Posted on September 22, 2012 AT 09:03pm
This review is going to be a bit different, because the artist being reviewed is a bit different… and I just felt like bringing on my “Hetero-Life Mate”, partner in crime and fellow Digital Nooblet, Russ Pirozek on to review Devin Townsend’s “Epicloud”. It’s probably worth it to mention that while I’m a casual listener of Devin’s catalog, his opinion stems from a perhaps more encyclopaedic understanding of the mans works. My portion of the review will be in normal text and Russ’ parts will be in italics.
It’s usually commonplace for an artist to say “I just do what feels right to me and make the kind of content I enjoy” only to come out with something that makes you wish that someone was there to slap the bad ideas out of their heads. However with Devin Townsend, there’s only one sentence that can sum up his output: The man can do whatever the f**** he wants.
With his 15th album release, and fifth release under the “Devin Townsend Project”, Epicloud; Devin does exactly that. Opening with really happy melodies, intense production, technical musicianship and really, really catchy/poppy songwriting. This may not be a surprise to a devout Devy fan, as he’s been one to talk about embracing things that aren’t typically metal or extreme for that matter. A good description for this album would be the name of the first track “Effervescent!” which starts with a cheery choir before drifting into “True North” featuring Anneke Van Giersbergen. A lot of this album tends to lean towards a more uplifting, pleasant vibe, throwing in rich, reverb drenched synths and GIGANTIC sounding vocal layers and choirs along with these insanely happy melodies. It almost comes off like a huge cinematic soundtrack experience with the amount of details he’s put into Epicloud. A consistent factor in this album is that even though it sounds cheery and bright, it’s unrelenting in it’s heaviness. He’ll be kooky and do a swinging song like Lucky Animals or go into the direction a poppy/new wave sounding song like Save Our Now. He’ll occasionally soften up with tracks like Divine or Lessons, giving the listener a nice break from the limit pushing production of the heavier songs. These songs along with the occasional acoustic passages keep the album from sounding monotonous and long drawn.
With its combinations of slow and heavy, of slow and fast, of silly and emotional, Townsend continues to show his mastery of the art of music. Not only in skill, but also in quantity. Along with the release of Epicloud, Townsend released a second album of additional songs on the deluxe edition, Epiclouder. This additional disc features many of the songs that didn’t make the initial cut, but are full of terrific songs as well. While as a whole Epiclouder isn’t as polished or as dynamic as its predecessor, as individual songs are concerned, it features a few of the best songs from the set, including tracks such as “Love And Marriage”and “Quietus”, the former of which could very well be the best of the 23 songs on the albums.
The songwriting is incredibly well done featuring elements of progressive rock and metal. The main factor this album seems to shine on are it’s choruses. They’re like brain glue at times, especially with songs like Lucky Animals which you’ll have a VERY hard time getting out of your head. It feels as if it were a mainstream album done without the mainstream cheesiness. It’s adventurous enough to inspire interest and be praised for it’s artfulness while being incredibly accessible… but not to the point where one would consider Epicloud to be “middle of the road”.
Also worth noting is the extensive use of Anneke Van Giersbergen’s vocals on the album, as he did with 2009’s Addicted. Her style compliments Townsend’s beautifully, adding a soft, melodic layer to go with the back and forth chaos and impact of Townsend’s voice. Their dynamic is stellar, playing off one another on several songs, including the re-recording of a live set staple, “Kingdom”, which is an older one of Townsend’s songs, but one of his best. While Devy is the obvious frontman on the album, Anneke’s vocals add an irreplaceable layer of beauty to an already beautiful album.
While not as emotionally impactful as some of his other albums, Townsend once again proves that he knows no bounds when it comes to creating great music. No matter the genre, the style, or the subject matter, Townsend has a license to make good music in whatever way he chooses. While Epicloud may not be considered as one of his best, its still a fun, heavy album that is markedly his own. Giving this album a few spins proves this is, beyond a doubt, a great record in a series of many.
Overall, Epicloud remains a solid release and definitely one of many albums that would make a fine case for introducing new listeners into the highly complex realm of Devins music. Fans of his super-heavy extreme metal may not exactly get into it, but fans of the lighter/more melodic music and fans of the larger than life sounding Ziltoid release will definitely find something worthwhile giving this album a listen.
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