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'Accelerated Evolution' was the first album to be released under the banner of The Devin Townsend Band. Rather than marking a mere cosmetic change, however, in comparison with its immediate predecessor 'Terria', this album does sound much more like the work of a full band. Part of this is likely the result of adding a second guitar player, which gives the songs a thicker feeling even when Devin is noodling around. A large portion of the change, though, stems from the songwriting itself, which has produced an album chock full of much more classic song structures and gestures. This type of more basic songwriting technique can often restrict an artist’s vision, but Townsend’s music seems equally adept at expressing itself through avant-garde and more open, textural compositions as through this mode of straightforward verse-chorus songs.
Thus, 'Accelerated Evolution' is unmatched in Devin’s “solo” catalogue for its straight-ahead, absolutely gorgeous pop catchiness (or, at least, was unmatched until last year’s jaw-droppingly brilliant 'Addicted' – more on which at some future date). “Storm” features some of Devin’s most beautiful, heavily emotive vocals. Plus, make sure you pay attention about a minute from the end of the song, where you will hear what is probably the highest note we have yet to hear Mr. Townsend emit. It is truly a thing of agonized beauty. The references to rain throughout “Deadhead” evoke Devin’s earlier Ocean Machine project, as does the song’s atmospheric spaciousness, while “Suicide” boasts another ridiculously catchy chorus (although I’m still unclear as to what exactly an “internal suicide” is) AND probably the closest thing to a breakdown the man has ever produced.
“Traveller” is essentially a perfect pop song, which just happens to be disguised as an awesome heavy metal sing-a-long. “Away,” on the other hand, is an extremely melancholy, primarily instrumental piece, whose sound hearkens back to the wide-open ambience of 'Terria' and 'Ocean Machine – Biomech'. Where that ambience grew a bit tiresome on 'Terria' because there was little to break it up, in this context if functions quite effectively as a palate cleanser and point of reflection between the harder-driving, insane catchiness of the rest of the album. Its closing section also features some wonderful melodic improvisation while the rest of the band floats along in a chilled atmosphere. I find that toward the end of the album, the songs become slightly less differentiable, so that by the time “Slow Me Down” has finished, I feel quite certain that I’ve just listened to an album of fantastically catchy metal/pop gems, but I can’t necessarily recall them all to mind. “Storm” and “Deadhead” are definite highlights, though “Depth Charge,” “Suicide,” and “Traveller” are just as likely to worm their way deep into my subconscious.
When the dust settles, the most non-hyperbolic way I can describe the appeal of Devin Townsend’s music is that he strikes a wonderful balance between balls-out heavy metal insanity, instrumental wizardry, and a deft classicism of heartstring-tugging melody. 'Accelerated Evolution' finds Devin in fine form, gathering up the wayfaring excess from previous outings and compressing it into judiciously apportioned anthems; to extend the metaphor, 'Accelerated Evolution' is the ultra-dense black hole to 'Terria'’s vast, hypnotic nebula. Few artists could claim credibly the term ‘evolution’ for an album which exhibits pure retrenchment into classic rock song structures and irony-free melodic emoting. Devin Townsend, mercifully, is one of those blessed few, and 'Accelerated Evolution' is a tremendous album.
Overall rating: 88%. “Now the rain, it comes / The rain, it blurs the grey line.”
Note: If you can track it down for a non-exorbitant price, I would definitely recommend picking up the limited edition 2-disc version of 'Accelerated Evolution', which attaches a bonus disc featuring three tracks entitled “Project EKO.” These are full-on ambient/electronica excursions, all smooth and mellow, but thankfully without falling pretty to the frequent pitfall of ambient music; namely, that it is so ‘nice’ and ‘inoffensive’ that it immediately fades to the background. The songs have electronic beats rather than just pleasantly drifting tones, and contain enough movement and variation to remain interesting. “Locate” sounds like a less dub-influenced version of The Orb’s first few records, an impression which “Echo” intensifies with its heavy use of spoken-word samples. “Assignable” is even more upbeat, with some clanging guitar echoes laid atop the energetic techno beat.
