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Devin Townsend Project - "Transcendence" (CD)

Devin Townsend Project - "Transcendence" CD cover image

"Transcendence" track listing:

1. Truth (4:47)
2. Stormbending (5:22)
3. Failure (6:02)
4. Secret Sciences (7:28)
5. Higher (9:40)
6. Stars (4:17)
7. Transcendence (5:54)
8. Offer Your Light (3:57)
9. From the Heart (8:23)
10. Transdermal Celebration (8:26)

Reviewed by on August 22, 2016

"...what you've got here is a damn near perfect album."

Woah wait, it's been two years since the massively anticipated return of Ziltoid already? It's time for another Devin Townsend Project album again? How did that happen? Shocked musings on the inexorable passage of time aside, “Transcendence” is here to offer up everything you'd ever want from a Hevy Devy release, but with some changes to the formula that actually make the music a bit more accessible to the world at large.

From beginning to end, it's clear Townsend is in a different headspace from the bombastic “Epicloud” or relentless and silly “Ziltoid 2.” While there are still lots of the same themes and tropes found here, the musical focus has shifted just enough to be noticeable away from the more overblown aspects of albums past. For instance, those church choirs he was so fond of in recent albums come back, but only briefly and don't dominate like before.

While a little more restrained, “Transcendence” is still essentially a power/prog album, and it's pretty grandiose in its own way. “Stars” in particular makes me think of a less over-the-top Sonata Arctica in that band's more melancholy moments. It would be unfair to typify the album in only that aspect though - "Transendence" is massively varied with a huge range of sounds across 10 tracks. There's the clean male vocals and storytelling tone to “Failure” followed by the choir-heavy bombast of “Stormbending.” Acoustic strumming marks “Secret Sciences,” while the title track almost feels like it could land on a Therion album.

“Higher” is sort of the “everything and the kitchen sink” track, using some serious technicality and weird sci-fi stuff in the middle, along with some unexpected harsh vocals. “Offer You Light” then goes all electronic and offers an upbeat take on darkwave, almost like if J-pop collided with metal. There's plenty of nods to musical roots as well, like the bevy of classic rock and hair metal guitar solos sprinkled across the album.

Ballad track “From The Heart” is kind of hit or miss and the main down point, as the cheesy song lyrics don't really fit the music. With an album this eclectic and all over the map, its inevitable at least something isn't going to jive with a listener, and this was the track that's skip-worthy for me. An exceptionally long track, “From The Heart” should have been split into two, because the second ambient half focusing on piano and strumming is spot on and works for all the reasons the first half fails.

Ending song “Transdermal Celebration” really splits the difference between the cock rock ballad and the zany sci-fi prog metal halves. It's an epic track of very odd proportions – unfortunately the four solid minutes of atmospheric rushing air sounds and no instrumentation of any kind at the end is entirely unnecessary. Cull that out (and the first half of “From The Heart”) and what you've got here is a damn near perfect album.

Highs: It's weird, it's eccentric, it's proggy, and it's damn awesome.

Lows: The first half of "From The Heart" sort of feels like a joke gone bad.

Bottom line: Townsend is still wacky but overall offers a more restrained sound that works on nearly all fronts.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)