Review Summary: Less a humble nature spirit, more a specter or dark phantasm.
When Devin Townsend told the world that Ghost
was the type of music he felt he should be playing at this point in his life, I'm not sure if the world took him seriously. With Deconstruction
coming out at the exact same time, it felt more like we were reverting to that polarizing point in HevyDevy's life where he could produce both Ocean Machine
without complication. Could we ever see one without the other?
(gloriously) on the way, I'd hazard the guess that we might not, but Casualties of Cool
, hot on the heels of the subpar Epicloud
, easily answers which of those two sides of the brain is dominant at this phase of Devin's life. Much as Devin has claimed the album to be reminiscent of "haunted Johnny Cash" songs, it feels more like a death knell hovering over the corporeal parts of Ki
; less a humble nature spirit and more a specter or a dark phantasm. Of course, the common denominator of moody, ephemeral ambiance persists, but Casualties
is rife with a darkness derived from subtle musical creaks and moans that go bump in the dark of this space haunting.
Yet it's all secondary to the enticing echoes of Ki
collaborator Che. The siren song her voice projects from the dares of opener "Daddy" to the driving encouragement of "The Code," utters saccharine lies to pull the dumbfounded listener deeper and deeper into her hypnotic web. Some may question the vocal imbalance favoring Che over Devin's equally formidable voice, but Casualties
feels more like a solo journey through a sparse, yet dark corridor with only an introspective narrative represented by Che to guide the way. Maybe there's a touch of insanity here, but when you're all alone, isn't the company worth it?
After all, the landscape painted by the mixture of blues, country, and ambiance presented here seems anything but friendly. Devin's shaky tenor paints a picture of fear and apprehension counter to the wonder of the early twang and porchside creek bop reminiscent of "Blackberry" and "Trainfire" that run from "Daddy" through to "Flight." Yet that fear becomes real in the low rumbles of "Moon," capped by catastrophic sax that takes a page out of classic prog and, more recently, tracks like Tesseract's "Calabi-Yau." Things plateau between "Moon" and the motivational chanting of "Ether" before "Hejda" works away any optimism with an empty and open soundscape fueled by slowly rolling deep drums and wisps of flute.
The results range from bleak to fascinating, depending on what you see when you gaze at space both outer and inner. Do you choose to see the vast darkness, or the several microscopic glints of light that dot it? Do you take note of the agony of the journey or the courage it takes to keep walking? Casualties of Cool
allows you to look at it the way you want to - to see the pain or the triumph you wish to believe in, all with a haunting, inspiring, and wildly catchy backing track. So strap up your boots and decide - will you answer Che's call? Or will you stay in the comfort of your own home, never to know the chilling bite of this world's air?