Music is one of those things, apart from maybe religious belief and hard drugs, that can elevate you, take you to that “higher place.” Although metal as a genre isn’t usually associated with that more Josh Groban-y type of feeling, I’d be willing to make a strong case for Transcendence, the latest from Devin Townsend Project.
As a whole, Transcendence evokes the consistent feeling that you’re listening to music with a higher purpose. It doesn’t feel same-y the way an album with too-similar songs from a creatively tapped-out band would — instead, it feels “on-theme.” Devin and Co. have been doing this music thing for years, they knew the sound and mood they wanted and they went for it. And damn every god ever, I’m happy to be along for the ride.
“Truth” kicks off the album with an uplifting, waltzing synths-guitar melody, immediately slotting Transcendence into the discography that is Devin Townsend’s trademark mix of prog metal and ambient. Townsend’s grasp of melody has always been nothing short of divine, both vocally and on guitar, but he knows how to bring the hurt too (they don’t call him “Hevy Devy” for nothin’). “Failure” has a driving 6/4 rhythm that melds down-tuned chugging with melancholic choirs, while the impossibly huge sound of “Stormbending” strikes you with a veritable stormwall of keyboards and lead guitar notes while still retaining an ethereal air.
Even softer, more accessible songs like “Secret Sciences” have an honest-to-God Badass Metal Part ™ that mixes up the kinda corny pop mentality present in the verse and chorus. Diversity in songwriting and structure has always been one of Devin’s strong suits, but unlike albums like Epicloud no track seems out of place here; it’s all a necessary part of the spiritual journey. I’ll admit, I’m a little bummed with the closer being a cover song (Ween’s “Transdermal Celebration”), but that’s only because I want to bask in the album’s final moments with the same band I’d traveled with for the last forty minutes. Like, we spent all that time transcending and stormbending the shit out of everything, and then emerge into our new spiritual afterlife as fuckin’ Ween? What’s the symbolism here? The whole situation makes me feel weird and selfish, but mostly just weird.
Then again, the diversity of the other songs is so good, I can forgive ending on a spur note. And as if I needed one more reason to love Transcendence, I should also mention this album sounds fucking great. At times it hits with hurricane force, awashing you with waves of synths and guitars; other times it pulls back and we hear subtle bass grooves and ghost-note snares. For an album that feels like an 8-step process in a personal journey to find one’s self, the dynamics don’t only feel natural but intentional.
I can already tell you this is a contender for my album of the year, so if you’re sick of hearing me gush about it, just be on your way. Nothing has come even close this year to the kind of transcendent musical experience of Transcendence, so elevate your listening habits and give this a spin.
Support The Devin Townsend Project and buy Transcendence here.