Wednesday 3 February 2021

Introducing Devin Townsend

Who here has heard of Devin Townsend? If you have read my blog before you will have seen me expressing my admiration for this talented musician and singer. Like Steven Wilson, you never know what you are going to get with Devin; his style ranges from ambient mood music all the way through to extreme metal via progressive rock. He is from Canada has been making music prolifically since the 1990s. 

My first encounter with Devin Townsend was way back in 1993 when he joined Steve Vai’s eponymous band as the singer. At that time I actually saw him perform live when Vai supported Aerosmith. He was a young man with an incredible vocal range – and he still has that range today. After a stint with another favourite band of mine, The Wildhearts (when I probably saw him live again), I lost touch with him and I had absolutely no idea what he did in the intervening years. That was until 2014 when I was mooching about on You Tube and encountered a crazy song called “March of the Poozers”.

I absolutely loved it and I recognized the name. I did some research and was absolutely astounded to discover that he had a huge back catalogue, a lot of which is now nestling in my CD collection.

As I said, he has been prolific, producing some incredible albums with incredible songs. I was stunned to find that he is a fan of Enya too – which given some of his music, his outstanding. He can sing powerfully but tunefully on ambient songs, almost operatically, powerfully with a colossal rock voice and he can scream effortlessly like the most menacing rock God. He has incorporated layers of music in a classic “wall of sound” no matter what the style is, including, lately, orchestras and choirs.

He can also play a mean guitar and has a sense of humour that is quite catching, especially when you see him live.

There is just so much music to choose from, so I shall try to show all of his styles, starting with the more ambient material.

Fly – from Ghost (2011)

Ghost is a very calm and atmospheric album, full of soothing songs that you can relax to, if you want to chill or simply ponder the meaning of existence. This is the first song on the album.

Divine – from Epicloud (2012)

Here is a lovely little ballad called Divine, another one that shows the softer side of Devin Townsend. When you hear the remaining songs in this collection you may wonder how this is the same artist.

Why? – from Empath (2019)

Why? Is an incredible song that sounds like it belongs in a musical. In my opinion, it shows off Devin’s normal (non-screaming) vocal range perfectly. It’s almost operatic in places with an accompanying orchestra and, really, not like nothing else he has done. Brilliant nonetheless, with a quirky and funny animated video too. What’s not to like?

Stormbending – from Transendence (2016)

I like great full sounding rock and this is a great example of what I like to think of as an epic progressive rock song, bursting with powerful guitar, potent drums and keyboard wizardry. The song is also accompanied by an impressive and ambitious video.

Addicted! – from Addicted! (2009)

Addicted! Is my favourite album by Devin. It is mostly heavy metal with a couple of more accessible rock songs too, and if I am in the mood for something that I can whip out my air guitar too, I sometimes choose the title track. Here it is in its full glory performed live.

Namaste – from Physicist (2000)

Do you want get faster and heavier? Did you think that was possible? Here is Namaste. I think it answers the question. 

And can he be more extreme? Yes he can – perhaps a little too extreme even for me. If you are curious check out the band Strapping Young Lad that he was in. Somebody I know likened it to listening to a set of bricks in a washing machine.

Actually, with Devin, I’ve seen a couple of You Tube videos with vocal coaches analysing his vocal range and technique and almost all of them are impressed by the way he shifts from ranges and screams effortlessly.

If you like what you have heard – or just even some of it – check him out. 

You may be surprised.

No comments: