The maestro of multi-faceted epic metal has pushed the boundaries of sonic possibility for 23 years, exploring the befuddling chaos of the human experience across a number of different bands and projects. We’d be here forever if we looked at them all, so in anticipation of forthcoming Devin Townsend Project record Transcendence let’s instead look at the key albums that shaped Dev’s musical journey so far.
A crowning achievement for progressive metal, Terria effortlessly combines intricate composition with an ability to cut to your core, touching vulnerabilities that unite us all despite our differences. From redefining the term epic with Mountain to the meditative masterpiece that is Deep Peace, Terria is nothing short of a spiritual experience.
Ocean Machine (1997)
Created as an antidote to the unbridled rage of Townsend’s then main outfit Strapping Young Lad, Ocean Machine’s accessibly crunchy riff-rock explores a wider emotional palette. It stands alongside Terria for many as his best work, documenting a young man’s existential angst, at times uplifting, at others sombre, disenfranchised and angry.
Many cite City as SYL’s best album, but they’re wrong. Created at a time of extreme personal anguish, Alien documents the rage and anxiety of a man on the edge, the ultimate distillation of mental illness on record. To this day you’d be hard pushed to find a heavier album.
Accelerated Evolution (2001)
Building upon the riff-rock approach of Ocean Machine, Accelerated Evolution furthers Townsend’s ambitions to create monumentally massive, multi-layered harmonies latched on to planet-sized guitars – the soloing alone of Deadhead is enough to permanently raise the hairs on your neck. A crystal clear prism of uplifting melodies and relentless groove.
A fan favourite, this apoplectic banshee of a record was years ahead of its time. SYL’s second album perfectly captures the melding of industrial and extremity that Townsend had been aiming for ever since he picked up Fear Factory’s torch and ran with it.
Informing the direction of every Devin Townsend Project record since, Addicted is Devin at his most exuberant – yet darker themes lurk within. Combining his customary crunch with the uplifting vocals of The Gathering’s Anneke Van Giersbergen and effervescent pop fizz, Dev hits upon a winning combo that welcomes legions of new fans.
Worth Checking Out
Disliked by Devin because of its production (he has no one to blame but himself), Physicist is nevertheless interesting because it features the SYL line-up, combining their ferocity with the melodic aspirations of his solo work in a manner unique to his discography. A re-recorded Kingdom featured on 2012’s Epicloud.
Ziltoid The Omniscient (2007)
Written shortly after the demise of SYL, Ziltoid is the sound of a man trying to find himself; stepping away from his disillusioned, egomaniacal onstage persona and manifesting it instead in the body of a caffeinated, egomaniacal alien puppet. Hyper-driven, zany and heavy as fuck, Ziltoid destroys the Earth. Indeed.
An exercise in restraint, Ki repeatedly threatens to explode only to pull back from the brink. Ever at his best when pouring his heart out, this heady mix of musical styles has a spellbinding feel, almost as if you’re there, in a late night session with Devin as it’s being recorded.
Give It A Miss
Written to quench fans’ thirst for a return to the heavy Devy of old, at a time when he would rather have been writing gentle acoustic lullabies, you can tell his heart’s not quite in it. Nevertheless, it’s fearsomely intense; a convoluted trip through the inner workings of Devin’s labyrinthine intelligence.