For those of you unfamiliar with the name of Devin Townsend let me give you a brief introduction…. The Canadian artist was launched into the spotlight when he featured as the vocalist in the band ‘Vai’, put together by virtuoso Steve Vai in 1992. Steve discovered Devin, who was 19 at the time, via a demo tape that had been sent into his label, Favoured Nations. The tape arrived wrapped in a pair of underpants, a clear statement from Devin that as well as having an amazing voice and taking his music very seriously you should be able to look at life with a certain amount of humour, something that has been evident throughout his career.
Devin has always been one to go with releasing what he has in his head, rather than worrying about what the current trend might be or what might sell the most records. His back catalogue over the years is varied to say the least, ranging from the extreme ‘wall of sound’ metal made famous by his band ‘Strapping Young Lad’ through to ‘Ghost’; a very mellow, delicate and altogether different recording released last year by the Devin Townsend Project.”
The new album Epicloud (pronounced as Epi-Cloud, rather than Epic Loud – a deliberate play on words) is a pretty straightforward rock album and one that Devin has openly admitted that he is very happy with – if a little dubious about how it will be perceived. The multi-instrumentalist added, “It’s taken 20 years for me to feel like I am in a place where I feel able to release something of this nature.” Epicloud isn’t a ‘normal’ Devin album, nor is it indicative of a direction of where things are heading musically. It leaves behind all the inward looking and exploratory content of the last four records and acts as a palate cleanser before getting back into things proper with his future releases.
The whole point of the album is simple, to provide an epic and confident statement about the emotions that are usually viewed as inappropriate for heavy rock or metal. There is this general consensus that rock/metal lyrics have to be nasty or malevolent…. this album breaks that perception and shows that a heavy record can explore the good things in life or the more gentle themes that you would usually find in a ballad.
Anneke van Giersbergen, now a regular collaborator with Devin, features throughout the record, providing a welcome and interesting extra dimension to the vocal dynamics of the songs. Often her vocals are buried into the mix, acting as a kind of layering and not entirely obvious at first listen but this certainly isn’t the case on the final song of the album though. Her contribution on the song Angel sees her taking a more prominent role and she puts in a magnificent performance, epic in fact!
Expect to find cliches in abundance through the course of the record, you can almost tick them off as you go, including something extremely rare on a Devin Townsend record, a guitar solo!! There are highlights throughout, at times making you grin and at times making you stop dead in your tracks and listen to the beauty of songs such as ‘Where We Belong‘ and ‘Divine’.
That said my stand out track from the album is Kingdom, originally featured on the 2000 release ‘Physicist’ it has since become a regular on the live setlist. Coupled with the fact that Devin wasn’t happy with the original recorded version it has received a much needed refresh and as a result fits in perfectly with the epic nature of the record. A fabulous, massive, pounding track.
The digi-pack version of the album includes a bonus disc entitled ‘Epiclouder’ and features the additional tracks that were produced around the same period but were not considered suitable for the main release. There are some killer songs on the second disc and makes it well worth grabbing.
2. True North
3. Lucky Animals
5. Where We Belong
6. Save Our Now
12. Hold On
Epicloud is out now on Inside Out and is available from all the usual outlets.
For more info visit www.insideoutmusic.com