A Hevy Devy Year: Devin Townsend’s “Galactic Quarantine”

Devin Townsend Galactic QuarantineDevin Townsend, Devolution Series #2 – Galactic QuarantineInside Out Music, 2021
Tracks: Velvet Kevorkian (02:28), All Hail The New Flesh (05:32), By Your Command (08:18), Almost Again (03:42), Juular (03:50), March Of The Poozers (05:25), Supercrush! (05:15), Hyperdrive (03:42), Stormbending (05:21), Deadhead (07:55), Aftermath (06:51,), Love? (05:21), Spirits Will Collide (04:35), Kingdom (05:05), Detox (06:20)

Just a few months ago I pontificated about the sheer brilliance of the mighty Devin Townsend. I’m happy to announce that Devin has since surpassed my already high expectations with the release of the second volume of his Quarantine Series, this one formally entitled Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine.

Over the last year many music artists turned to the Internet when their ability to tour was cut off. None did it better than Devin Townsend. I’m not sure when he started live streaming, but I know I saw him announce impromptu live streams on Twitter pretty frequently as he worked on mixing various things. With his tour cut short, he began working on several live stream concerts, many of which raised money for hospitals in the UK and Canada in the early days of the pandemic.

This particular show originally aired on September 5, 2020 with musicians contributing from around the US and Canada. How anyone could pull this off to the extremely high level that he did it is astounding. It’s one thing to live stream yourself performing music, but it is another thing entirely to incorporate musicians from around the world and merge them onto a single screen. 

The setlist is a what’s what of some of the best music from Devin’s career, be it solo music, Devin Townsend Project, or Strapping Young Lad. It’s all good, and it’s all really really heavy. Sure, there’s plenty of cursing, but that’s par for the course with Devin and his music – particularly the Strapping stuff. Less so in his other work after Strapping. Besides, those Strapping songs have a level of rage that befits the world we live in. It’s also nice to hear Devin play that music again, especially since it seemed for a while like he wasn’t going to be returning to those songs or that style of music. He’s been very open about how it took a very toxic mindset for him to write that music all those years ago, but hopefully playing it doesn’t bring up those same emotions. For me, listening to it is rather cathartic. 

“Deadhead” is always a favorite when it gets included in his live sets, with its Floydian atmospherics and the gut-tearing crunch of Devin’s vocals. The sweetness of the clean vocals mixed with the grittiness of his distorted vocals perfectly represents the struggles of love that he sings about in the lyrics. 

He may end the live album with one of SYL’s most intense songs (“Detox”), but he also gives us the beautiful “Spirits Will Collide” off of Empath near the end of the show. There’s so much hope in those lyrics – really in that entire record. In that regard, this live show has some very disparate lyrical themes, but our lives are full of conflicting emotions. Why shouldn’t our music be full of that too. It can’t or shouldn’t be happiness and sunshine all the time, and likewise it shouldn’t be doom and gloom all the time. Balance is key. 

Musically the whole show is perfect. Guitars, drums, wall of sound… the mixing is fantastic, and many of the songs sound better than the original album recordings. Townsend’s vocals seem to get better with age, which makes for a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience. He’s one of those few artist’s that I would almost rather listen to live, in part because of his voice but all because of his sense of humor. 

This is yet another great minor release from Devin Townsend that any fan will certainly want to check out. This particular release would also make a good entry point for Devin’s music, since the tracklist features songs from across the heavier side of his career. Highly recommended.

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The Unmatched Brilliance of Devin Townsend

In the documentary for his album Empath, Devin Townsend commented that many people have trouble understanding much of his musical output because his albums vary drastically in style. His work with Strapping Young Lad was as extreme as metal can get. On other albums he shows prog, classical, country, and even pop influences. He explained that he doesn’t play only one type of music because he would get bored. He doesn’t listen to only one kind of music for the same reason. 

I share Townsend’s sentiment. Why on earth would you want to listen to only one kind of music? Perhaps that’s why I’ve never really seen myself as a real metalhead, even though I really enjoy metal. You go to a metal concert, and many of the people in attendance only listen to metal. That’s fine – people can listen to what they like. I happen to get bored by listening to one kind of music, which is probably why I like progressive rock so much since it includes a broad array of sounds. But even within contemporary prog you’ll get those fans who will only listen to Spock’s Beard, Dream Theater, Marillion, etc., or those folks who still only listen to Yes, Genesis, Jethro Tull, etc. and haven’t bothered to dig into the music being made today.

