Devin Townsend Project
02. True North
03. Lucky Animals
05. Where We Belong
06. Save Our Now
12. Hold On
Devin Townsend has returned with the fifth album under his current solo moniker; the Devin Townsend Project. Over the past three years Devy has expanded into a wide array of musical soundscapes, pushing his repertoire into unexplored territories, as well as expanding on the styles and sounds that have made him a hit. While it will be startling for some, Epicloud should not be taken as an indication of where Townsend is going in his career. It is just another passing whim of his; a bombastic and catchy record, filled to the brim with some of the best pop metal you will ever find.
The themes of Epicloud are expressed right from the beginning with the title. The name of the album is an amalgamation of a multitude of thoughts, the most obvious being a portmanteau of “Epic” and “Loud,” and Epicloud is definitely that kind of musical experience. The second meaning is just as applicable, if not more so. Taking the title not as a portmanteau, but rather a new word all in itself, with the prefix being “epi” — meaning near or above — and the base being cloud — meaning cloud or simply referring to a higher state — the album takes on a much more meaningful definition than just “loud” or “epic”, and the name now describes the tone, the themes, and the emotional state of the record that the music will soon play out. “Above the Clouds” — that’s the feeling that this record hopes to evoke from the listener with its positive and ethereal music.
This effervescent experience is carried out by way of simple yet effective song structures more akin to the typical ‘verse – chorus – verse’ style rather than the off-kilter and crazy prog that Townsend is most known for. However, this is not new territory for Townsend, as he has made a wide array of simple and catchy rock n’ roll singles over the course of his career. Epicloud is just an extension of that in a more complete package, an entire album focused around singular, isolated, yet familiar tunes that lodge themselves in the listeners consciousness. Each song is contained within itself, sharing properties with the rest of the album, but insulated enough for each one to have its own unique identity.
The songs are typically focused around a single concept; a riff here, a drum pattern there or a vocal melody that drives the song home. It could be a stoner rock riff reminiscent of Queens of the Stone Age as on the song ‘More!’ or multi-track dream rock vocals like on ‘Divine’. There are hardly any proggy tangents — with the exception of ‘True North’— or ‘curve-balls’ as Devin describes them. The songs are almost always instantly set-up and the premise is followed through over the course of three to five minutes, as there are no grandiose fifteen minute epics on this record. As Devin describes it, this is a deliberate take on song writing that is meant to make the listening experience much easier and enjoyable, and that is exactly how it comes off.
It would be nearly impossible to discuss Epicloud without bringing up Devin’s previous foray into pop metal, 2009’s Addicted. Where Devin proclaimed Addicted to be his happy, simple, pop -infused dance metal album, that release came off as more of a cry for help, a story of a man hiding from the truth and difficulties in his life — the story eventually came to a climax on Deconstruction — and as a result those happy feelings felt forced and sinister. On Epicloud, however, Devin finally reached within himself and brought forth the absurdly happy record that was promised with Addicted. There are moments of doubt, uncertainty, and trepidation, but the overall theme always wins out, resulting in the first purely positive experience in Townsend’s career.
Speakings of parallels to Addicted, Epicloud features the return of the guest star to end all guest stars, Anneke Van Giersbergen. While Devin still commands the bulk of the vocal duties and his voice spans the gamut of inflection and delivery, the most enjoyable moments on Epicloud are those that are accompanied by Anneke. Whether Townsend just gave her the most memorable melodies or she’s just simply that remarkable, she is the vocalist that truly creates the otherwordly feel that is present on Epicloud. While her performance is not as dominant in terms of quantity or volume as it was on Addicted, and even though her voice never reaches ‘top of the mountain’ proportions like on ‘Hyperdrive!’ or ‘Bend it like Bender!’ her voice is perfectly fitted to the music at hand and some of her best performances to date can be found on ‘Grace’ and ‘Angel’. It should also be noted that Devin’s use of choir is much more predominant and organic on Epicloud. The use of multitracked and ridiculously overdubbed vocals are still here, but there are also a lot of purer moments that are not so processed.
Epicloud is without a doubt the strongest collection of songs on any Townsend record to date. These are not the best Townsend songs, but rather the finest collection of songs. Each one is polished and precise in a way that no other musician could accomplish. In the past there were always a couple of wandering or meandering elements that found their way on Townsend’s albums, but none of that is present on Epicloud. Instead, the audience is treated to twelve highly focused songs and a wonderful intro. A few of the softer moments on the album like ‘Where We Belong‘, are not as enjoyable as they should be, and the first single ‘Lucky Animals’ is probably the weakest moment on the record, but as a whole this a near perfect release for the Devin Townsend Project, with some of the catchiest and most beautiful songs in Townsend’s career. Attention should be paid particularly to ‘Save Our Now’, ‘Hold On’, and the spectacular re-recording of ‘Kingdom’.
Devin Townsend Project – Epicloud gets…