Devin Townsend has been making music for as long as I have been writing about it, and to say that he rarely disappoints would be a very fair thing to say.
Nevertheless, there have been missteps along the way – less remarkable efforts like Physicist, The New Black and Z2 spring to mind. Transcendence is being hailed by many as one of Townsend’s best works and many fans are likely to agree but it is also one that doesn’t really deviate from a formula that this band has been working to for some time now.
From the very beginning of the reworked Infinity track ‘Truth’, there’s no guessing as to who we are listening to – the deeply textured production, dense layers of synths, armies of backing vocals, mountains of melody, a slowly churning, ponderous riff: this is the Devin Townsend Project, and it’s precisely what we have come to expect. It may even be too familiar. Transcendence isn’t a bad album by any means, but in terms of expanding the Project’s repetoire it actually does very little in the way of pushing new boundaries or breaking new ground. There are definite highlights and surprises, like the languid solo in ‘Failure’, the epicness of ‘Stormbending’ and the upbeat ‘Offer Your Light’, one of the shorter, faster and more focused tracks on here. Elsewhere, however, the band is running over old ground. ‘Higher’ builds and builds constantly toward new peaks as it crawls its way across nine minutes, as if every member of the band is trying to outdo each other, but after it’s done there isn’t anything very memorable left behind. The technical aspects are, of course, hard to fault but like most of Townsend’s work it often feels over-produced, with every space crammed with multi-part choral vocals as tracks trundle along at the same mid-paced chug. This pacing is part of what makes Transcendence such a slog – at over an hour, there’s sometimes an aching need for the songs to move up a gear or two but apart from ‘Offer Your Light’ they rarely do. It’s something of a shame too that the wonderful Anneke van Giersbergen, who has made such great contributions to previous DTP releases, is relegated to little more than one of seemingly legion back-ups. It must be said, however, that Ryan Van Poederooyen pulls possibly a career-best effort on the drums.
Overall, Transcendence is another solid entry in Devin Townsend’s ever-burgeoning catalogue, but it also lacks some of the innovation and spark that has made previous DTP efforts some of the best records he’s made.
4. Secret Sciences
8. Offer Your Light
9. From the Heart
10. Transdermal Celebration