All in all, these three pieces are a nice come-down from the metallic heft of the main album, and should appeal somewhat to anyone with an interest in the very early styles of IDM (especially late 1980s British techno, and early Warp Records artists), but certainly will not appeal to all fans of Devin’s more metallic endeavors.
(Note: Originally published at http://spinaltapdance.wordpress.com/)
Devin Townsend is an eccentric fellow, playing in many styles of band from the ambient (his self-titled solo projects) to the hard rockin' Wildhearts back to Strapping Young Lad. He is renowned for his ridiculous and meticulous style of stacking guitars and vocals together to create a "wall of sound" that is a powerhouse of distortion, as well as his ridiculous amount of vocal range and versatility ranging from a caustic shriek attacking society and stupidity to his trademark thrashy yells, and then a brilliant falsetto clean that completely betrays his look.
Anyways, enough about the man, onto the album! Accelerated Evolution is a blend of Devin's progressive metal, hard rock, and highly melodic pop tendencies merged into one ridiculous blend of atmosphere and progressive structure. Starting with Depth Charge, one of the first three songs that is heavy albeit catchy showing off his pop metal tendencies in a well off manner.
The production is Devin's wall of sound style, with two guitars on each side of the track, and one guitar half-way across both sides and another in the middle for that ridiculously heavy and crushing sound. His vocals, the clean vocals at least, feature a similar idea to create a sort of natural chorus effect for some of his falsettos.
The guitar stylings are strange, simple but highly melodic and very energetic at times, such as in Depth Charge or, more so, Random Analysis. Tuned to a very unusual tuning for metal (a blues slide guitar and folk tuning, Open C, think Friends off of Led Zeppelin III), the guitars combine low chugging tones, occasional abrasive tremolo lines, counterpoint melodies, and frequent chords overlapping each other. The lead guitar is much of the same, an unusual style combining intense legato solos sounding very fluid (which is what I think legato translates to from Italian), fluent tapping, and very melodic overtones overall.
The bass is virtually nonexistent, save for a few moments when the guitars and vocals don't crush everything else out of existence. Ah, a flaw! Yes, while the album is produced in a great manner, the impenetrable wall of vocals and guitar force the bass out of the way, with the drums just barely being at the perfectly volume.
Speaking of the drums, they are well done, combining what is necessary for Devin's music, technical patterns, simplistic patterns, and few fills, but set up in a complex structure sometimes. The snare is great, the bass drums are okay but could use a little more 'oomph' and less 'click', but the drums generally sound much better than on "Synchestra", the second album Devin released under this moniker.
So, Devin's vocals. While I mentioned his very versatile vocal range before, he mostly uses the clean side of his talent, which is definitely not a problem. His clean vocals stretch across all tones imaginable, from the aggressive thrasher vocals on Random Analysis to the beautiful, yet stressed intensity of Deadhead, he is truly a master of his craft. His harsh vocals aren't too shabby either, if less wide ranged. They consist almost entirely of sinister shrieks or mid ranged growls that sound evil incarnate, but spew either entirely hateful anti-ignorance rants or repressed emotion.
The music is, as stated, very fine with shifting from style to style. Take the opener, Depth Charge, for example. Very much a rockin' song, with a very intense bridge, but then Deadhead comes crashing in with its almost poppy structure in full swing, filled with fluid riffing and chording suiting Devin's almost relaxing but eye-opening vocals and lyrics very well. The album never strays into wanky regions or any sort of territory that modern metal usually does, but this isn't your bog-standard metal record. In fact, it's only a metal record by its guitar tone, occasional harsh vocals, and the production.
In the end, this record is one of the greatest products of a human mind, and it so happens to be the work of one of the most eccentric and introverted minds in music, Devin Townsend. Buy it, if you download it to sample but like it and don't buy it, shame on you.
