ALBUMS: The Isolated Ingeniousness of Devin Townsend

Yet another comical and captivating live overview of Townsend’s singular catalog

Devon Townsend 2021 (Art: Ron Hart)

For a bona fide musical genius, Canadian maestro Devin Townsend is remarkably unassuming, humorous and personable.

Whether on stage or in the studio, he frequently offsets his characteristically sophisticated, philosophical, amusing, and all-around singular songs with plenty of self-deprecating humor, lovably childish asides, and other forms of cherishable banter.

This juxtaposition holds true for Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine, the second official sequence in his pandemic-inspired saga. Comprised of virtual performances from 2020, it’s an impeccable rundown of his discography that’s full of endearing personality and wonderfully varied compositions.


Artist: Devin Townsend

Album: Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine 

Label: HevyDevy Records

★★★★1/2 (4.5/5 stars)


In the official press release, Townsend explains how felt motivated to do the series—”a grouping of oddities and interesting material that [he] would like people to hear, but [doesn’t] necessarily want to present as a ‘major release’”—to tide fans over until he can tour again and issue his next studio LP.

In the case of Galactic Quarantine, he compiled live 2020 tracks from “various places around the world as a replacement show for the COVID-affected ‘Empath Vol 2 European Tour’ and cancelled summer festivals.” Joining him—from different cities, of course—are guitarist Wes Hauch (ex-The Faceless, Alluvial), drummer Samus Paulicelli (Decrepit Birth), and bassist Liam Wilson (The Dillinger Escape Plan). Naturally, they all do a fantastic job duplicating the tunes as faithfully as possible.

Devin Townsend Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine, HevyDevy Records 2021 

Speaking of which, the nearly 80-minute collection is effectively a smörgåsbord of Townsend’s extensive temperaments and styles. For instance, opening duo “Velvet Kevorkian” and “All Hail the New Flesh”—alongside later picks like “Detox” and “Love?”—are thunderous examples of what made extreme metal titan Strapping Young Lad such a, well, strapping band. Likewise, the meticulously replicated  “By Your Command,” “Juular,” and “March of the Poozers” are equally barbaric but arguably also more complexly playful.

In contrast, “Supercrush!” and “Hyperdrive” are symphonic yet accessible and catchy—they’re about as radio-friendly as anything else he’s done—prior to the gentler and more comforting “Stormbending,” “Deadhead,” and especially “Spirits Will Collide.” Each piece has its own specialties, of course, but to put it in an admittedly reductive yet comprehensive way, Galactic Quarantine succeeds at demonstrating how far Townsend has come and how wide-ranging he can be.

 

VIDEO: Devin Townsend “Aftermath”

In-between tracks, he sometimes offers enjoyable narration that’s both funny and profound (polar opposite angles that, like his music, make him such a treasured artist). Specifically, he kicks things off by saying, “Don’t let the bullshit get you down,” which—considering what listeners may’ve been going through over the last year—is quite meaningful. On the other hand, he ends “Detox” by proclaiming: “I’m going to bed because I’m almost fifty-years-old and I’m still doing this shit. But hey, I loves ya, I loves ya, I loves ya! Goodnight! That’s all I gotta say about that. Bye!” It’s great.

Beyond his artistic merits, financial incentives, and acquired fame, Townsend has always promoted empathy, connection, and inner peace and understanding. (His autobiography, Only Half There, is a powerful testament to that.) Thus, it’s clear that he derived Galactic Quarantine—and the whole series—as an egoless way to bond with fans and keep everyone involved sane, hopeful, and entertained. The fact that he also pulls out some lovely songwriting and incredible musicianship along the way is just the icing on the cake, and it’s a dessert that you should consume ASAP. 

 

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Jordan Blum

Jordan Blum is an Associate Editor at PopMatters, holds an MFA in Creative Writing, and is the founder/Editor-in-Chief of The Bookends Review, an independent creative arts journal. He focuses mostly on progressive rock/metal and currently writes for—or has written for—many other publications, including Sonic Perspectives, Paste, Progression, Metal Injection, Rebel Noise, PROG, Sea of Tranquility, and Rock Society. Finally, he records his own crazy ideas under the pseudonym Neglected Spoon. When he's not focused on any of that, he teaches English courses at various colleges and spends too much time lamenting what Genesis became in the 1980s. Reach Jordan @JordanBlum87.

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