In February of this year what many Metal fans thought would never happen, did: Strapping Young Lad released their first album in five years. Founder and mastermind, Devin Townsend, had no intention of reforming any sooner. In the meantime, he immersed himself on a whirlwind of musical endeavors, an adventure spanning the ups, down, and in-betweens that could flow only from his creative well. Perhaps art cannot be rushed. Thankfully the wait was well worth it for SYL turned out to be the brutal, kick to the teeth the Metal scene needed. What is most astounding is the fact that Devin simultaneously wrote and recorded his new solo project, simply titled The Devin Townsend Band while he was working on SYL. Accelerated Evolution may be the polar opposite of the latest Strapping Young Lad, but that was Devin’s intention. It seems that by splitting his creativity, he was able to search deeper and let it all out.
Accelerated Evolution succeeds by providing a unity to Devin’s solo work. Heaviness, ambience, humor, and experimentalism flow seamlessly throughout the disc’s solid wall of sound (this is perhaps Devin’s best-mixed effort as well). The album starts off with the first track, “Depth Charge” giving the listener the feeling of just starting a journey; however, this journey could more likely be within the self rather than across time or space. As the listener takes this trip “into the unknown,” surrounded by layers upon layers of guitars, keyboards, and vocals, he/she is being prepped by the songwriter for a trip not only into his own self, but an album full of emotions that can be empathized with by all. It is Devin’s vocals that lead this journey; at once being soft and melodic (this album finds him “singing” much more than in recent years, hinting at his stint on Vai’s Sex and Religion), and also conveying the darkness and uncertainty that provide the Yin to the Yang, unavoidable in any undertaking.
Perhaps the most powerful track is the fifth, titled, “Suicide.” While not dealing with or promoting the conventional definition of killing one’s self, “Suicide” takes the listener even further within the realm of uncertainty, doubt, and fear. Heavy groove-laden guitar work, the heaviest on the entire disc, sets the scene here. To say the riffs are monstrous, gargantuan, or just plain sick is a vast understatement. Like always, what Devin manages to do is take the most infectious rhythm, place his stamp upon it, and thus create something completely original. “Suicide” conveys the sense of death of the self, or rather part of the self, a subject that can be related to by all. The beauty of the art lies within the fact that it can mean something entirely different to each person, “So I hide my internal suicide… All my pride just to keep it inside.”
The album is not comprised of merely doom and gloom. “Traveler” has a pop-like feel, while “Away,” a slower tune, features an amazing one-take guitar solo showcasing Devin becoming an even more accomplished instrumentalist. “Random Analysis” is filled with tongue-in-cheek humor, and is more or less a rant, “I’m not insane, I’m just smarter than you!” The album is finalized with “Slow Me Down,” the track that solidifies this disc as the number one favorite for this upcoming summer’s many days and nights of driving with the windows down in route to any great adventure. Taking the listener through the ups and downs, tears and joys of life, not just his but theirs as well, Devin wraps things up simply yet perfectly by writing, “I wanna go where nobody’s gone, while hanging around with that girl.” It was a fun trip indeed and undoubtedly one well worth repeating on a regular basis.
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