January 28, 2006

CD Review: The Devin Townsend Band - Synchestra

Devin Townsend is an acquired taste, based on my limited experience with the eccentric Canadian. My first experience came back in 2003 when I saw Strapping Young Lad open for Meshuggah, I recall thinking there was some great drumming, but they really weren't to my taste. At that show I picked up the self titled Strapping Young Lad album, again, the music didn't really grab me, so I set it aside and never looked back.

Here we are nearly 3 years later, and I find myself once again drawn into the manic stylings of Devin Townsend. This time, though, something is different. This is the second album released under the "The Devin Townsend Band" banner, and my first experience outside of the Strapping disk. I have heard so many good things regarding Townsend and his music, that I felt I should revisit it, maybe the past few years have changed my perception and something will be different. Now, either I was right, or this is a Townsend project that got to my ears at the right time because this album is fantastic.

Synchestra is more of a score to something playing on the projector of Devin Townsend's mind than of a traditional album. The 13 songs meld one into the next, creating this free flowing manifestation of Townsend's thought patterns. The music contained is as quiet and meticulous as it is loud and bombastic. I was not quite prepared for this.

The music kicks off with a quietly with "Let it Roll" and continues for the opening of "Hypergeek", before hitting us with a blast of metal before settling down for something that is decidedly in between. The album gets a flow which is more orchestral in nature than song based, this works wonderfully, giving the album a feel where the sum is greater than the parts. Each song has enough of its own texture to stand apart, but when placed in this specific order they take on something new, something bigger. Taken as a whole, Synchestra takes on a grand aura, a metal epic if you will. Perhaps even better than that, there is very little in the way of specific lyrical content, the music more a work of instrumentation peppered with a little wordplay, adding another texture but not defining it. This is significant since this plays more like a score, it allows the listener to conjure up there own images, to create a mental film of metallic proportions.

It is a rare find that I come across an album that works better as a whole. I can put this on and let it play straight through. There is great work in the orchestrations, the rising bombast, the ebb and flow, the sonic ocean that comes through your speakers. This is a mature work that exudes a sense of something bigger and more majestic. This album is an eye opener.

Bottomline. What Devin Townsend has created here has inspired me to look into more of his music. I will probably go back to that Strapping disk. Synchestra is definitely a worthy addition to the metal fans library. A masterpiece of synchronized instrumentation.

Highly Recommended.


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