If somehow, there are those out there not convinced that Devin Townsend is a mad musical genius, here’s even more proof. I find it remarkable that there are musicians who can continuously come up with interesting ideas, without a slack in quality, and without falling into a rut. It’s just a shame that can’t be true of every band.
Devin Townsend once again has created something distinctive, novel, and downright awesome with “Synchestra”. If “Accelerated Evolution” was too “normal” sounding for you, then you’re in luck, because he definitely went in the opposite direction here. Aside from perhaps “Infinity”, this is some of the most bizarre and out there stuff he’s done to date. And, like every Devin album, it is an entity unto itself. In some ways, it’s what you expect from Devin, with the huge metal sounds, and complex production, but sonically it’s like nothing he’s ever done before. In fact, I would also say that musically, compositionally, and productionally (is that a word?), this is the most complex, daring, and challenging thing he’s ever done.
Any specific description of the songs here will inevitably be crap, but I’ll give it a go. You’ve got a lot of variety here, with insane, unpredictable progressive metal epics, like “Pixillate” and “Triumph” (the latter of which features a weird bluegrassy interlude that comes out of nowhere, and a truly transcendental solo from Steve Vai), “Gaia” and “Babysong” are massive melodic metal (with lyrics that once again prove that Devin thinks about things a bit differently than most of us); “Vampolka” is a wacky Mr. Bungle-like instrumental, which serves as an intro to the thrashy metal of “Vampira”; “A Simple Lullaby” is neither simple, nor a lullaby, and is full of complex, multi-layered riffs and melodies; “Sunset” is a short but sweet melodic instrumental, leading into the super-infectious “Notes from Africa”, in which Devin does these sort of odd tribal chants (this will probably be the most memorable moment, upon your first listen). And of course, the album ends with a curve, as the closing track, “Sunshine and Happiness”, contradicts the whole album with its straight-forward pop hooks.
Music is a polytheistic religion, and Devin Townsend is among the mightiest gods of them all. I’m not yet prepared to say how this album compares to his other work (other than to say it certainly doesn’t fall short), but I will say this: I haven’t heard every single album released this year, but trust me, this one’s the best. And yes, I have heard the new Tool, and yes, it is pretty freakin’ amazing in and of itself, but you can believe me when I say that this is brilliance beyond even that. I don’t recommend this as a starting point (go with “Terria” or “Ocean Machine” for that), but if you’re already a Devin fan, this will not disappoint.