Friday, September 14, 2012
Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud (2012)
Country: Vancouver, Canada
Style: Progressive Metal/Arena Rock
Based on my praise for his last two albums (with Ghost being my #1 album of last year), I'm sure it won't come as any surprise that I am a Devin fanboy. Devin is one of my absolute favorite artists in music and I think everything he's done is worth hearing, whether you're a metalhead or not. Devin is one of a very few select groups of artists/bands that can do no wrong in my book, even when his goal is to write a pop album.
What came into my mind when I heard Effervescent! open this album? Probably the exact same thing everyone else thought - Devin is really showing off his love for Queen. Apparently hiring a professional choir really has allowed him to basically show off his love for the classic rock titans in less than a minute (which is more than can be said for the hundreds of "rock" bands who site them as an influence). Aside from that, and a couple other choice spots on here where the choir show up for back-up vocals, this is more of a Def Leppard than a Queen album, but that's just me. I'm not even a Def Leppard fan, but I know that Devin says that they were a big source of inspiration for this record. I'm also aware of how much the subject matter of this record is about love and long-lasting relationships, so that does lead to quite a few cheesy lines, the chorus on Liberation proved to be a little too hoaky for my own taste. I felt like that one was probably the one that made me cringe, and I did find the rest to be tolerable at their worst.
I recently read a comment on a website in regards to Devin's output being described as musical diarrhea. You know what, it might be a little harsh, but listening to this album from beginning to end several times now, and I do think that's a pretty good way of describing the vibe of this album. Yes, this is primarily a pop-metal album, but to say that every song on here is going to be in the same vein as tracks like True North and Lucky Animals would be incorrect. There are tracks on here that are more on the heavier side of things, a bit more riff heavy anyway, like his re-recording rendition of Kingdom or More!. They may still be pop songs, but they hit harder. Then you have songs like Where We Belong and Divine where it's closer to the ideas he presented on Ghost. They're acoustic pieces that are very ambient, and while they may be very hauntingly beautiful and catchy, they did feel a bit out of place on here to me. I think this is an album of very up-beat and catchy pop-metal songs, but some of this stuff does feel like, it's good, but it doesn't really fit with some of these other tunes. I do think Devin has a similar problem to Mike Patton (and this is from Patton's own mouth) in that they both have a similar sense to over orchestrate the stuff they write. Some of the first couple of songs on here are a bit overwhelming when they first hit you and you have to just let it wash over you before you can really even grab ahold of the fact that this is a song you're listening to and not just someone throw a bunch of instruments and production tricks at you.
If there's anything I have to give to Devin though, it's that even when he puts out an album that does feel as scatterbrained as this one, he still makes it worth listening to over and over again. He manages to find that through-line that makes these songs work together in a way that I don't think any other artist could. He also knows how to write a big, melodic hook that will get stuck in your head. Even on those more acoustic moments, he still injects those huge choruses into them to the point where I was just laughing about half way through this because of how catchy he made some of these tracks. Honestly, even the tracks that I'm not all that huge on he still manages to make them listenable if only for the chorus. I do have to say that I did think that Anneke van Giersbergen was not used as much as I may have liked her to be. She's a fantastic vocalist (and one of the reasons I ever listened to The Gathering) and I felt like she had less of a role than on Addicted. Obviously they're different albums but I sort of expected her to be more present.
While it's not my favorite Devin album, it's still a lot better than a lot of albums this year and is still a great album. Scatterbrained but still great. I wasn't totally sure how poppy this was going to wind up being, but it actually turned out better than I thought. If you can stomach some big pop-metal, I'd definitely say to check this out, if not, listen to a couple of songs before you listen further.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Save Our Now, More!, Hold On