- Devin's unbridled vocal performance
- Simplistic yet breathtaking riffing and leads
- A myriad of genres at play here, but never stepping into obnoxious terrtory
- The guitar tone, and production in general
- The first four songs
- The drums are almost perfect, but the bass drum is lacking
- The bass is almost entirely nonexistent
This will probably only seem odd to me, but although some of my first tastes, and loves, of metal were in the progressive field, I struggled to come to terms with the genre, eventually neglecting it in favour of other ventures. I suppose it’s a good thing that I chose to steer clear of progressive because, as I’ve slowly come back to it, I’ve learned to enjoy it more. This genre, in some respects, has become very nostalgic to me, evoking memories of my lost youth and reminding me why it is I got into metal in the first place. Whilst, of course, most people start with the obvious bands - like some generic nu-metal act, or one of the classics from heavy metal (a genre which still mostly eludes me to this day), I started in a very varied way. From the likes of Deftones, to British icons Bolt Thrower. My journey through the metal industry was, for lack of a better word, random. I was actually open minded at first, which scares me slightly. As I became entrenched and engaged in a long battle with metal, I started to lose a lot of what I had at the beginning, which was a passion for some of the obvious choices. Bands like this one, The Devin Townsend Band, were amongst the first I came across and although they didn’t influence my choices later down the line, the impression has been long lasting. In a sense, the title for this debut, ‘Accelerated Evolution’ is ironic.
How? Well, my roots in metal are firmly tied to any one genre, or band. I went, as I said, from Deftones, to Bolt Thrower, to The Devin Townsend Band and then on to Darkthrone. Already I’ve spread my undeveloped wings across several genres, tapping into many different and varied streams of metal, though the lasting impression was left by the tributary called black metal. I accelerated through the genres like a whirling dervish, evolving at the speed of light and experiencing bands as I changed through the gears and their respective genres. I’m surprised my pre-conceived notions of progressive metal being so pretentious lasted so long since I had some experience with the genre from the very beginning. Seeing as my opinion of this record, and this band in general, is almost immaculate, I find it strange that I developed a disdain for the genre that gave me all the memories that it has. For me, listening to ‘Accelerated Evolution’ is like taking a trip through regression and the past. I have a lot of memories attached to this record as it reminds me of certain people from my past and certain events that shapes my life so, I suppose, I’m slightly biased in my review for this piece as its very sentimental to me. Then again, I don’t suppose it would be if it wasn’t as good as I will begin to preach that it is.
I listened to this record less and less as time went by, but recently I re-discovered this piece in my collection and decided to give it a spin, since then I‘ve become addicted to it and its engrossing emotional story. I remember vividly the day I bought this CD in store in the city of London. I was with friends and none of us had heard this band, or of Devin Townsend before, and as an impressionable young man, I decided the artwork was intriguing enough to warrant buying it - so I did. When I got home, I immediately listened ‘Accelerated Evolution’ with a degree of anticipation and excitement. My appreciation for this record has actually grown since I’m now an adult and have a better understanding of music and the emotion that is behind the music. I imagine, with a certain conviction, that anyone listening to this for the first time after reading through the reviews will enjoy this band immensely. Not often does a record like this come along, one that seems to narrate a story of fiction, perhaps non-fiction if the lyrics are anything to go by. Records that evolve like they’re books are interesting by nature. ‘Accelerated Evolution’ would be a best seller if it were. The deeply affecting atmosphere generated by the heavy-handed guitars and subtle symphonies slowly signifies is impacting and unparalleled within the genre.
There is a degree of pretension attached to this record (which is shown in a glaringly obvious manner on songs like ‘Away’ with its seemingly endless solos), in my eyes, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying the unfolding of the many numerous layers that this record has. Perhaps most importantly are the lyrics, which don’t immediately hit the listener. It takes a lot of reflection and devotion, on the part of the listener, to truly digest the lyrics, which tell a story of love, loss and human relationships. This record is intensely passionate, and that’s something that is apparent all the way through as the instrumentation and lyrics from Devin stretch out to the listener. The lyrics are made even more apt along the journey as they tend to describe a lot of the listeners thoughts and feelings throughout the record. The consuming passion, the flame of intense love and skill at switching moods hit the listener like a tonne of bricks in the face. Though the narrative may be simplistic, the complexities of the overall story and how it is told make this one of those records that takes a number of listens, over many years, to fully understand and appreciate the context of the material.
