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|The Ultimate Guide to Devin Townsend|
This list is a chronologically based exploration of Devin Townsend’s career as a musical artist. It includes all of his many projects and collaborations and gives details regarding the history of the album, Devin’s own thoughts (taken from interviews and his book Only Half There), and my personal opinions, as well as a few good starting points into his work for fans of various styles. If you are new to his music and looking for a place to start listening, maybe start towards the end. I have not included albums produced but not written or played on by Devin or information about bands with which he only toured. That can be found in his book. Ratings shown are “my rating/Sput rating” for his actual releases at the time of writing.
Sex & Religion
Steve Vai- Sex & Religion 1993
Yeah, this isn’t a Devin album, so it’s a weird place to start the list, but seeing as this is where Devin’s professional career really started (he did the vocals and he’s on the album cover) I think it needs to be here. Devin sent in a Noisescapes demo (one of Dev’s first bands) to Relativity Records (Steve Vai’s label) in a dirty pair of his underwear. Out of the 12 labels sent these underwear demos, I’d bet relativity was the only one to even open it and listen, as he got no other responses. Vai heard him sing and asked that he audition for the spot on his new album. He did and got the spot leading to this album, which was a headache for everyone involved, but a launching point for Devin’s career. Vai has called Devin one of only 2 musical geniuses he has ever worked with. The other is likely Frank Zappa.
Sex & Religion
In my opinion, this album is pretty good despite being widely considered one of Vai’s worst efforts. Devin’s vocals here are incredible and the guitar work coming from Vai is pretty darn good as well. I will admit the lyrics (written by Vai) are pretty terrible, but some of them are still fun.
Favorite Track: Still My Bleeding Heart
|3||Strapping Young Lad|
Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing
Strapping Young Lad- Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing 1995
HAARHT is described by Devin as a bridge between Noisescapes and City, his first truly realized vision of heavy music. He wrote some of the songs during the Noisescapes era and some, like S.Y.L. and The Rainy Season, while on tour as a guitarist for Ginger and the Wildhearts, aka the Wildhearts, with whom he admits to learning a lot about songwriting and sound setup.
For a first full length release, this isn’t bad at all. I actually really like this album even though it can’t quite live up to later Strapping work. It kicks off with one of the group’s best songs, but it fails to keep the same energy all the way through.
Favorite Track: S.Y.L.
Cooked on Phonics
Punky Bruster- Cooked on Phonics 1996
Written and recorded in the span of three week, Cooked on Phonics tells the story of death metal band Cryptic Coroner selling out as punk rockers in the vein of Green Day to become the biggest band in the world. It was meant to parody the success of such bands that were “fake punk”.
Even though the album is a bit more of a frustrated joke than anything else, it still has some interesting musical moments. Some of the joke riffs written in minutes for this album could’ve made a commercially successful album for a band with a serious attitude. Anyway, although there was some good music and fun in this album, the novelty of the joke soon wears off and there is little entertainment value in relistens for this album.
Favorite Track: Recipe for Bait
|5||Strapping Young Lad|
Strapping Young Lad- City 1997
City, as its name suggests, reflects Devin’s experience in LA writing and recording over the past few years. He describes it as “suffocating” as time in a big city can be. It is the Strapping record he is most proud of, and the one he describes as “genuinely” aggressive. The members of the band were, and consistently remained thereafter, Byron Stroud and Jed Simon on bass and guitar, respectively, and the legendary Gene Hoglan on drums, joining the band only two weeks before recording after meeting Devin at a Fear Factory gig. Hoglan had also recently finished touring with Death and recording with Testament. Stroud and Simon were both members of Caustic Thought, another Vancouver semi-local band Dev joined for a long time, but did not lead.
|6||Strapping Young Lad|
You’ll be hard pressed to ever find an album with as angrily heavy a vibe as City feels here. The album conveys the frustration of being confined in an unfamiliar city that has not been all too friendly. The guitar work throughout this album is incredible, and Gene Hoglan proves his worth as one of the best metal drummers out there. If coming from a death metal background, this is a great place to start with listening to Devin’s work.
