“Transcendence” is the seventeenth studio album by Devin Townsend and it is the seventh and final album in the Devin Townsend Project series. It was released on September 9, 2016, via HevyDevy Records.
Think about that for a second. 17 albums.
It got a lot of awesome write ups and I think Loudwire gave it the Number 1 spot on albums released in 2016. I only listened to two songs from it as they came up on playlists (in “Stormbending” and “Failure”) and never really went back to listen to the full album during that year. I don’t know why I didn’t check it out fully, as “Failure” was and still is a great head banging track.
I don’t know how to describe the album.
I grew up on the sounds of the 80’s. The only thing that resembles the 80’s here is the distortion guitars and some shredding guitar lines. Sometime in the early 2000’s, extreme metal bands started to add atmospheric synths to their sounds, and they slowed their tempos so they have groove. It has some of that.
Then there was a genre called Math Metal which morphed to Djent and its now known as progressive metal. Well it has a bit of that. Operatic themes are present as well.
In the end, Devin Townsend is pushing the bar on creativity and originality, using the various digital audio workstation tools and plug-ins to achieve uniqueness. The future will probably look back at this album and hold it in high regard like the symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven. Maybe he will bring about world peace like the Wyld Stallions did in Bill And Ted.
A groove metal riff (almost nu-metal like in feel) underpins the song while the synth keys give it a very Euro vibe. At the 1.30 mark it goes into this classical like section.
At 2.15 minutes, it’s like a fire ritual, with a spaced out, very heavily reverb’d “Hallelujah” chant happening over a chaotic wall of noise. It sounds ethereal, dissonant yet melodic and hypnotic. And you can’t really make out the lyrics, (which ain’t much) as they are heavily loaded with effects.
And it ends like mindfulness music.
I also didn’t know it at the time that this was an updated or reimagined version of the same song which appeared on Townsend’s solo record, “Infinity” from 1998. And suddenly the nu-metal feel makes sense.
Devin Townsend can play some serious guitar and the dude can sing and growl with the best of em. In other words, he is one talented mf.
This song was perfect back in 2016 and it still is now.
You need to listen to the section that kicks in 1.46. Did anyone say “guitar hero”? Well you have it with Devin Townsend. The lead break that comes after that reminds me of A Perfect Circle. Actually the whole cinematic like vibe is reminiscent of the debut APC album. Then again, we wear our influences on our sleeves.
At about 3.28, it goes into this major key like vibe. It sounds hopeful and it goes with the lyrical line of “All we’re offering is a change to be loved”. And they continue this vibe before it fades into a cacophony of noises which segue into “Failure”.
The way this song starts off. It’s so heavy yet it lifts you up.
And they continue that groove (which reminds me of Tool), adding extra guitars, synths, harmonies and what not.
All I could be is press repeat over and over again to hear it.
And while the music is perfection, Devin Townsend reminds everyone what a great rock singer he is. He’s all clean tone, using his natural baritone voice, with high falsettos and when the Chorus kicks in, it’s like a sermon, with some high deity singing to the masses.
At 2.21, a lead break starts. He’s melodic, keeping within key, then he goes all dissonant and chromatic but at 3.11 he goes modal, keeping within the key and I am hooked. Just listen to it.
If you weren’t converted to Devin Townsend by know, this song could be the key.
And at 6.82 million Spotify streams it’s virtually forgotten.
It’s got a major key strummed riff to start it off. Its pop music and yet it still sounds heavy.
And when he sings “let it go” in the Chorus, a certain Disney song comes to mind.
It reminds me of Pink Floyd and “Goodbye Blue Sky” in feel.
Then at 1.20, it goes into a quirky “Higher” chant and then a Tool like groove kicks in, but the vocals are far removed from Maynard.
At 3.25, I like the whole movement and Townsend’s “craft your life” vocal line which then segues into a progressive interlude and an extreme metal passage. Add to that some groove metal over different time changes, operatic vocals and you would think the song is done.
But it’s not.
At the 6 minute mark, it goes into this doom grind riff. It’s so heavy, it will sink ships.
And I am thinking, how did this song which started out so beautiful, descend into chaos and violence musically. That’s the best way to sum up Devin Townsend.
I have read in reviews that this is a metal ballad. To me it is a metal song. There’s nothing ballad about it. I also love the Chorus hook of “I can see you in the stars tonight, lost in love and light”
And that change at 2.15. Press play to hear it.
It feels like a U2 track with orchestras and a wall of guitars.
Offer Your Light
It’s metal like, with a frantic tempo and a dance like synth pattern. And I like it, especially the angelic voice of Anneke van Giersbergen.
From The Heart
An 8 minute pre-closer. It feels cinematic and grand like when the hero saves the day and the darkness gives way to light.
The closing track is a cover from Ween, a psychedelic rock band who released this song in 2003. It’s done in Townsend’s unique way and you wouldn’t know it was a cover.
If there is a complaint, there are times when I feel that Townsend’s vocals are buried under the walls of guitar noise and operatic sound experimentations.
Overall, the album still sounds as fresh and as crazy as it did back then. The styles and moods are so schizophrenic that it will never date or be dated to a certain movement or sound like “The Sunset Strip” or “Seattle”.
And I can’t believe I found 1000 plus words to describe it.
5 thoughts on “How Has It Aged: Devin Townsend Project – Transcendence”
Ha! I don’t think I’ve heard it. I’ll add it to the queue that keeps growing and growing and growing.
I totally respect what Devin has done but I also struggle to get into a lot of it. He very much goes places I simply can’t keep up with.
I keep an eye out for what he’s up to. Some of it connects and some of it doesn’t. On this album, I believe he found a way to balance it all out.
The only thing I own of Devins is that album he did with Vai. Some crazy playing on it
Yes I was hoping that project would have had a few albums come from it. You can definitely hear Vai’s influence in his playing and experimenting