbows. Yes, I’m being a bit silly here, but you get my meaning. Devin Townsend does nothing by halves and Transcendence is no different.
A more than reliable genius force in the metal world and one we all should embrace for his absolute love of what he does – a fact that shines though this latest release loud and clear. He’s pressing some fairly obvious, well pressed buttons here but I don’t ever feel like he’s doing it all with any cynicism and if I had not heard the slightly harder, more edgy Devy of yore then I think I could happily embrace this a little bit more, even though I think I would probably just slip into selecting the one or two fave tracks after a few listens – ones that do all the button pressing but in a much shorter time.
To those who worship the Dev and all he spews forth from the music factory that is his brain then strap yourself in and engage in whatever your preferred activity might be when listening to your latest Devin Townsend release. Because, despite the nagging feeling that we’ve all at some point in space and time and over the past 20-odd Devy albums, been here before, you’re gonna love it almost as much as you did the last one.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)