Devin Townsend is a peripatetic. A musician, vocalist, songwriter and producer, his career has been highlighted by an ability to veer from one musical style to another with effortless brilliance. Whether going for an all out metal assault, as with Strapping Young Lad, or for a more avant-garde progressive inference, which is the case with the Devin Townsend Project, the Canadian has established himself as one of the most fascinating and unpredictable artists on the planet.
For Townsend, it began when he worked with Steve Vai on his 1993 album ‘Sex & Religion’; after touring with Vai during this period, he joined The Wildhearts. But it was with Strapping Young Lad that he really made an impact. The band’s 1995 debut album, ‘Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing’, showed Townsend’s unique creative insight to great effect.
While SYL continued to impress, it was typical of Townsend’s demanding instincts that he also pursued a solo career in tandem, with 1997’s ‘Ocean Machine: Biomech’ showing an ability for merging ambient, hard rock and progressive ideas. In subsequent years, he has been involved with an array of different bands and musical dalliances, all of which he has invested with his own vision and dedication. From the Devin Townsend Band album ‘Synchestra’ (2006) – combining pop, metal, folk and polka – to the tongue in cheek solo rock opera ‘Ziltoid The Omniscient’ (2007), Townsend was always unpredictable and constantly searching for his next challenge, prepared to go further out on a musical limb than any of his contemporaries. And it was then that he created The Devin Townsend Project.
Townsend spent a year redefining his own image and getting to grips with his decision to give up drugs. He admits having to learnt how to write songs without such a stimulus. It took him a year of trial and error, but by ’08 he had found a fresh direction. After writing around 60 compositions which fitted into four distinct styles, Townsend formed the Project to merge these disparate strands into a unified tapestry, one that set the man onto a path where he brought his own left field, quirky and brilliant mentality to the field of progressive music.
The Project’s debut album, ‘Ki’, was released in 2009, and set the tone for the way Townsend felt the music should flow. Seemingly calmer than previous releases with which he had been associated, this offered a degree of control and discipline that was a revelation to many. Later the same year, second album ‘Addicted’ came out, with guest vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen. The third and fourth albums in what Townsend saw as a four-album cycle, were released simultaneously in 2011. ‘Deconstruction’ and ‘Ghost’ showed how the band had developed a formidable melding of power, subtlety and melody.
This has been continued with ‘Epicloud’ (2012), followed by ‘Sky Blue’ (’14) and ‘Transcendence’ (’16). Now, Townsend brings his Project – also featuring guitarist Dave Young, keyboard player Mike St. Jean, bassist Brian Waddell and drummer Ryan van Poederooyen – to Ramblin’ Man as headliners on the Prog In The Park Stage. The performance is guaranteed to be remarkable, dynamic and memorable.
THEIR GREATEST HITS – ‘Failure’, ‘Stormbending’, ‘Juular’
THEIR FINEST HOUR – ‘Transcendence’ (2016)
CONNOISSEUR’S CHOICE – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tEFgGMgH_Sc. The Project live at the Royal Albert Hall last year.