Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud
A lot has been made in the build-up to Epicloud - not least by the man himself - about how different an album it is compared to the four part body of work that kicked off the Devin Townsend Project. And yes, there are some startling and shiny new elements to the sound (more on these little delights later), but this is still unmistakably Hevy Devy. What it does show, in a genre ironically often lacking in it, is a real progression, a willingness to experiment and to simply have some fun.
Of the quadrilogy, Epicloud picks up where Addicted left off with its natural bounce and an ear for a good tune, plus the return of the angelic Anneke van Giersbergen to lend her spectacular talents to the show. But you can also pick out parts from all of them here, whether it be Ki on 'Where We Belong', 'Lessons' echoing Ghost, or Deconstructed with 'More!'. The re-recording too of 'Kingdom' retains the blistering heaviness of the original version, and, like 'Hyperdrive!' before, it gains an added dimension from AvG's take on the tune.
So what about this large dollop of poppiness and positivity? Epicloud (apparently pronounceable both ways) is a bundle of happy energy pinging off the walls with child-like enthusiasm. Last weekend I babysat a friend's six year old for the first time, and she was somewhat excitable and unable to stay still for two seconds, and this is very much the aural equivalent of this shiny, bubbly girl.
These are all without fail incredibly catchy and memorable songs, but always with that added edge that has defined Devin Townsend's work right from the first Strapping Young Lad record. And in 'Save Our Now', not only do we have the standout track of the record, but easily the most commercial track he's ever written; inspired by an idea knocked about with Pendulum's Rob Swire this epitomises the outrageously upbeat blend of pop and metal that surely not even the most heavy-minded of fans could resist.
And it's not just a lucky fluke, as the 'hits' just keep coming. Try and listen to 'Lucky Animals' without a broad grin and giggling just a little bit – impossible! Normally to describe music as juvenile or whimsical would be to have a good dig at it, but Devin Townsend has managed to distil that joyous innocence without a trace of irony or disdain, a pure expression of the inner child we yearn to be again with such gleeful exuberance.
Epicloud is an album that keeps getting better with every listen, a thoroughly enjoyable, astonishingly addictive and wonderfully life-affirming experience. It might not have the deep sophistication of much of his work, but that's entirely the point of this exercise. Just wrap yourself up in a genuinely carefree record and lose yourself for three quarters of an hour within this silly, childish musical delight.