Devin Townsend has gone many different musical places in his career, frequently doing something drastically different that what he’s done before, most notably on his first four albums in the Devin Townsend Project with Ki, Addicted, Deconstruction, and Ghost. Transcendence is no exception, as it takes his sound to a new level. On this album, Devin took input from the rest of the band, musicians he’s been working with for 10+ years, and relinquished some control to them. Because of this, the band sounds more united than on other recent DTP albums, like Epicloud and Sky Blue.
This was brought on by Devin taking a year to write an autobiographical book “Only Half There”, and really getting introspective into his creative process. From writing the book he realized that he needed to step outside of his comfort zone a bit more in order to break out of his creative slump. He gave the other band members opportunities to come up with parts of the new songs on their own, and worked longer on his own ideas rather discarding them. He discovered that the rest of the band could understand the way he communicated his musical ideas, and he was able to trust them with his vision. This was revealed in the documentary videos on Devin’s YouTube channel, which offer some great insight into the writing and recording process. You can really see how excited the rest of the band is to be able to contribute more to this album.
The album starts off with a re-recording of an older Devin Townsend song ‘Truth’ the opener to his 1998 album Infinity. The song is much more polished than the original, with Devin’s years of experience breathing new life and energy into it. As the song is mostly instrumental, with just some Hallelujahs and other backing vocals, it’s a great way to start off the album. Although fans of Infinity will be expecting it to lead into ‘Christeen’ instead of ‘Stormbending’.
‘Stormbending’ is a nice smooth melodic song, the sweeping arpeggios around the 1:40 mark sound especially great. This leads into a screaming guitar solo as Devin’s vocals pick up momentum. The second half of the song features an epic orchestral build up which concludes into a distant distorted guitar riff, leading us into the next song, ‘Failure’.
A dissonant riff begins this unique track, which is joined by the rest of the band with some heavy guitar, bass, drums, and a trumpet. The orchestral backing on this album seems to blend seamlessly with the overall sound, more so than some other DTP albums. The highlight of this song is the lengthy guitar solo in the middle, something quite out of the ordinary for Devin. While his guitar playing has always been very complex, he’s made a point of avoiding “show-offy” guitar parts on his records, namely solos, and only playing what’s necessary. This is just one example of Devin going outside of his comfort zone.
‘Secret Sciences’ is chock-full of addicting riffs, catchy vocals and just interesting sounds overall. There are some backing female vocals sprinkled throughout the song, similar to Truth. Female leads are nearly absent from this album, which have been a staple on DTP albums as of late. This song ends as it fades into some ambience before the next beast of a track, ‘Higher’.
‘Higher’ is the longest song on the album, and quite a beast it is! It seems to transition through many of Devin’s styles, going from the soft melodies of Ki/Ghost to the epic riffs of Epicloud/Z² to the harsh screams and manic arpeggios of Deconstruction. It’s a perfect song to showcase the versatility of Devin Townsend. The last third of the song even features some Ziltoid The Omniscient and Synchestra influence in the riffs and melodies. This song is my favorite on the album and I can’t wait to see it live!
The next trio of songs are some of the shortest on the album, but they still have much to offer. ‘Stars’ is a softer song with some nice rhythmic guitars and vibrant tone. The vocals on this track harken back to Devin’s early solo albums. ‘Transcendence’, the title track, continues the softer tone of Stars. As the album starts to wind down, the female vocals take a more forward role, with some small leads complementing Devin’s vocals. ‘Offer Your Light’ is full of great catchy riffs and melodies and some female leads, utilizing electronic keyboard synths and echoing guitars.
‘From The Heart’ is another epic song, on the longer side, with some very powerful vocal melodies and bright guitar tones. The layered vocals and backing tracks blend in a magnificent way. The second half has some nods to Ghost and Ki in the soft acoustic guitar and ambient keyboards.
The final track, a cover of the Ween song ‘Transdermal Celebration’, starts off with some melodic strumming leading into more epic riffs and layered vocals. Devin really adapts the song into his own style flawlessly. The song then fades into an ambient passage leaving you to reflect on the album as it fades into a soundscape of echoes, whispers, and drawn out notes. Truly a “Devin” way to end an album. Although if you got the deluxe version you have a whole second disc to look forward to (unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a review copy of it).
From start to finish, Transcendence is a flawless album, taking what Devin Townsend has done in the past, and perfecting it in a way that will most definitely please fans. It seems to feature the best Devin Townsend qualities, as if he were to take my favorite parts of his previous albums, and throw them together into a new album. Each song stands well on its own, but as a whole, Transcendence is really something special. I can’t help but leave the album on repeat when I listen to it. If you don’t like anything Devin has put out, especially in the last decade, then this album probably isn’t for you. If you’re willing to give it a chance though, please do, because it is an excellent piece of progressive rock.
A promotional copy of the album was used for this review.
Band: Devin Townsend Project
Release date: 2016/9/9
Label: Inside Out Music
1. Truth (4:47)
2. Stormbending (5:23)
3. Failure (6:02)
4. Secret Sciences (7:28)
5. Higher (9:40)
6. Stars (4:18)
7. Transcendence (5:55)
8. Offer Your Light (3:58)
9. From The Heart (8:24)
10. Transdermal Celebration (8:27)
Total running time: 64:22
Filetype listened to: MP3
Bitrate: 230 kbps VBR
Sampling frequency: 44,100 Hz, 2 channels