So, who do we have behind door number one: the vocals. Devin Townsend seems to be the center of creativity for this band, since its his band (as well as the fact that he engineered the record and wrote most of the material). His vocals are emotional and wretched with a number of different, yet still painstakingly beautiful, contexts. From the pain of songs like the fantastic ‘Storm’, to the mature approach of ‘Depth Charge’. Devin appears to have a talent for song writing which makes his vocals a central point throughout. Though the more experimental themes are developed through the instrumentation, his vocals are the most intense part of the experience since they’re so emotional and he sings about some very rewarding topics. Though they can some times become overly sentimental on his part. Devin also pulls his weight on guitar too, adding an enhanced feel to the symphonic soundscapes that fellow guitarist Brian Waddell and keyboardist Dave Young already lay down superbly. In fact, the keyboards and bass, though underlying throughout, are perhaps more significant than the guitars in terms of portraying a mature and dynamic sound. The guitars have a raw quality to them, given how distorted and hurt by past experiences they sound (shown typically on ‘Deadhead’). The record however, is typified by Devin’s brilliant performance throughout. From the sorrowful ‘Deadhead’ to the jovial ‘Traveller’ which contains some instantly catchy drums, this record serves only to reward the listener with some of the best, and perhaps more mainstream, progressive metal.
This is Devin Townsend’s first product with his new band, appropriately named The Devin Townsend Band. With this CD, they definitely do not disappoint, it is quite a masterful piece of work, and anyone who likes good music could like this one.
The CD opens up with “Depth Charge”, and this serves as a fantastic opener. It’s fast but very well written, featuring awesome riffs and great drums, and also some great vocal work from the man himself Devin Townsend, especially when he starts singing the “into the unknown” part. This song also has some well written lyrics which do nothing but make the song that much better. Up after this is the song “Storm”. This song slows down the pace but it doesn’t matter because this is a greatly written song. First, the lyrics again are fantastically written, having an emotional edge, but not coming off as corny or anything. Nice keyboard work is also a fantastic part of this song, as well as simple but effective riffs and drums that are played to perfection for this type of slow song. Following Storm is “Random Analysis”, and this song starts out with an awesome riff that is totally headbang worthy and after this come the drums and keyboards which complement this guitar perfectly, it’s a mid paced song and like the other 2 songs before it, it has more awesome lyrics. There is simply more awesome vocal work and a song that matches the tone of the 2 songs before it perfectly.
“Deadhead” is up next and this song starts out by setting up its atmosphere with good use of every instrument. Using chunky riffs and good bass work along with some good simple drumming, it manages to be heavy while being soft in a way and the result couldn’t be better. This song also has quite the performance from Devin going for it, his vocals have never sounded better. This is really a song that most people, even non metal fans could enjoy. Also, the one riff in this song that is played quite frequently is so suitable for the music that it is ridiculous, tracks this good only come around every so often. “Suicide” is next and it starts with a cool guitar opener, and then all the instruments come in and give you one hell of a performance. Devy’s vocals start out quiet and have an effect on them, but it really helps the mood of the song. The song then gets some more emotional vocal work from Devin that is beyond great sounding, there are also a few more growls used on this song which help the mood. This song also features a kick ass solo that goes along with the music fantastically followed by more amazing vocals from Devin. I would definitely consider this a standout track on the album along with Deadhead.
