Transcendence is the seventh studio by Canadian band The Devin Townsend Project. It was released on Friday, September 9th, via HevyDevy Records. The album was made available in a standard single CD version, as well as a Deluxe 2 disc version, including the bonus album Holding Patterns, a collection of demos, songs that just didn’t make the cut, and even a re-recording of a song Devin had released previously. At first glance, Transcendence appears to be an over-the-top spiritual journey catered by the jester king of progressive metal, Devin Townsend. On second glace, it’s totally an over-the-top spiritual journey catered by the jester king of progressive metal, Devin Townsend, and isn’t that really all anybody wanted in this release?
At times, Transcendence is a mixture of spiritually enlightening grandiosity, Devin Townsend eccentricity, and dare I say Strapping Young Lad intensity. It is signature Devin Townsend, while he still explores new elements in writing, and new ways to use his own voice. Many of the songs are dense in their sound and structure, with layer upon layer of melodies, rhythms, and vocal choirs all held down by the fascade o
One of the peaks for me, and according to the booklet Devin’s as well, is the song “Failure.” It was released as the first single to the album, and is as Devin put it was “the first true collaboration between the guys in the DTP and myself.” Even after all of the years together as a band, it must have been difficult to give up that bit of power over the music to allow them to fully collaborate, but what the band brought was gold. It’s featuring one of Devin’s most impressive vocal performances, a rare solo, and an absolutely haunting chorus.
Throughout the entire album, there runs a theme of spiritual transcendence. This can be found in many of the songs’ lyrics, including the title track and “Higher.” Other than that they touch on topics such as love in “From the Heart,” casting aside one’s fears and perseverance in “Failure,” to even Vancouver’s stormy weather in the aptly named “Stormbending.” Much of the time they are vague and open to interpretation, while those in “From the Heart” are more straightforward.
As explained in the booklet, the lyrics for “Secret Sciences” were directly lifted from a diary that Devin had kept, and because of that he felt a special closeness to this song in particular.
If there is one place that this album excels, and is a pretty consistent trend throughout all of Devin’s career, it’s here. Transcendence was produced by Devin Townsend himself, like all of his albums, and recorded at The Armoury Studios in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Also credited for Engineering and Mixing is Adam “Nolly” Getgood, the bassist of Periphery.
Artwork for the album is… interesting. It appears to feature a visual representation of a spiritual transcendence, which is fitting since that was one of the main themes to run throughout the album. The art features a godlike female figure, perched atop an Earth blooming from the center of a flower (species unknown, admittedly not my area of expertise).
The booklet itself contains the lyrics to all of the songs, as well as very nice band photos, and in the back half notes from Devin about all of the songs. Each song from Transcendence is given a moment of explanation, whether it be about the writing, recording, or personal feelings related to the track. This goes for Holding Patterns, the bonus CD that comes with the Deluxe Edition, as well.
Transcendence is definitive Devin Townsend. It features his trademark sound of thick, grandiose melodies, layered into oblivion until the whole piece is as polished as a well cut diamond. The whole piece transitions perfectly from beginning to end, right up until they jump into the Ween cover, because they supposedly wanted to end on a fun note rather than a somber one. It may not go down as Devin’s best, or most experimental album, but it fits healthily along any of the DTP’s works. “Failure” is sure to be a concert staple for awhile, and with it being followed by “Secret Sciences,” and “Higher” serve as the absolute peak of the album.
Packaged together with Holding Patters is what I feel elevates the album a step higher. The bonus album contains 11 total songs, 9 being demos, 1 being a ‘missed the cut’ from Sky Blue, and “Gump” being a ‘missed the cut’ from Transcendence. Although they didn’t make it onto the studio albums, I thought many of them show a lot of potential to appear on future albums. “Celestial Signals,” “Into the Sun,” and “Time Overload” in particular.
On the negative side, it really took more time to grow on me than initially expected. I think it had something to do with the first and last two tracks, “Truth,” “Stormbending,” “From the Heart,” and the cover “Transdermal Celebration.” I’m not sure if I ever have a good reason for it, but after a week of listening to Transcendence I found myself gravitating towards the center of the album, and away from the edges.
It’s an album that waits to show its true colors to the dedicated listener who’s willing to sit down and put in the time to pick apart the songs, and read the liner notes. While it can be enjoyed on it’s own, it gets it’s life from the depth put into the writing and production. Further listening can be found below, but nothing is like throwing the album from the beginning and embarking on the journey. As a whole, the Transcendence (Deluxe Edition) receives a rating of four of the world’s finest coffee beans out of five.