DevinTownsend_DevolutionTo those people who aren’t familiar with Devin Townsend (which includes Steven Wilson, by his own admission), you’re missing out on perhaps the most creative genius working in the music industry today. In the Empath documentary he talked about working with Mike Keneally, who has worked with many brilliant people, including Frank Zappa. Townsend says he would never dream of comparing himself with someone like Zappa, but I would. Townsend is every bit as creative, albeit in different ways. That documentary, which I believe is only available on the super deluxe version of Empath that Devin released last year, helps shed some light on Devin’s creative process. It also shows him in a very open and honest way. His new acoustic live album, Devolution Series #1 – Acoustically Inclined, Live in Leeds, was his attempt to strip away all the fluff from his stage shows and connect with audiences in a very open way. 

Continue reading “The Unmatched Brilliance of Devin Townsend”

Have a Very Merry Prog Christmas

I’d like to strike the next person who says “Christmas this year will look a bit different.” Well it doesn’t have to sound different. If you find yourself alone this Christmas Eve/Christmas (like me), there’s plenty of Christmas-related prog to keep you entertained.

Devin Townsend’s Christmas livestream
A couple hours ago Devin Townsend released a Christmas-themed live stream. If you’ve ever wanted to see the mad genius imitate a crooner, you’re in luck. Mostly he plays his own music spanning his career, and his whole demeanor is incredibly calming. It’s an acoustic set and a one-man show, so if you’re not as big a fan of the extreme side of his career, then this is the show for you. Ok it’s Devin so there are a few screams, which are almost comical considering he’s playing an acoustic guitar. The acoustic version of Strapping Young Lad’s “Love” is pure gold in that regard. The man has a golden voice no matter how he’s using it.

Dream Theater’s “The Holiday Spirit Carries On”
The mighty Dream Theater released a Christmas medley track a couple weeks ago to raise money for their live crew. It’s $2.99, and all the proceeds go to their crew. If you’ve ever wanted to hear James LaBrie sing “Fa-la-la-la-la la la-la la, then you had better buy the track soon because it’s only available during the month of December: https://dreamtheaterofficial.bandcamp.com. Here’s a brief sample:

Neal Morse’s “Last Minute Christmas Album”
Neal Morse decided to write a Christmas album over the last couple weeks, and it is available for download over at his label, Radiant Records. It’s his singer-songwriter side of things rather than his prog side, but it’s still Neal Morse. https://www.nealmorse.com/2020/12/19/download-now-neal-morse-last-minute-christmas-album/

Big Big Train’s “Merry Christmas” and “Snowfalls”
Big Big Train released the single “Merry Christmas” along with the even-better B-side “Snowfalls” back in 2017. They’ve become two of my favorite tracks of the season, and I would love to hear a whole album of original Christmas music from them, along with their take on some classic Christmas carols.

Jethro Tull’s Christmas Album
“The Jethro Tull Christmas Album” has been a favorite of mine for several years now. I listen to it every Christmas season.

LEAH’s “Ancient Winter”
It’s been a while since we’ve heaped praises upon the head of Canadian Leah McHenry. Last year she released “Ancient Winter,” a wonderful album celebrating the winter season. This album leans more into her Celtic influences than her metal influences, which fits the season. Definitely worth a listen or two.

There’s other Christmas prog out there, but I don’t want to overwhelm you. May you have a blessed holiday in spite of everything going on in the world. Christmas is a time when we remember that God humbled Himself to be born as one of us so that He could live like us before sacrificing His very life so that we might live forever if we follow Him. His burden is light when compared to the weight of our sin, and if 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we’d all be better off bearing that burden than the weight of the world. There’s always hope in the world, no matter what’s going on. This music is just a little glimpse of the goodness available to us even in the darkest moments.

Merry Christmas.

Devin Townsend Announces Live Album – “Order Of Magnitude – Empath Live Volume 1”

Great news from Inside Out music for all of us who missed Devin Townsend on his most recent tour – and for everyone who missed shows that were canceled because of the pandemic. He is also doing a live online show on September 5. More on that below.

