It’s no secret that Devin Townsend’s music is a constant source of enjoyment in my life. I’ve seen him in concert six times; five times as DTP, and sadly only once as Strapping Young Lad. I own physical copies of all his albums. I have a Ziltoid puppet that acts as a hood ornament for my guitar amp. And I will soon have a DTP stuffed bear in my hands (because, why the hell not?).
So, when any rumors of new Townsend material begin to circulate, I cannot help but get excited. During a VIP Q&A a few years back, Townsend began talking about future musical plans that included a Ziltoid sequel and a second album along the lines of Ki with Ché Aimee Dorval called Casualties, so I was very surprised to find out that his next project would instead be a collection of poppy, epic, and openly cheesy metal songs. This collection is Epicloud.
From the moment the choir begins the intro track “Effervescent!”, it is clear that this musical journey will be a very different one than on his previous new-age effort Ghost. The songs on Epicloud are fairly simple in their structure, which may be refreshing for those jarred by Deconstruction. They are quite poppy, which might bring fans of Addicted back. There are even very atmospheric love songs, for fans of Ki. Even pre-DTP fans could find something here between Accelerated Evolution-like tunes, the Physicist-era rerecording of the song “Kingdom,” and elements of SYL’s final album The New Black.
With all these elements combined, everything should add up to the greatest Townsend-related musical experience ever, right?
Well . . . it kind of is, and it kind of isn’t.
On the plus side: The aforementioned rerecording of “Kingdom” is one of my favorite things Devy has ever done. The song is now much closer to how he has been performing it live, with a more operatic approach to the vocals rather than Physicist’s somewhat nasally tones. In addition, “Save Our Now,” “Where We Belong,” and “More!” are all songs that could have easily been added to Addicted to lengthen the musical enjoyment.
My gut reaction to the lead single, “Lucky Animals,” was not a good one. I felt like the chorus repeated too often and the breakdown was more silly than Epic; it begins with a motorcycle revving. After a few listens I began to discover layers to it that I enjoyed. The back and forth between Anneke and Dev and the subtle horns eventually won me over.Plus that chorus is inescapable. It’s just too damn catchy, to the point of being pleasantly obnoxious.
This album welcomes back the co-star of 2009’s Addicted, Anneke van Giersbergen. Just as she did before, Anneke plays the perfect contrast to Townsend. Even when she is performing background harmonies, she manages to shine. It is a shame that she is unable to regularly tour with Townsend and company.
On the other hand, some tracks (including ones that I enjoy) feel a little underthought. The bulk of “Hold On” is a basic and rather obvious chord progression inside a soft verse/loud chorus song structure. I adore the intricate layers of the song, but the prominent portions seem too basic, even for the simple album it is supposed to be. The heaviest track on the album, “Grace”, opens with a phenomenal use of Anneke’s vocal abilities, before erupting into a choir backed metalcore-like breakdown. Ryan Van Poederooyen’s drum work is excellent here, but doing this in a song is such a cliché in heavy metal now. I might be ok with this if it wasn’t the largest portion of the song. Unfortunately, like “Stand” from Deconstruction, I find myself becoming bored because it just repeats for too long.
This will be an album that I will need to be in the mood for in order to listen to it as a whole. Perhaps I will just need to process it more, as well. It’s not the first of his catalog to fall into this category either. Much of the latter halves of Physicist, Infinity and Terria just don’t grab me.
I do adore the overall theme of the album, though. It’s such a positive approach to life and love that can be summed up in the line, “The time has come to forget all the bullsh*t, and rock!” It is an easy philosophy to aspire to, but a difficult to embrace as my nitpicking of the album has shown.
After all of that, I can say that I do like the album. The good parts are amazing and the bad parts aren’t even bad, they just aren’t amazing. Devin Townsend is one of my favorite people in music and I will always have high standards for his work because I know he can do great things. The easiest way to put it would be so say that if the previous DTP releases were 10’s this one would be an 8.
Epicloud will be released on September 18th via HevyDevy Records.
Stream the album here.
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I would suggest getting the deluxe edition of the album. There are so many incredibly interesting tracks on the second disc of tracks that are being undersold as “demos.” This second disc makes up for any pitfalls of the main disc.