“Traveller” comes next and this is a fantastically upbeat song which is nothing but fun to listen to. If you were in a bad mood, this song could put you in a good mood, it is just that upbeat. The drums at the beginning are really done and they carry on through the song superbly. Based on the lyrics, this is clearly a road song and this would be well suited to driving. You could say this song is almost poppy, but in this case, that is perfectly okay, because Devin has constructed a smart song with awesome riffs, lyrics and drum work. Don’t miss this track. Up after Traveller is the semi instrumental “Away” and this song features gorgeous guitar work using pinch harmonics and everything, and through the guitar Devin manages to convey a lot of emotion, this is a track that is nothing but a pleasure to listen to. I also say semi instrumental as there are a few words here and there between the guitar work. Also look for the awesome solo work at the end of the track, you won’t want to miss it. The second to last track is “Sunday Afternoon” and this is another great sounding song, really simple riffs that come off as quite soft and more flawless drum work. This songs highlight is the nice layered vocal work, it really helps add emotion to an already emotion full song. Last song of the album folks and its “Slow me Down”. I would simply call this a nice song. Very upbeat and very simple, but the lyrics make it that extra bit special, I don’t really know what to say about them exactly, but they have a nice amount of emotion in them. Devin’s vocals on this track are about as clean as they get and the drums and guitar are of course simple but they produce a great atmosphere. This serves as an awesome closer to an awesome CD.
A few last things, the production on this CD is absolutely flawless. Everything is very well heard and balanced out in the mix. Devin Townsend can make amazing music, and this is no exception, this CD has a great degree of emotion as well as fantastic riffs and great singing. Devin Townsend fans as well as people new to the genre would do well to pick this up. This is truly a flawless CD in my opinion.
Oooooooh this one is a good'n. I'd been interested in picking this up for awhile, and when I found it in the used bin at my local music store for five bucks, I squealed with joy and snatched it up. I payed for it (stealing is bad) and skeedaddled back to the car to give it a listen, and the rest is history.
This thing did not leave my cd player for days afterwards. I literally became addicted to this album. This was my first taste of Devy, and I loved it. At the time I'd only gotten into metal aboot half a year ago, and never had I listened to something with so much depth and atmosphere. The music here is so compact and yet so extensive, that it takes well over 10 listens before you even begin to catch everything there is. Only begin. I've heard reviews refer to this album as 'Arena Rock' or 'Pop Metal', and while yes, there certainly is a 'poppy' sound here, don't get turned off by the term. After all, this is Devin Townsend, musical genius extraordinaire we are talking about, and when it comes to making music, he can virtually do no wrong. And no matter what any reviews may say, and although there are some lighter moments here, this cd is metal, through and through and true.
Although to get the full feel of this album it must be heard in it's completion, without skipping tracks or fastforwarding, I will still give a track by track synopsis, as it's the only way to begin to describe the sound here. It's just that durn tremendous.
Depth Charge - A terrific opener. Starts soft and far away, but you know that it is going to explode, and it does -quickly. Devy's vocals and lyrics on this track are phenomenal (and this is true of the entire album, actually). His voice is truly an instrument. This is one of the heavier tracks on Accelerated Evolution, at times almost getting to Strapping Young Lad level intensity.
Storm - Or more like The Calm After The Storm That Was Depth Charge. A track with some relatively lighter moments, but still always keeps up that amazing level of layer and depth. Some very emotional cries from Mr Townsend.
Random Analysis - This is where the genius shines through for the first time, on the first listen through. Depth Charge is really just as smart, but you are too busy adjusting to Devy's craAaAazy way of thinking to understand most of it. This song really takes you on a trip, and leaves you dazed and confused. The lyrics, as always, are worth more than a casual read, as there is a deeper meaning behind the insanity.
Deadhead - Downright awesome music here. This cd could be made up of a loop of this song's introduction and it would still be worth whatever it cost you. The lyrics are kind of depressing. The music is dagnab impressing.
Suicide - Catchy as a cold (bwaaaaaahahahaha). This is where the AE reaches its emotional high point. Yet another depressing and wallowing song. By this point you are so deeply a part of the music that it could actually be dangerous to listen to this thing. After this song, things start to calm down a little bit. It's like Devy is slowly and delicately regaining his sanity. Fortunately, his genius does not leave as his mind comes back knockin' on his door.
