Thursday, 19 September 2013

Bipolarism from Devin Townsend

Mister Devin Townsend is quite possibly the most inspirational, heart-warming, ludicrous, positive musician in the industry today. Don't believe me, just watch and listen to this video:

"Laugh. Love. Live. Learn."

Those are truly great words to live by, and Devin Townsend and his merry men(and woman) deliver them with great conviction and gusto. Devin, for those who do not know(How dare you?) has been around for years now. First coming onto the scene singing for Steve Vai's Sex & Religion, he also proved to be the gracing point of that album. Euggh. But hey, it was a starting point. Everyone needs a starting point... except maybe some teenage stars and Black Eyed Peas(vomit). After his collaboration with Steve Vai, he went onto founding Strapping Young Lad. A project to release all his catharsis, all his frustration on the music industry, all the anger towards life in general... oh and a solitary love song. But during his time with Strapping Young Lad, he started writing music that was more mellow, progressive and forward thinking. He did start out as more introverted, with Infinity, Ocean Machine and Accelerated Evolution.

Devin has one of the most versatile vocal chords in the music industry, as can be heard during his time as Strapping Young Lad, or as Agony in Ayreon's The Human Equation, channelling Elvis and when doing cheesy(Danish blue style) ballads. He's one of the very very few that sing with a falsetto and actually make it sound good. He is also a very very good guitar player, he's not fancy like his friend Steve Vai, but he can certainly make his guitar gently weep. And shriek. He doesn't to solo's very often, and when he does them they tend to be overwrought and over the top, but knowingly so. But he does use lots of pedal effects and arpeggios, and he seems to be able to keep things simple, whilst also making them sound complex.

The first time I ever came across Devin was when my brother recommended Ziltiod The Omniscient, which was Devin's first true solo album. I.e. meaning he did everything thing on that album, including programming the drums using EZdrummer program with Meshuggah's  sampled drumkit. While broadly speaking it's a comedy album, the music on there is pure gold. Best listened to when in a coffee shop, while drinking a tall latte.

His sense of musical humour also came out in Punky Bruster, another concept album about a punk band that decides to play death metal instead and finding finally success.

My personal favourite album by Devin Townsend is Biomech: Ocean Machine. It's an epic, sweeping, progressive album of Devin-sized proportions. My favourite song keeps on shifting, currently my favourite song is Funeral, though his best song that he's ever written is also on there.

But his best album is undoubtedly Accelerated Evolution, here he goes all 70's prog anthem rock on us. One of his many talents is that he manages to write songs that sounds like you've always known them and enjoyed them. He uses his nearly patented wall to wall music production, but without overloading your musical senses and everything is just HUGE on here.

The man oozes positivity. It's not like he hasn't had problems of his own. He has been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, which could explain his spurts of creativity along with the varying degrees of emotions he goes through. During his time as Strapping Young Lad, he decided to come of his medication in order to create a more extreme album, and it was an extreme album. But mainly on a technical level rather then on an angry level. In terms of output and level of genius, I would say that it wouldn't be unfair to compare him to Frank Zappa. I'm pretty sure that if Devin wanted to write a piece of classical music he'd do a fantastic one, probably on par with Jon Lord.

He has been taking a lot of beating for stopping Strapping Young Lad, and not reviving the project. But so far he's been adamant that it's not going to happen, the closest people got to it was when he covered 'Love?', which according to him is never going to happen again. And quite frankly I can understand him. Why try and revive a period of your life that you can't really connect with any more, the thing about SYL was that it was about raging against the machine(Ha!) when young, and at the time he might be have been genuine about that. But people grow up, change their points of view on life and just get on with it. Something that a lot of fans can't do. Which is kind of sad really.

Devin has also dabbled in making ambient albums(I hesitate using the word music here), having released two of those. Devlab and The Hummer.

After Ziltoid, Devin announced that he was finished with putting out music and wanted to concentrate on being a father and had more interest in being a music producer. Which is an area where he's also extremely talented. Having produced albums for Lamb of God, Himsa, GWAR, Soilwork and Stuck Mojo. Along with doing remix work for bands like Rammstein.

But since 2008 Devin has been busy with The Devin Townsend Project. A project that started out with only meaning to publish 4 albums, all hitting 4 different musical themes. Ki, being the mellow yet heavy hitting album, Addicted being the Abba/Ace of Base infused metal, Deconstruction a re-visitation of SYL and finally Ghost being the ambient album. Apparently that original plan was to just do those and leave it. Thankfully he has continued with it, touring pretty much consistently and constantly. Me being the unlucky person that I am have managed to miss 2 gigs of his when he's toured the UK. It seems like he's fallen a bit in love with the Ace of Base style of things, and to be fair I can understand why because Epicloud is an amazing album. With both Addicted and Epicloud, Devin has managed to make albums that are uplifting and positive. They are both great albums to listen to when you feel down, want to exercise or just want to remind yourself how good life actually is.

I know the way, and you know the way
We all fall down if we fear love
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