The first thing to strike you within the opening minute of Failure, the first track unveiled from forthcoming Devin Townsend Project opus Transcendence, is that it sounds a bit different from what Dev’s been doing recently, and that’s a really good thing.
2009’s Addicted! showcased a streamlined Townsend’s sound. The riffs were huge, epic, crushing; all the words for big you can think of, as were the melodies, harmonised choruses bellowed as if by choirs of angels from within sunlit clouds in azure skies, rainbows of solos pealing from horizon to horizon. It was big, positive, and won him tons of fans – almost as many as man with a heart as big as his extreme talent deserves.
Only, after that, 2012’s Epicloud and 2015’s Sky Blue in particular conformed to a very similar style. Dev’s solo work used to keep you guessing, idiosyncratic in extremis, but always something you grew to love. Failure, written by the entire band rather than just the maestro himself, represents his first surprise in a while. It’s still as glossily epic as you would expect, but it’s downbeat, dark, and moody. The riff broods, ponderous in its chug as Devin delivers a melancholically imploring vocal, the fear of failure an enervating battle with which we can all identify. Dialling everything back a bit gives the track space to breathe, Devin’s solo a lot more off the cuff and experimental, the customary choir subdued, a supporting cast for Townsend’s vocal rather than an overpowering force.
An odd choice of first track perhaps given its understatement, but a positive sign for what’s to come when Transcendence is released in September. If the album offers as different a take on Devin Townsend’s project as this track suggests, it’s sure to be anything but an *ahem* failure. Sorry, had to go there.
Transcendence is out September 9, via Omerch.