Favorite Track: Underneath the Waves or All Hail the New Flesh
Ocean Machine: Biomech
Devin Townsend- Ocean Machine: Biomech 1997
Already, Devin was beginning to have issues surrounding the heavy side of his music. Ocean Machine (originally this was the title of the band, and it later changed amongst several combinations of Devin Townsend and the current album title) was meant to satisfy Devin’s need to create music that dealt with feelings other than anger. It was written over the course of several years, consisting of material from time with Noisescapes and things written while on tour with Vai or the Wildhearts.
Ocean Machine: Biomech
Ocean Machine was and is one of Devin’s most pure albums. Every moment on the album feels to me like it comes from a place of true meaning rather than of a calculated musicality. Even with that, all of the music is still beautifully crafted to fit the feeling. It is my favorite of his solo works and second favorite of his work overall. Despite it not being written all at once in an attempt for a cohesive album, the production, which was met with many challenges, helps to tie everything together into an amazing flow. The last three tracks are also my favorite 30 minutes of consecutive music ever put on record. I’d recommend this album along with a few others as great starting points for getting into DT. I feel like this album should be mostly accessible for anyone who listens to the rock-metal spectrum.
Favorite Track: Bastard (my favorite song of all time by anyone)
Devin Townsend- Infinity 1998
During the writing and recording of Infinity is when Devin began deeply experimenting with psychedelic drugs, namely marijuana and psilocybin mushrooms. As a result, Devin began interpreting his experiences as not only communications from God, but as a sign that he was in some way divine himself. Delving into philosophical concepts of the infinite, he continued searching for meaning through the use of drugs and wrote songs for Infinity often in spasms of creativity in the wake of his drug use. Devin claims the only reason he made it out of this time in his life was the support system of his family and friends. Despite this, he remembers many parts of this time in his life happily and thinks highly of the album that resulted.
Infinity came from a time in Devin’s life where he was struggling to hold onto reality. To me, it comes through in the sound, with an air of cockiness that just doesn’t quite sit well. Infinity could have benefitted from losing a couple tracks and bringing in some of the demos left to the EP in my opinion. Devin admits to reworking the tracks so many times in fits of inspiration that the original version was unrecognizable. I have a feeling the album may have been more enjoyable to me with some of those original versions left alone.
Favorite Track: Bad Devil (hilarious music video btw)
Christeen + 4 Demos
Devin Townsend- Christeen + 4 Demos 1998
Much of the same things as I said for Infinity could be restated here as these songs were all written in the same timeframe as ones that actually made the cut for Infinity. These were all songs Dev liked, but did not feel would fit well into Infinity. He has gone on to release several bonus editions of albums with leftover material in much the same fashion.
While this doesn’t quite flow perfectly as all the songs have the same slow vibe, there are really good songs in here. The overall quality of the songs on average is perhaps better than on Infinity for me, but again, these two partner releases could have done with a reworked track listing.
Favorite Track: Sit in the Mountain
DT- Official Bootleg 1999
Originally recorded with no intent of release, Official Bootleg contains a 1999 Japan performance of material from Ocean Machine and Infinity by Devin and co. It was released in 2000 and some editions include parts of a Solo Vancouver performance from the same year.
In my opinion, the tracklisting here is excellent. Any song from Ocean Machine is of course great, but the best moments of Infinity were taken and sequenced in very well, too. The Infinity tracks actually happen to be the ones that shine through here as they are performed in an interesting manner to high quality, while the OM tracks don’t quite live up to the studio.
Favorite Track: Bad Devil
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No Sleep 'till Bedtime
SYL- No Sleep ‘Till Bedtime 1999
Without Century Media knowing, Devin decided to have a concert recorded in Melbourne, Australia 1997. Despite the tape running out seven songs in, and much of the music being rerecorded afterwards in studio to cover errors, the label decided to release it with two of the Japanese bonus tracks from the first SYL album tracks added on. The title is an homage to and parody of No Sleep ‘til Hammersmith by Motorhead.
This live album is one that rests heavily on the strength of its set list. The songs mainly come from City or are the better songs from HAARHT. One thing I miss on this though is the crowd noise. It is almost nonexistent for most of the album, and, knowing many portions were rerecorded, I have a hard time feeling the album is very genuine. The music sounds great, and the bonus tracks are awesome, too, but Dev’s perfectionism got in the way of this one a bit for me.
