Having caught up with Devin Townsend a few months back at Ramblin’ Man Fair to talk Transcendence I have been excited to hear his newest creation. With such a varied back catalogue I looked forward to hearing what direction Transcendence would take; I have to say the wait was quite a challenge for me as I am a big fan of Devin, and not just because I am a fellow Canadian and a huge music nerd!
Kicking off with a re-working of old favourite Truth, originally on the Infinity album, I was instantly taken with how huge this album sounds. The production ticks all the right boxes for me, and the new prominence of the bass on this track really hits you just after two minutes in. This track isn’t only enjoyable nostalgia; it beautifully transitions into track two, Stormbending. By this track I already find myself in awe and struggling for words. Something I have always found with Devin’s music is no matter how I am feeling there is an album of his I can go to that helps and is just what I need to hear. Transcendence is no exception to this for me. There is no point in trying to compare it to his previous work. His music has evolved and adapted through the years, yet kept its heart that leaves so many people moved by each piece he creates.
Track three, Failure, we were treated to prior to the album release. It is definitely one of my favourites on the album, largely due to the incredible vocal performance mixed with the underlying powerful beat throughout. This is tied together perfectly with the instrumental section in the middle of the song. It fades out with ambience into another track we have heard already, Secret Sciences. This track features guest vocals from one of my favourite female vocalists; Anneke Van Giersbergen. When I spoke to Devin at Ramblin’ Man Fair I asked him about his work with Anneke; he said he was a “monogamous musician.” Transcendence also features guest vocals from Che Aimee Dorval who featured with him in Casualties of Cool, and Katrina Natale who featured on a track on Ghost. Devin says “sticking with the same people is the same reason I’ve been married for so long. Once I find great people, I have no need to look elsewhere for the similar things. It’s kind of great as it eliminates option paralysis in that area, though as different needs arise, often things evolve as well.”
Next up is the longest track on the album, Higher. It’s another I love which is making picking a favourite more and more challenging! This track almost felt like the result of mixing his older work like Terria and Synchestra with the more recent Epicloud, creating something new but with the same feeling of his older work. Higher is a highlight which I have noticed has been played on the first few dates of the Transcendence tour. I am hoping I get to see this epic when the tour arrives here in the UK. It blends seamlessly into Stars, another track which is incredibly moving. The production on the album by Adam ‘Nolly’ Getgood (Periphery, Animals as Leaders) is just perfect. The other members of DTP also had more input with Transcendence, I feel that has contributed to creating something really unique with this album.
Title track Transcendence is another incredible one; there is no filler on this album, every single track is a masterpiece in its own right. To me that is what makes Townsend one of the best musicians out there, he has the ability to create such emotive and genuine music. His diverse back catalogue forms a connection with so many varied people, whichever style he takes on never feels false. As he says “Music, in my opinion, is ideally the exhaust for whatever you’re going through in life. Rather than the focus, it should be the outcome. As such, each record just naturally leads to the next. If they’re done correctly, they become an accurate representation, like a snapshot of a particular frame of mind.”
Track nine, and the last original on the album is From The Heart. It’s a little more stripped back, but still has the big production and powerful feel to it. It has a different pace to the rest of the album, also lyrically this is one of my favourites; as the title suggests I get the feeling this is genuinely one from Devin’s heart. It builds into an equally beautiful instrumental outro, which leads into the final track on the album which is an unexpected cover; Transdermal Celebration originally by Ween. It fits really well with the overall theme of the album and for me is another favourite when it comes to showcasing Devin’s vocal range.
My absolute favourite on this album, after much contemplation and debate, is Offer Your Light. This is just such a positive track, from the fast paced synth intro to the end. This track was a bit reminiscent to me of Addicted! featuring Anneke’s guest vocals and having a similar feel to this era overall.
This album gets full marks from me, it’s hard to place where it sits amongst Devin’s many other works as there is so much varied choice! A strong contender for album of the year so far for me, and an absolute joy from start to end. Music to me is very much the best therapy and escape from the stresses of the day; Transcendence fits the bill. It is released on Friday, September 9th on Inside Out Music.
Devin Townsend: Vocals, Guitar, Keys, Programming
Ryan Van Poederooyen: Drums
Dave Young: Guitar, Keys
Brian ‘Beav’ Waddell: Bass
Mike St-Jean: Keyboards, Synths, Programming
Anneke Van Giersbergen: Vocals
Che Aimee Dorval: Vocals
Katrina Natale: Vocals
Niels Bye Neilsen: Orchestrations
Mattias Eklund: Ambience
1 – Truth
2 – Stormbending
3 – Failure
4 – Secret Sciences
5 – Higher
6 – Stars
7 – Transcendence
8 – Offer Your Light
9 – From The Heart
10 – Transdermal Celebration (Cover)