Devin Townsend (band) - Epicloud
After 4 consecutive albums and a good amount of live work over the course of 3 years, it would have been easy for Devin Townsend to take an earned respite. But, in what has been the most prolific period of an already prolific career, Dev keeps on chugging along, and recently released the 5th album under the Devin Townsend Project banner, Epicloud. In interviews, Devin has said that, while preparing for the upcoming sequel to his fantastic 2007 space epic Ziltoid The Omniscient, he kept coming up with material that didn't quite fit the sequel's projected sound and style. Epicloud is the result of those efforts, and it also sounds like a culmination of the musical paths that the Devin Townsend Project has taken over the course of their 4 albums.
Unlike most other Devy albums, Epicloud didn't strike me immediately as being absolutely excellent, required listening or undeniably meeting expectations. Unlike most other Devy albums, Epicloud doesn't pretend to be focused solely on a particular style. These styles have come to give each album Devin creates a life and spirit of their own. If anything, Epicloud comes off more as an exclamation point on the past several albums, the culmination of a major musical journey. The songs themselves, taken individually, are a mixed bag of tricks. "Effervescent!" takes you by surprise, an unexpected vocal duet in a barbershop quartet style. This is reprised at the end of the record, warmly bookending it with a purposeful thought. "True North" is a fine opener, driven forward with Devin's uncanny knack for moving vocal melodies and the aggressive, up-front percussion of longtime collaborator Ryan Van Poederooyen. Also back in the mix for Epicloud is vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen (The Gathering), whose smooth and soulful voice is a chemically sound counterpart to Mr. Townsend. Lead single "Lucky Animals" is a fun, upbeat jaunt, with a dancable tempo and a funky underpinning. As the album progresses, Devin spares no prior work of his for inspiration, delving into elements of past works and newly discovered sounds that ultimately make Epicloud a combination of defining moments, some better than others, that lacks nothing except the cohesive nature of many of his previous releases.
Epicloud grows on you, to the point where the 6th listen is more enjoyable than the 3rd, and the 12th more enjoyable than the last 11. Many of the songs linger on islands of their own musical direction, fundamentally separate from their peers but totally enjoyable nonetheless. For fans, Epicloud has to be generally well received, but critics have generally found it lacking in this way or that. Indeed, there are sections of the album that fail to generate a head of steam, and the entire record can be sporadically dull in comparison to the back catalog. However, even when he's not hitting on all cylinders, it's obvious that Devin Townsend still has plenty to offer. Epicloud is an enjoyable overture to an amazing musical journey that has spanned 5 albums of equally enjoyable moments.
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