Released: 2003, Hevy Devy Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
It’s official: Devin Townsend has dethroned James Brown as “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business”. Admittedly, he is under the influence of several drugs—both prescribed and, well, not—yet one must marvel at the man’s stamina. Since going solo from Steve Vai’s band in 1995, Devin has released 4 CDs under the Strapping Young Lad name, 5 under his own name, as well as produced several CDs for other bands, including Soilwork and Lamb of God. He also operates his own label, Hevy Devy Records, and has several side projects including books, video games, and who knows what else. Let’s not forget he writes, produces and plays most of the instruments on his albums…oh, and he just turned 30 years old!!.
ACCELERATED EVOLUTION is the first album from The Devin Townsend Band. Usually Devin does it all on the albums he records under his own name, but this time he has assembled a band consisting of local Vancouver-area musicians whose other bands he has produced. Brothers Mike & Dave Young from Ten Ways From Sunday (http://www.tenwaysfromsunday.com
) are only 24 and 21 years of age, respectively, but are a definite presence on bass and keys. Rounding out the band is Brian Waddell on guitar who can be found in the Devin-produced Evenlight (http://www.evenlight.com
) and Ryan van Poederooyen on drums from God Awakens Petrified (http://gap.phatgraphx.com/
After 2001’s overlong TERRIA, Devin has stripped down the music to reveal a more straightforward album. Devin recorded ACCELERATED EVOLUTION simultaneously with Strapping Young Lad’s SYL album, alternating between sessions, sometimes even on the same day. With the DTB, you won’t get the frenzied, industrial punch in the face that a Strapping Young Lad album delivers. What you will find is an intensely personal album that embodies prog-rock, hard rock, a few softer tunes that turn heavy…everything you’d expect from Devin. The musicianship is excellent and the production is rich, layered and feels as if it wraps around you as you listen. I don’t know how much time Devin spends in production on his albums but rumor has it he is a perfectionist who will not give up until the sound is just right. Listen to any of his albums with headphones on and you’ll hear even more things happening! A Devin Townsend album is truly an impressive display of musicianship, patience, professionalism and creativity.
The real standout tracks for me are “Depth Charge”, “Storm”, “Deadhead”, “Away”, “Traveller” and “Slow Me Down”. “Depth Charge” is probably the heaviest track on the CD but blends some prog synth and vocal effects with the guitars to create a perfect balance. “Storm” and “Deadhead” are very personal tracks that read like a plea from Devin to his wife/manager, Tracy Turner, to understand that though life on the road is a necessary evil, it is still a strain on a relationship. “Deadhead” and “Away” have haunting guitar intros from Devin that swells to brooding eight-minute dirges. The guitarwork on “Away” in particular is perhaps the best of any song on the album. The choruses of “Traveller” and “Slow Me Down” are so catchy that they could even be (ahem…) radio hits?! “Random Analysis” is a heavy track with a deep, thumping bass drum intro that would not be out of place on a Strapping Young Lad album. “Suicide” explores the perceived failings of life and its effect on a man who just turned 30. As I said, these are very personal, introspective lyrics!
How Devin is able to go from the intensity necessary to create a Strapping Young Lad album to this in a single day amazes me. The songs on ACCELERATED EVOLUTION are the polar opposite of what you would find on CITY or SYL, yet the same person has written them. These are songs that you can put into the car CD player and hit the road. They won’t make you angry or want to pummel someone (pop in SYL for that), but they will take you to another place...a place filled with lush sounds and interesting music created by one of today’s creative geniuses.