Traveller - Good, catchy song. Lighthearted until the end, where Devy starts to almost cry. It's almost enough to make an almost grown man cry.
Away - A completely instrumental track, but you'll be so busy listening to the beautiful music that you won't even realize the absence of vocals. One of the best tracks on the cd, for sure.
Sunday Afternoon - By no means a bad track, but it's just missing something for me. I never skip this, because really, it's a good song. Just not as brilliant to me as the rest. Still, others say that it is the best song on the cd soooo...
Slow Me Down - A beautiful closing track. Devy shows his hopelessly romantic side. The guitar work here is what really stands out, as there is not as much bass and layers as on the other songs. It's one of the lighter songs on the cd, but it's also one of the most capturing...and even...charming?
Fans of music in general would be well advised to pick this up, as it is one of the most original and smart releases in a long time.
I've as of late become a huge Devin Townsend fan and have gone to some trouble getting his stuff both SYL and otherwise. I am impressed by the sheer breadth and diversity of his solo output, and while I'm not a huge fan of all of it, I give him high marks for trying new things and always being true to where he is emotionally at the time any of his releases come out. Which leads me to this release, where emotion is the key word and dominates every song, adding to the intensity and sincerity of the songs.
The guys who played on this album are relative unknowns, and they do a good job even though this is very much Devin's show. Special mention needs to be made of the drummer; he is nowhere near as flashy or complicated as Gene "God" Hoglan, but he is nonetheless very skilled and gets his share of tricky little (subtle) fills and such in, as well as being very tight overall. The keyboards are also subtle and used very tastefully, and the riffing is sooooo catchy! There is a pronounced pop sensibility at work here, and this is not always a bad thing at all, as it makes for great, memorable tunes. And as always, Devin's vocals and vocal arrangements are outstanding! He gets his share of his trademark screams in (always well-placed), but also a lot of clean and melodic vocals rear their head as well to excellent effect. Drenched in emotion and passion, his is a masterful and commanding vocal performance. Look to "Depth Charge", "Storm", "Random Analysis", "Sunday Afternoon", and "Slow Me Down" for some of his most shining moments.
The only thing I can think of that is a negative about this album is that many of the songs fall into the same mid tempo feel, and they can drag a little for it. Especially "Suicide" and "Deadhead", as powerful as those songs are; if they had been slightly shorter and less repetitive, they'd have been a little better too. Other than that small quibble, the catchy songs and vocal parts, as well as the fantastic production, make this a keeper for me.
Well well, what to write about the new Devy? That’s it has a great production? Or a brilliant execution? By musicians who are all very much in tune with Devin’s quirkiness? That I’m a big fan of Strapping Young Lad and was very anxious to hear this new album? Or, should I just write that this is a boring CD and that as far as I’m concerned the expectations are not met?
Accelerated Evolution is as boring, as powerless, uninspired and redundant, as the last Strapping was tight, fat, overpowering and heavy. The album is (again) a “light” version of Strapping. A fairly mainstream sounding and ditto produced Rock album with Metal gravy. Every now and then there are a couple of heavier riffs and vocal lines that kick things in the rear but on the whole it’s all too easy going for me. What I mean with “easy going” is the fact that there are but a few real riffs on the album. Most of the guitar work is comprised of big chords that keep yammering on and on and on. To me it seems that there has been a planned deleting of metal influences in order to make the whole thing sound more “alternative”.
The biggest problem I’ve got with this album is with Devin’s vocals and that they are so held back all the time. I like him best when he’s dragging the notes from his toes and throws them unto the world as living testament of his discontent. The sparse moments he does this are almost by default the best on this album. The remainder of the time he’s singing, and I quote my roommate: “Like he’s lovingly singing his teddy-bear to sleep”. I remember having almost the same problem with “Ocean Machine” so there are probably a lot of people who don’t agree with me at all , but this is not an impressive album at all.
(This review was originally written for http://www.lordsofmetal.nl and is republished with kind permission of the webmaster)