I’m a simple man in a lot of ways. Tell me that Devin Townsend is releasing new material, in whatever project he’s currently pouring his immense talent into, and I get excited. This excitement stems from a ridiculously consistent resume of recordings that dates back over twenty years at this point. And within all the different projects he creates or lends himself to, he never goes into music with less than a hundred percent dedication and effort. This is why his fan base is so dedicated, and at the same time, passionate as hell about anything he delves into.
For me, while his previous Devin Townsend Project album “Sky Blue” (part of a double-album set along with “Dark Matters”) left a bit to be desired in terms of consuming my attention, I was hoping that this small dip in continuity for myself was remedied in the future. I will admit that I became worried that Townsend had hit his creative limit with the band.
I walked into “Transcendence” with some hesitancy and nervousness in a sense that his incredible creative streak had suffered a bit of a blow, or at worst, had come to a halt. And if you add to this thought that this album almost never happened, then it becomes that much more important of a release. The mastermind himself had felt that the band had run it’s course. But the solution to this was for Townsend to step back a tad from his DIY attitude to making music with this group. While his vision is still there, he takes the massive blueprint and allows other members of the group to add their own sketches to help make the machine that much more efficient. It’s more of a band effort than any of the other albums, and this information is important in realizing that a huge step for the self-admitted control freak could very well breathe new life into the band, and pay dividends when the album is finally put to bed.
When I started up the album, I immediately got déjà-vu with hearing the terrific album opener of “Infinity” being transferred into the same position on this new album. “Truth” is a rework that stays true in a lot of ways to the original (no pun intended), while coming across as almost more grand and opulent than the original. I will admit that it’s a bit bizarre to me that he starts out his new album with the opener of an almost 20-year old album. I almost expected to hear “Christeen” start right after, so this will take some time for me to adjust to when I listen to this album. “Stormbending” follows with a plodding and atmospheric drive, with emotive vocals leading into light guitar and keyboard finger-tapping.
“Failure” is the first offering from this album made available to the general public, which has been met with skepticism by some, and others are left relishing in new DTP music. The naysayers have dogged the track for maybe being more relaxed and having a more laid-back approach to previous efforts, but the fans more accepting of the band’s overall craft were able to hear all the beautiful melodies and little details that make the sound appealing in all possible scenarios.
“Secret Sciences” has a gentle guitar/keyboard flow in the first half of the song which gives way to Townsend’s varied vocal style. The second-half goes into more epic territory with a more direct guitar style and tasteful lead guitars. Add the beautiful background harmonies of longtime vocal partner Anneke Van Giersbergen and this particular song holds up in grand fashion to anything in the band’s catalogue. “Higher” is tailored to the fans wanting the harder edge and more technical aspects of the band’s sound. There’s lots of great shifts in sound and instrumental acrobats from all involved in this near ten minute epic. “Stars” comes across as operatic and moving, while the title track continues where the previous song left off in some senses, but the format gives way to a powerful streamlined approach. The end builds to a great crescendo and then fades out lightly.
“Offer Your Light” is upbeat and synth driven. Townsend’s harsh vocals contrast perfectly with Van Giersbergen’s angelic singing style. This song is a great jolt of adrenaline and would work well as a single for this album. Just a totally fun and exciting sound that’s full of energy. And after that excitement, it’s time to wind down the proceedings in a sense. While “From The Heart” starts off in the trademark “wall-of-sound” approach that fans have come to expect, we’re treated to a beautiful fade-out that is represented with an airy and tranquil acoustic guitar ambiance. Add in a cover of Ween’s “Transdermal Celebration” which works surprisingly well as an album closer, and we’ve come to the end of another monstrous affair from Townsend and his gang of misfits.
All worries for me of another “Sky Blue” have been washed away. I come to see this album as the band’s most epic and grandiose since “Epicloud”, which is saying something. He’s firing on all creative cylinders once again, and with what I alluded to regarding all band members now having some input in the songwriting process, it feels like the band has new life.
However, if this is the final album for this band, the fans can be happy in the fact that like in all facets of Townsend’s career, he’s going to go out on his own terms, and with that comes no sacrifice to his legacy and craft.
04. Secret Sciences
08. Offer Your Light
09. From The Heart
10. Transdermal Celebration
Playing time: 64:16
Release date: 9 September, 2016
Label: Inside Out Music
Website: Devin Townsend Official Website