Devin Townsend is a musical genius. That’s always been my view and he has never disappointed me. He has created another amazing piece of work that manages to not only channel the direction that he has been going lately but also incorporate elements from his past.
“Transcendence” is an interesting album for two special reasons. First, while this is not his first album under the moniker of “Devin Townsend Project,” instead of it feeling like the title of a musical period of his career, it’s actually the name of the BAND. It features the band writing together as a unit for the first time. This changes the sound somewhat but it also underscores how the other members of the project understand how things work.
The other interesting factor is the overall positive message/theme of the album. At times the lyrics do feel like a litany of self affirmations but there’s a sincerity that comes through that keeps everything from becoming chapters from an Anthony Robbins self help book. I actually feel like Devin does a lot. Self sabotage, self doubt and all of the things that come with that are things I battle with. But then I get through them and though exhausting, there’s a sense of accomplishment. That’s the message that runs deep throughout “Transcendence.” Get over yourself and get through it.
Musically, while the arrangement and production are definitely familiar, there are enough twists and turns on “Transcendence” to set it apart from other albums in his catalog. “Truth” is a reworking of a song from “Infinity.” The new version feels like it was run through the Ziltoid orchestral filter and sounds more focused. Another nice change is that there are guitar solos here and there which is something Devin has avoided for a very long time. Consequently, the vibe on this album is more progressive which is great! You also hear keyboardist Mike St-Jean a lot more which also makes it feel more progressive.
Many of the songs don’t take the “easy” way out and instead will have a more challenging chorus or verse that make the songs feel less “poppy” than the songs on albums like “Sky Blue,” “Epicloud,” or “Addicted.” I LOVE those albums but it’s nice that Devin didn’t go into autopilot and make another album like those. That’s not to say that a massive song like “Higher” wouldn’t sound out of place on any of those albums. It’s more that it feels more natural in the company of trickier songs like “Secret Sciences” or even the title track.
I also really love the Ween cover. I’ve been a fan of Ween for as long as I’ve been a Devin fan, so for me, this cover makes perfect sense. “Transdermal Celebration” is one of my favorite Ween songs from one of my favorite Ween albums, “Quebec.” I actually bought the album on the day it came out IN QUEBEC CITY, QUEBEC. Weird. I love that the band stay true to the original but still sound like themselves. It makes the perfect closing for the album both musically and lyrically.
The bonus disc “Holding Patterns” features a few finished songs and a lot of demos. But as with all things Devin, even his demos sound like the finished product. Much like “Epiclouder,” it’s somewhat of a mixed bag but there are more than a few tracks that could easily be on any of his albums. The instrumental “Monkeymind” is my personal favorite since he never does instrumental “guitar” songs.
Another Devin album, another triumph. “Transcendence” is an album that is direct in message but not as musically direct as some of his previous work. Instead, it’s an album that not only shows how great it is now but also should prove to continually reveal more of itself on future listens.
4. Secret Sciences
8. Offer Your Light
9. From The Heart
10. Transdermal Celebration
2. Celestial Signals (Demo)
3. Support the Cause (Demo)
4. Into the Sun (Demo)
5. Time Overload (Demo)
6. Lexus (Demo)
7. Farther On (Demo)
8. Victim (Demo)
9. Monkeymind (Demo)
10. Canucklehead (Demo)
Label: HevyDevy / Inside Out Music