LOUDER REVIEWS: 'Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine' - Devin Townsend
Devin Townsend may not be a household name in the same manner as the rock and metal icons of yesteryear, but to those who follow technical and progressive metal, the Canadian eccentric is as big as it gets. With a frankly staggering body of work to his name and his steadfast refusal to take anything too seriously, Devin Townsend has endeared himself to a whole generation of metalheads through his solo work, as well as through the Devin Townsend Project and his original extreme metal act Strapping Young Lad.
Like everyone else throughout the past year, Devin had his tour plans frustrated by the coronavirus pandemic, and so has used the time to work on new materials, but also to present to the world the Devolution Series; which is, in his words: “a grouping of oddities and interesting material that I would like people to hear, but don’t necessarily want to present as a ‘major release’. The series will include all the quarantine songs and concerts, as well as various live shows from the past few years.”
After starting things of with Devolution Series #1 - Acoustically Inclined, Live in Leeds (a remastered recording of an acoustic show performed as part of Devin Townsend’s Empath Tour), we now have Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine; a virtual live performance of some of the greatest hits from Devin Townsend’s career recorded in various locations in 2020.
The idea of doing a full virtual gig in the middle of a pandemic in front of green screen while your band members are in other locations in ambitious, to say the least. But then, fans have come to expect nothing less from a man who is always pushing the boundaries of heavy music. While 'Galactic Quarantine' offers nothing in the way of new material, or even old takes on existing songs, what it does do is allow HevyDevy to return to his metal roots. This provides a great contrast to the Acoustic album that has gone before, and indeed to the more ethereal nature of a lot of Devin’s recent work.
Picking heavily (pun intended) from the Strapping Young Lad days for the start of the album, listeners are treated to old gems such as 'All Hail the New Flesh' and 'Almost Again'; all of which, amazingly, lose very little of their power from being recorded in this way. Of course, Devin Townsend is not just a supreme creative force, he is also a phenomenally talented guitarist and vocalist. This no better demonstrated than how close to perfect some of these recordings are to the originals, even when the performance veers into the more progressive territories of songs such as 'Supercrush' and 'Stormbending'; the multiple layers of these tracks are still balanced exquisitely.
While it will never be possible to recreate the wonder and intensity of a true live performance, what Devin Townsend and his band of incredibly talented musicians have been able to achieve is an album of superb recreations of some of the best songs from Devin’s career. Though many will remark on and celebrate a return to the more extreme end of the spectrum, it was the more atmospheric songs that make the biggest impact, due to the way that the numerous layers of complexity were captured, with 'Spirits Will Collide' from Devin Townsend’s most recent album 'Empath' arguably being the best example.
As well as this, Devin chooses to close off the performance with the two best-known songs from his Strapping Young Lad days, 'Love' and 'Detox', as well as 'Kingdom', to bring the heavier elements back around and end things with a crushing frenzy. What with the extraordinary volume of work to his name, not to mention the incredible variety of music in his back catalogue, it can often be somewhat difficult when it comes to introducing someone to Devin Townsend in knowing where to start. What 'Galactic Quarantine' provides, as well as a substitute for the live setting, is probably the best possible answer to that question. Part 2 of the Devolution Series provides the closest thing to a 'Best Of...' album that we’re likely to see, and while it cannot give the full experience of everything that the man dubbed ‘metal’s mad scientist’ has to offer, it nevertheless comes incredibly close.
'Devolution Series #2 – Galactic Quarantine' is out now - stream the record on Spotify here:
1. Velvet Kevorkian (Virtually Live 2020)
2. All Hail The New Flesh (Virtually Live 2020)
3. By Your Command (Virtually Live 2020)
4. Almost Again (Virtually Live 2020)
5. Juular (Virtually Live 2020)
6. March Of The Poozers (Virtually Live 2020)
7. Supercrush! (Virtually Live 2020)
8. Hyperdrive (Virtually Live 2020)
9. Stormbending (Virtually Live 2020)
10. Deadhead (Virtually Live 2020)
11. Aftermath (Virtually Live 2020)
12. Love? (Virtually Live 2020)
13. Spirits Will Collide (Virtually Live 2020)
14. Kingdom (Virtually Live 2020)
15. Detox (Virtually Live 2020)