Mention the name Devin Townsend
amongst progressive fans, and you'll often get two responses
- love, or hate. Often, his albums tend to be too agressive
and heavy, and too quirky. This turns off many potential fans.
It's also his charm, and the reason many fall in love with
his music in the first place. Ultimately, Devin's work is
not for everyone.*****
However, those that do take the
time to listen to a Devin Townsend album, from beginning to
end, often find a rewarding experience. Muscially, his albums
are journeys through brutal heaviness, and beautiful calmness.
Lyrically, they too provide an adventure, an insight into
his mind, with his tongue planted firmly in cheek. Synchestra
is no exception.*****
In recent interviews, Devin has
said that this album was his remedy for the ultra-heavy Alien,
with his other band, Strapping Young Lad. The first track,
"Let It Roll" supports this. It's a soft, sweet song, with
a beautiful melody. Devin sings wonderfully here, too. The
segue into the instrumental "Hypergeek" is smooth, and later
in this song, Devin displays a brief flash of just how heavy
he can be. This is probably the heaviest section of the entire
"Triumph" is a wonderful song,
with the perfect blend of in-your-face guitars with peaceful
melodies. The chorus is catchy, but the real highlight of
the song is an amazing guitar solo by guest Steve Vai. It's
easily one of my favorite Vai solos, and it's one of beauty,
"Vampolka" and "vampira" are the
sister songs on this album, and are truly fantastic. The former
literally is a polka, but so amazingly well done that it doesn't
seem too cheesy or out of place. "Vampolka" segues into "Vampira"
flawlessly, retaining some of the melodies from its sister.
These two songs are really well done, and after seeing Devin
live recently, translate to a live show much better than they
The rest of the album is a mixed
bag. "Gaia" is one of the heavier tracks on this album, but
one of my favorites. Great melody, excellent guitar work.
"Pixillate" is an interesting track, featuring some of Devin's
infamous growling and screaming. "Judgement" too features
his growling, but blends it with some truly wonderful singing.
"Sunset" is much lighter, and "Sunshine and Happiness," which
is the bonus track on the disc, is somewhat atypical of his
style. Still, it shows that Devin is truly versetile, and
can do it all.*****
The only track on this album that
I truly don't care for is "Babysong." Lyrically, it's humorous,
and takes a sarcastic stab at society's overall feel about
having children. It's clever, but I find myself skipping it
often in favor of some other tracks.*****
Overall, this is a wonderful album.
Maybe not Devin's best work, but I would rank it highly amongst
his catalogue. It features excellent production and carries
his signature style, but what I find most people will overlook
is the fact that Devin is an excellent songwriter. He might
be too heavy for some people, but his albums are always deeper
than they appear to be on the surface, and if you give him
a chance, you might find yourself extremely pleased. As a
fan of the progressive metal genre, I've always found his
albums to be a tough listen the first time through, and an
amazing journey each time thereafter. Synchestra is no exception.
I highly recommend this disc for fans of metal, and give a
good solid recommendation for those looking to be a bit adventurous.
Don't write it off on your first listen though - this album's
brilliance shines through in later spins.