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.

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