If there's any justice in this cruel world, Devin Townsend and all the projects he's ever been a part of will be looked back upon by future music historians as one of the all-time greats. The man was involved in several obscure bands in the '90s before forming the legendary Strapping Young Lad, a band whose body of work is, to this day, considered a milestone of extreme metal. However, the musical genius of Hevy Devy, as he's come to be known by those who adore him and his music, isn't simply confined to music of the heavy sort (though he is exceptionally good at it). On both his solo records and in Devin Townsend Project, Devy has explored everything from insane metal operas to ambient music to pop, and in Casualties of Cool, he's proven he can even be a fantastic country/bluegrass musician. Simply put, there's really nothing Devin Townsend can't do, and do well.
The latest opus from Devin Townsend Project, Transcendence, opens with an updated version "Truth," a track that appeared on Devy's 1998 solo record, Infinity; a clear nod to this storied maestro's past, but also an appropriate glimpse into his present state of mind. Time will tell how Transcendence stacks up to the rest of Devy's catalog, but upon first listen, it's clear that he and his otherworldly group of musicians have, once again, achieved something very special. Not only that, it's by the far the best sounding record he's ever made, thanks to a superb engineering and mixing job by Adam "Nolly" Getgood of Periphery.
As with many of Devy's albums, Transcendence is a very eccentric collection of songs that is, at times, extremely theatrical in its execution (no surprise there), and is overall quite uplifting. The man has always had a penchant for producing completely over-the-top, nigh-operatic compositions, but that's part of his charm. Of course, this time around, Devy was much more liberal in allowing input from the rest of his posse, and the album seems stronger for it. Perhaps more than ever before, the rest of the band shines and shares the limelight with Devy himself. Of particular note is the killer drum performance by Ryan van Poederooyen and the subtle nuances that keyboard player Mike St. Jean adds to each song.
While Transcendence features a few songs that showcase the heavier side of Devin Townsend Project, it's in the surprises where this album's charisma truly lies. One such surprise is "Secret Sciences," which opens with an almost '90s alt riff and becomes a quirky pop tune whose uplifting chorus sounds an awful lot like a popular Disney song from 2013 – at first, anyways (just listen). There's no telling whether this was intentional or not, but knowing Devy and his odd sense of humor, it probably was. No matter though, because it's one of the album's stand-out tracks and will hopefully become a live staple. "Failure" is of note, if for no other reason than because it boasts an airy, almost psychedelic guitar solo unlike anything Devy's ever done before. The closing track is an interestingly chosen, yet extremely awesome and faithful rendition of Ween's "Transdermal Celebration," and serves as a chance for Devy to show off his always-impressive vocal range.
Though Transcendence has many of the elements signature to Devin Townsend's style of songwriting, it's a singular work that's difficult, or perhaps even unfair, to compare to Devin Townsend Project's other albums. Epicloud seems like the closest in terms of the album's overall execution, but ultimately, Transcendence is a culmination of all the best parts of Devin Townsend Project and upholds the standard of quality we've come to expect from this wonderful group of musicians. At the risk of using a poor pun, Devin Townsend Project has once again transcended themselves with Transcendence.