Sunday, 23 September 2012

Album Review: Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud

Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud
‘Epic’ is one of those words that has come to be so overused in recent times that it has lost a lot of its original value. Nowadays you can walk down the street and hear people talk about their ‘epic’ nights out, ‘epic’ holidays, even the ‘epic’ bowl of Frosties they had for breakfast. Having said that, Devin Townsend Project’s aptly named fifth album Epicloud fully justifies its use as it is nothing less than epic.
Not a (epi)cloud in the sky
This may only be the fifth album released under the Devin Townsend Project moniker, after releasing two albums at once in both 2009 and 2011, but it is Devin’s fifteenth solo release (twentieth if you include his work with Strapping Young Lad). Not bad considering that first release was as recent as 1995. With a tremendous back catalogue and fan following built up over the years expectations were once again high. Combining elements of all his previous creations, from the heaviness of early SYL to his softer touch on the likes of Ki and Ghost, Epicloud aims, and should succeed in pleasing every type of Devin Townsend fan.
Opening with what sounds like, and turns out to be an actual gospel choir on 'Effervescent!' this soon emerges into some trance induced female vocals from Anneke van Giersbergen (formerly of The Gathering and appears throughout the album) before Devin’s unmistakeable voice breaks through on 'True North', an early indication of what the album has in store. The relatively calm opening soon emerges into the full blown madness we’ve come to know and love about Devin on 'Luckily Animals', with everything from his trademark bellow, trumpets and the catchy yet bonkers, chanted chorus of ‘Animals, animals am I lucky?’.
For the most part Epicloud is at the heavier end of Devin’s musical scale, more in line with the likes of Addicted than Ki. Having said that, there are softer elements evident on 'Where We Belong', with its acoustic intro, and 'Save Our Now’s relaxed, drawn out vocals, although these both eventually develop into something with a more rocking vein. The love song style of 'Divine' makes it the only track, bar the Spanish influenced interlude of 'Lessons', to contain purely acoustic guitars and a constant relaxed, ambient feel.
Devin Townsend has been around long enough to earn a brilliant reputation for his all round musical talent, beautifully crafted songs and off the wall lyrics and concepts. Epicloud is no less than what anyone could have expected with Hevy Devy expanding his musical direction to include a gospel choir, elements of jazz and a string section. Whilst that might sound a little ambitious, even pretentious, it works a charm as all the different components come together to form an outstanding fifty minutes of music. Much like Pink Floyd’s classic The Dark Side Of The Moon, it is an album that requires listening to all in one go for the full atmospheric experience and to experience its true quality.
The standout track 'Grace' sums it all up perfectly. As the longest song on the album at just over 6 minutes it encompasses everything, from the calm intro that builds into an almighty crescendo to the spaced out feel present throughout Epicloud, and the wonderful interaction and contrast of Devin and Anneke’s vocal ranges. At times the whole thing sounds like an operatic space opera, sometimes atmospheric and calm yet at others full on and in your face. Epic indeed.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Download 2013

Over the past few years Download Festival's headlining announcements have moved earlier and earlier. In November 2010 it was the first time one of the headliners was announced in the calender year before the festival took place, that being for System Of A Down's reformation for the Saturday of 2011. Last year it was even earlier with the legendary Black Sabbath announcing on November the 11th not just their reformation but that they would also be headlining the Sunday night of 2012. This year it's been announced nearly two months earlier.
Up the Irons
That's right, the almighty Iron Maiden will once again be headlining Download and this time bringing their Maiden England set with them. There are various reasons as to why this has been announced so early. It could be to ensure Download sell as many tickets as possible and keep fans in the know of who'll be playing well in advance so they have plenty of time to save up, borrow or steal to get a ticket, thus avoiding the problems encountered by Sonisphere last year. It could also be that Maiden wanted to advertise their European tour now, so Download complied by announcing them earlier. Or it could be they think the world's going to end in 2012 so might as well announce it now while we still all have time.
Those lazy Mayans, not updating their damn calender
Either way it'll be Maiden's 3rd time headlining Download and 5th at Donington. Despite only being broadcast a few hours ago the moaners are already at it. 'They're old', 'They've headlined before', 'They've not burned enough churches' are some common complaints. Whilst they may be closer to hitting a century than a duck, anyone who's seen them recently can assure you that pull back the wrinkles and you wouldn't know. They've headlined before but then again Download's been going for 10 years now and had pretty much every big rock/metal band still around take up a headline spot at least once. Of the few names that often get banded around for new headliners, Rammstein and Van Halen are both once again rumoured to be headlining. Let's hope that Maiden being released first means they're making way for a fresh act to be announced later on.
Finally there's those who will no doubt claim Maiden, or another band yet to be announced, not to be 'metal' enough. There is no set scale for being 'metal'. Is Varg Vikernes not metal because he eats cornflakes? Is Kerry King not metal because he worked with the Beastie Boys? Is Ozzy not metal because his wife was on X Factor? (Ok that one's debatable. Although more fool anyone to claim the Prince of Darkness himself is 'not metal'). The point is, it doesn't matter. As always there will be around 100 bands at Download, from the heaviest of the heavy to the pop-rock crossovers. Don't start complaining because of one band, wait for the other 99 and then decide if you're going to fork out for a ticket or not.

Download will be announcing another act tomorrow morning at 10am
I probably won't be up but if you are my money's on Rammstein for one of the other headliners.