Reviewed: August 2021
Released: 2021, InsideOut Music
Reviewer: Lee Carter
There are two types of people in this world when the going gets tough: those that wilt under pressure, and those that seemingly increase their workload. For the latter, please meet DEVIN TOWNSEND. With the pandemic having set everyone’s plans on fire for 2020, Hevy Devy dutifully knuckled down by offering live streams of what would have been his ‘Empath, Vol. II” tour. Subsequently, this is the live album of that live stream.
For fans of TOWNSEND’s work, this album represents a terrific whistle-stop tour of some of his best work across his entire discography, including his STRAPPING YOUNG LAD days. What joy must be felt by SYL fans as the album opens with bruisers like “Velvet Kevorkian” and “All Hail The New Flesh”, whilst those who are more familiar with recent works won’t be left out with cuts such as “Juular” (sadly, without IHSAHN’s star turn in the chorus) and “Kingdom” present. There’s a fine flow to proceedings, too, and much like that which you’d expect at a live show, with older and newer mixing neatly as opposed to following a chronological run-through. This is all ably put forward in typical TOWNSEND fashion, with stellar production that almost feels a little leaner to better encapsulate that live feel.
It must be said that this second entry in the ‘Devolution Series’ could quite happily function as a greatest hits album, and serve as a perfect introduction to a newcomer. The tracks that are included represent their respective period’s highlights, and should keep all listening levels of DEVIN TOWNSEND’s work quite happy. That each track sounds ever so slightly different to their originals does offer that live show experience that is sorely missed. There are even sporadic little pre-track one-liners and chatter to really hammer that notion home, alongside a pleasant air of joviality that is perfect tonic to the ongoing misery.
Yet the album, knowing it is both a live album and studio album, is difficult to judge in both camps. On the one hand, the live aspect is enjoyable enough but there isn’t the same level of feedback one gets from a live album recorded with a crowd. The purpose of a live album is to capture the magic in the moment from a show, but with no crowd here, it feels a little wanting. Not to mention the lack of visual aspect, because a DEVIN TOWNSEND show is a visual affair, too. On the other hand, as a studio album, it also feels a little flat – we’ve heard these tracks before and in their original album’s splendour, so the alternative arrangements on offer here (again, not wholly different) aren’t adding anything new to proceedings.
With all that said, is there much point to ‘Galactic Quarantine’? It may not blow the listener away like a regular Hevy Devy drop, but as a live show in absentia, it’s a pretty cracking demonstration of the man’s (and his virtual band’s) talent. They may sound a little different to their original productions, but the setlist here provides ample meat for the fan and non-fan alike, whilst DEVIN TOWNSEND himself makes a good go of encapsulating the feel of his live show whilst beamed across a green screen. Quarantine sucks, but it doesn’t have to suck so much when you have artists like DEVIN TOWNSEND trying to make the world a little brighter. Thanks Uncle Devin.