For some time there’s been a strong chance that Devin Townsend would choose to fold the Devin Townsend Project. Having reached a self-assessed creative goal with each of his named projects – Ocean Machine, Strapping Young Lad, and The Devin Townsend Band – he promptly disbanded the groups in question, and moved on to other projects. This time however, he’s taken a radical step in not only continuing with DTP, but also loosening his iron grip on the songwriting, recording and production process. For the first time, Transcendence is a group effort, featuring collaboration and production from Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood, bassist and producer from progressive metal titans Periphery.
As heavy as ever and and as pop as he’s ever likely to be…
Opener Truth, a re-work from Infinity, may not have been specifically written for Transcendence, but in its self-conscious heaviosity and eccentricity it certainly warns the listener to expect grandness over metallic assault. Stormbending is perhaps a better introduction to the mood of the album. By turns heavy as ever and cinematically epic, the bombastic arrangements are not quite guilty pleasure territory, but they are certainly as ‘pop’ as Devin is ever likely to be. Recalling moments from tracks like Regulator and Funeral from Ocean Machine, it’s a classic blend of Townsend’s ability to render chord progressions that almost border on power pop palatable for the metal listener, while also delivering on the downtuned chugs when necessary. Failure is where the latter tendency comes to the fore. Though DTP have never shied away from their metal side, it seems that all the young ‘djent’ progressive metal bands that have opened for Devin might have made an impression. The chorus is classic DTP, but the verses and breakdown bear a familiar polyrhythmic twang.
Melodramatic 10-minute prog anthem Higher is a symphonic mid point for the album, and means that the more straightforward rocker Stars, that follows, is all the more impactful. In terms of sheer saccharine joy, Stars is probably the high-point of the album, the kind of effortlessly evocative track that Devin has delivered before on songs like Christeen, Life or Hyperdrive to name but a few. Operatic ballad From The Heart’s grand crescendo feels like it should be the end of the album, leaving almost half the remaining running length of the track to fade into a folk-inflected outro that wouldn’t be out of place in Devin’s blues-folk Casualties Of Cool project.
Closing on an appropriately proggy cover of Ween’s Transdermal Celebration, DTP show once again that they have both a knack for the accessible, melodic and catchy, as well as the esoteric, eccentric and downright strange. As on the rest of the album this proves a formidable combination indeed.