Review Summary: Better than Ocean Machine.
Devin Townsend’s first four solo albums – namely, Ocean Machine
, and Terria
– come together to form what has to be one of the most promising and perplexing (if a tad frustrating) starts to any musician’s career. Townsend dived in head-first with Ocean Machine
, an instant classic; critically acclaimed and thoroughly emotional, chock full of wonderful melodies that, thanks to the sublime production, rolled by like currents in the ocean from which it took it’s name. Even to this day, Ocean Machine: Biomech
remains widely held as the finest achievement in Townsend’s long and fruitful career. It was shortly followed by Infinity
; an album that was equal parts beautiful and balls-out crazy, and one that certainly lead to a few more divided opinions than it’s predecessor. Physicist
shook things up even more, a release that Devin himself described as a “step to the side rather than a step forward.” Physicist
attempted to combine the best elements of all of Townsend’s past projects; while in many ways it worked and spawned some really great material, there were far too many nasty byproducts for it to be an overall success.
So in many ways, Terria
was something of a “return to form” for Townsend; a backtrack to the universal brilliance of Ocean Machine that had captured so many people’s hearts. And it succeeded in doing just that. To this day, Terria
and Ocean Machine are locked in battle for the title of the definitive Townsend album; the biggest, best, most acclaimed, most ‘HevyDevy’ album you could possibly image. For many, Ocean Machine
deserves the crown; for me (and I'm sure at least a few others), Terria
rightfully deserves it’s place on the throne.
Thanks to Townsend’s endless depths of ambiance, wonderfully crafted melodies and beautifully fitting production values, Terria
feels as much like a living, breathing block of earth as it does a piece of music; and, if you take the time to pay attention to all it’s nuances and complexities, you’ll surely be rewarded. This album’s truly brilliant moments shine through only if you’re willing to give them the light of day they need to flourish; but once you do, they’ll eternally and forcefully implant themselves in your brain. Take the echoing, lonely, earthen opening riff of "Canada;" the anthemic, layered vocals in the mid-section of "The Fluke;" the wailing, emotive guitar soloing that is used often as much for ambiance as it is for a centerpiece; the faint echoes of keyboard flourishes and samples in "Nobody’s Here;" the stunning build-up and empowering climax in "Tiny Tears" and, of course, the romping, stomping "Earth Day."
The word “epic” may be thrown around far too often when it comes to music, but Terria
brings a whole new meaning to the term. It’s huge, emotional, thoroughly earthen (when I say it sounds like a great big chunk of earth, I mean it; it’s hard to understand until you sit through "Canada" with a good pair of earphones) and ultimately draining - a musical journey that grows and flourishes and rises and falls and eventually comes to a close with the bittersweet but resolving pop song "Stagnant." It’s musical and lyrical dramas are hereby overcome; the subjects of drug use and loneliness and love and confusion (and what I’m sure has to be a reference to Townsend’s near-mental-breakdown in "Earth Day") are brought to a close with the sentiment of “Life sucks, sure, but it’s all we got and you have to accept that.”
So there you have it. Both heavy and soft, loud and quiet, angry and content, confusing and inviting, Terria flows perfectly despite seemingly being an album of extremities. It’s everything a progressive rock album should be, and, once it finally clicks, you’ll be left breathless as the album closes, the final sounds of Devin and his buddies jammin’ the acoustic guitar fade out in "Humble" and the magnitude of what you just heard really hits home. Terria
is Townsend at his most incomprehensible, confusing and utterly brilliant. Thoroughly and wholeheartedly recommended to anyone with ears.
Recommended tracks: Earth Day, Canada, The Fluke, Nobody’s Here.