The following courtesy of Inside Out:

Devin Townsend will release ‘Order Of Magnitude – Empath Live Volume 1’ on October 23rd, 2020, a document of his Winter 2019 European tour that saw him taking on possibly his most ambitious live show to date.

Recorded in December 2019 in London, UK on the penultimate night of the tour in support of his latest album ‘Empath’, this run of shows saw Devin joined by an incredible line-up of musicians. The band was made up of guitarists Mike Kenneally (ex-Frank Zappa) and Markus Reuter (Stick Men, The Crimson Project), drummer Morgen Agren (Kaipa, Mats & Morgan, Frank Zappa), bassist Nathan Navarro, Haken keyboard player Diego Tejeida, and guitarist/vocalist Ché Aimee Dorval, as well as vocalists Samantha & Anne Preis and Arabella Packford.

Devin’s plan for the Empath touring cycle was to divide it up into three ‘Volumes’, and this was Volume 1. The idea behind the shows was a simple one: none of the backing tapes or click tracks that had long been necessary to bring the kaleidoscopic cacophony in his head and on his records to life in the flesh. This would just be Devin Townsend and a band of genius-level musicians getting up there and trying to keep it from spinning off into outer space. Or maybe just letting it spin-off into outer space for the sheer hell of it.

The whole objective was that I wanted to make that statement: This is by the seat our pants,” he says. “Because it’s important to me to represent this hyper anal-retentive music that I’ve made over the years, but in a human way. Rather than it just being, ‘Well, here it is, perfectly done.’

I was overwhelmed by the fact that all these brilliant people that I have so much respect for were willing to come together and play this weird shit with me,” says Devin. “I had these unique players and this interesting instrumentation that allowed us to interpret the music in different ways. It was clear to me that I could just have fun and be me and know that they would be effortlessly be able to follow that.

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Bryan’s Best of 2019

Here we are at the end of another year. As you’re probably well aware, 2019 has been the latest in a string of great years for progressive rock and metal. Overall it didn’t blow me away like other years have (a few particular albums did however), but I think that’s more because of how my year has gone. I finished up grad school in the spring, and I spent the entire year job-searching before finally starting a new job at the beginning of this month. A couple of important people in my life died this year as well, so overall it has been a year full of challenges. My ability to properly soak in all the great music that has been released understandably suffered. But nevertheless, I found much to enjoy this year, and the following are some of my favorites. They are in no particular order except for my top three down at the bottom of this list.

Rise Twain – Rise Twain

The first album by Philadelphia-area duo Rise Twain is a stellar example of what popular music should be. Brett Kull and J. D. Beck are excellent songwriters and equally talented musicians. They combine the simplicity of a good song with the more technical aspects of prog. While it may be hard to call this a “prog” album, it certainly has many varied influences that make this a solid showing. Check out my review and interview with Brett Kull here: https://progarchy.com/2019/08/30/a-conversation-with-brett-kull-of-rise-twain/

Soen – Lotus

This is a magnificent album. Beautifully heavy, as any metal album should be, it retains an ability to move int0 peaceful contemplative spaces. When this album rocks, it rocks hard, and it keeps an upbeat tone that so many metal albums often lose. “Lotus” delivers musically, lyrically, and vocally. Check out Time Lord’s review here: https://progarchy.com/2019/01/09/album-preview-soen-lotus-soenmusic/

Continue reading “Bryan’s Best of 2019”

Has Devin Townsend Released the Album of the Year?

Yup, I think he has. Empath is brilliant. It combines the best elements of the various musical aspects of the metal legend’s career. He has made it clear in recent interviews that he’s trying to break down the facade surrounding him and be more real with his fans. The result is this album, and I’m stunned. I’ve barely been able to listen to anything else over the last several weeks. From the blast beats and pounding screams to the gentler side of Devin’s voice soothing our ears, this album is absolutely phenomenal. The lyrics are personal and powerful. Musically it is Dream Theater on steroids and without the fluff. Buy it and enjoy it.

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Personal Playlist by Iris (26 August 2016) — Grendel HeadQuarters

My latest playlist was next month, so it’s time for a new one! This playlist also contains some FREE music downloads, yippehyayeeeh! Here are some albums I’m listening to lately…(go click on the link below to see all the albums!)

via Personal Playlist by Iris (26 August 2016) — Grendel HeadQuarters