Friday, September 28, 2012

Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud (2012)

Epicloud is the newest experiment from everyone’s favorite mad metal scientist Devin Townsend. Examining this new species makes it quite clear that Townsend was not telling pork pies when he admitted this would be his attempt at a ‘pop’ album, and indeed, one that concerns his views on the concept of love, in both lyrical and musical dimensions. To that end, it certainly feels like that, and your enjoyment of Epicloud is going to absolutely depend on what you’re looking for in it. If you just want to see this latest creation and bathe in whatever it offers, you’ll do fine, but be warned: this is not a metal album. It contains elements in many tracks that are metallic, and at times it can be heavy, but at length it’s much too calm and fluffy to ever truly cross over, and headbanger bro’s are going to find nothing here, just a lot of bright, streaming emotion. Which is gay, right bro? Best to move along, man. Best move along.

Immediately and thoroughly, Epicloud feels to me like the audible approximation of a nice dose of MDMA. There’s this subtle, vibrant energy that pulses throughout it, thanks to constant background synths that cast a heavenly hue to the entirety of the proceedings. The lyrical matter also tries to deal with the complexities of human behavior intrinsic to the flabbergasting oddity we call ‘love’. Though oftentimes a bit abstract (who woulda guessed), and sometimes too damn obvious, they work well with the tracks themselves, so no complaints here. This constant background energy is consistent with this overarching concept, but at length I felt the songwriting only partly succeeded.

This is indeed a pop album, but not in any horrid, MTV way. It’s more creative and unique than that, more loveable Queen that shit-yourself-and-die Adam Lambert horror, but as such, it needs some incredibly strong, endlessly repeatable songs to truly succeed in this more simplistic universe. Devy has got the diversity down, no question, as there are a number of beautiful tracks which are stylistically lightyears apart. My favorites are the dreamy elecro-pop duet of Save Our Now, and the boundary-smashing, uplifting metal number Kingdom, with its insane vocal performance, which are actually back to back, and together make up the absolute strongest part of the album. However, the rest of the album is merely good, and generally not nearly as compelling. It’s funny, though, that with Devin Townsend, the biggest insult I can come up with is that it’s ‘good’.

It is though, it’s only good, and not in a way I can see a whole lot metal fans appreciating, as I mentioned earlier. Less than half the material here is metal, and a lot of it is quite calm, simple, and flowery… but in a good way, in that it feels like legitimately passionate, creative music, delving into a whole bunch of stylistic spheres, as Devy tends to do, and I wouldn’t count any track here as a failure. However, some of them simply do not continue to resonate with me, and I find myself skipping a couple to get to the good stuff. These include the vibrant but repetitive True North and the accessible rocker Liberation, by no means bad songs, but simply not nearly as exciting for me as the tracks above. That said, I enjoy the omnipresent variety, and the outlandish, gushing amount of synths, choirs, and all sorts of over-the-top madness really adds to the streaming purity of Epicloud’s vibe.

I feel like this is going to mostly appeal to an entirely different audience than the more demented of Hevy Devy’s fans (like myself), and indeed many a metal head will simply find this a bit too, well, loving, to stomach. Not all of its songs are fully enrapturing, but enough are, and while this is appreciably outside of the norm for me, I thankfully don’t require things to be ‘fuckin metal, bro!’ for me to enjoy them, not at all. So, though I feel it’s something short of a masterpiece, I still recommend it to the more laid-back amongst you (especially if you’ve got some E and a beautiful woman), and when it’s going strong, it’s going so strong that I’m going to continue listening to it, even after the review is done. Already got a copy sitting in the car, an appreciable break from my usual array of punishing, decrepit brutality. Devin is always defying the norm, and defying expectations people place upon him (always hilarious to read moronic reviews like ‘This isn’t the Devin I know!!!’), and that’s how he succeeds as not just a musician, but as an artist. Continuing evolution, doing what feels natural and inspired for him at the time. While this time it doesn’t happen to resonate with me as much as some of his other stuff, I still appreciate it for what it is, and if you’re an open-minded fan of good music (not just metal), you should definitely give it a shot.

7.75 / 10 - Laugh, Love, Live, Learn