One thing that today’s listener needs to remember is to keep on their toes – you never know what you will be listening to. That is definitely in play today, as we peer into the mind of one of rock’s stranger characters. Devin Townsend, of Strapping Young Lad fame, has been fairly prolific of late – seems like I just listened to a live Ocean Machine not even a few month back! In any case, here he is again with a collection of tunes so curious and disparate as to be pretty much unique among the latest of our prog rock and metal progenitors.
As usual with the proggers, there are a couple of blurbs. Empath begins with one of those, and it is titled Castaway. It features bird and beach FX , mellow guitar (Hawaiian?) and keyboards. It is only a couple of minutes long, but the point of it is lost on me, unless it is, of course, to set up the next tune. Genesis begins life with heavy metal riffs, keyboards, general weirdness, vocals about thirty seconds in, and almost a death metal growl here and there. It is atmospheric in nature, with lots of squealing guitars, a very weird mid-section and a cacophony about half way through. It is quite a tune.
Spirits Will Collide is up next, and it is a triumphant number in nature. You can feel it in the production, the horns, the big riffs, the vocal choir. You get the picture. Evermore features another big, bright intro with big vocals. The vocals start out buried at first, but soon take on their own instrumental aura, if you will. Some stop-time heavy metal riffs and another bizarre midsection later, and you have another cacophony, then out! Sprite has sort of an exalted vibe to it, and includes a spoken word intro, of all things. This track is weird – almost disturbingly so. They keys are way out there, and just when you think his vocals are going to reign you in, they do, but only briefly! There is a very bizarre vocal FX close on this one.
Hear Me is a wow/holy crap kind of song, in that everything is BIG – big riffs, big keys, big drums – you get the idea. HUGE vocals! The vocals are strange, almost nut job strange but that is typical Devin. My wife is more brutal – she says “it sounds like shit!”. I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. My wife, not so much! There is a big jam in the middle, another cacophony, and some serious screaming.
Why is symphonic in nature, with operatic vocals. I wish I had a voice like that! Big finish on this one. Borderlands begins life with a rooster crow, which seems appropriate somehow. It is a big tune. It starts out with simple synth washes and guitars strumming, but it just keeps getting bigger and bigger! The tune, itself, of course, is gargantuan. Eleven minutes may not seem like much to the resident progger, but for Townsend it is a bit of a stretch. If you think that is immense, however, just wait, there’s one more!
First, of course, we have another interlude. Requiem is another of those blurbs I’m always bitching about, but it seems to serve more of a purpose at least this time. This time around is features orchestra and vocals, so it is most likely one of those blurbs that will get bigger and actually get a chance to become a song!
Last, but not least, we have the big one. The monster leviathan, Singularity. This beast is twenty-three-and-a-half minutes long! It careens back and forth between skullduggery and song like I veer in modes from narcoleptic to frantic! It is huge, but it has purpose, again, for a big one. It starts out with a “Where Were You?” (Jeff Beck) vibe, then all hell breaks loose! One must listen to get an idea of where to go from here. I just loved it.
3. Spirits Will Collide
6. Hear Me
Playing Time: 73 minutes and 7 seconds