Favorite Track: Far Beyond Metal
DT- Physicist 2000
Physicist was written after Devin received his diagnosis for bipolar depression. It was written as a reaction to the Infinity period of Devin’s life and after telling Century media that he was done with Strapping Young Lad. Using the band members of SYL, and more drugs, Dev proceeded to write Physicist. He also says he wrote this partially feeling like he was forced to by his desire to not let his band mates down in terms of an income source. As a result, his heart never fully got into it, and he released it before he felt it had met its vision.
Everyone knows this is Devin’s worst release. But, despite the overall quality of the album, some really great songs shine through, especially Kingdom, which gets a reworking on Epicloud. My favorite version of the song, however, appears on neither as it is a semi-live version from an EMGtv session. Namaste is another standout track, but the rest seems like filler to me.
Favorite Track: Kingdom
Ass-Sordid Demos I
DT- Ass-Sordid Demos I 2000
This is a collection of Devin’s very early solo work demos along with a bit from Grey Skies (his first band formed of high school friends, and how he first met Brian Waddell who is the current bassist for DTP and former rhythm guitarist for TDTB). They were recorded anywhere from 1990-1996, and several were used as bonus tracks on his solo albums for deluxe or foreign releases.
I find this to be quite an interesting collection of demos. It is cool to see where Devin started, and that he had begun developing his signature guitar tone early. A lot of the songs, while unpolished, still show pretty good songwriting unless you compare them to Dev at the top of his game.
Favorite Track: Ocean Machines
DT- Terria 2001
The word “Terria” is a personalized form of the word “Terra” meaning “earth”. To Devin, it represented a kind of natural healing process he felt he both needed and was doing by going through psychiatric treatment post-Infinity for bipolar depression. It was written more as a stream-of consciousness piece than anything else about coming back down to earth.
Terria is an interesting album for Devin. At this point in his discography, he had not yet experimented with the earthy and ambient sounds found in many places through this album. With the disappointment in himself from Physicist, Devin is a bit more openly emotional here, but he never fails to bring in a bit of lighthearted comedy as in Earth Day, which is one of the main things I love about his work. This is another good starting point for fans of prog metal. This is probably the hardest album for me to pick a favorite song off of.
Favorite Track: Earth Day or Canada
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Strapping Young Lad
SYL- SYL 2003
Much like Physicist, Devin says he was unable to truly realize his vision with this album. It was meant to be a statement of strength and somewhat of a parody to harshness, but during the writing process, Dev says it turned to more of an irony than humor. He now looks back to see its anger was based more in insecurity.
This is my personal least favorite Strapping LP. The “trying too hard” sound comes through in several places, and you can hear how Devin is struggling with his views on heavy music at this point. It still has a lot of great music, though, and it is always interesting to hear how well Devin’s mental state is conveyed in his music.
Favorite Track: Aftermath
|18||The Devin Townsend Band|
TDTB- Accelerated Evolution 2003
Accelerated Evolution is the debut work from The Devin Townsend Band, one of what has grown to be several iterations of DT’s solo work under different names. It formed with several local Canadian musicians and Devin’s old friends, many of whom are still playing with him in DTP. Devin himself does not think too highly of this album but attributes it to the band’s short time together and his, then, lack of “gelling” with them.
|19||The Devin Townsend Band|
For me, this album stands apart from the rest of Devin’s work. Not only is it one of my favorites, but it feels the most unique in terms of his catalogue, which oddly enough may make is sound the least unique in terms of all other music. Accelerated Evolution is an album I always revisit in a good mood to have a fun listen. Tracks like Deadhead will amaze you like his other works, but Traveller or Slow Me Down are songs where a fun and relaxed Devin comes through. This is a good starting point for those whose fandom into heavy music mostly ends at classic rock.
Favorite Track: Slow Me Down or Deadhead
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SYL- Tour EP 2003
This is a limited edition EP released just before SYL featuring a couple songs from the upcoming album as promos and some stuff from City as well.
For me, this shouldn’t be taken too seriously as a piece of his discography since it was just a promo, but nonetheless, it is still good. This is only necessary for the diehard fans.
Favorite Track: Detox (live)
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For Those Aboot to Rock (DVD)
SYL- For Those Aboot to Rock 2004
The only planned live release from Strapping came after the SYL album was released. They made a DVD recording in support of the tour and in typical SYL fashion, named it in honor and parody of “For those About to Rock” by AC/DC.
One very major highlight to me for this live video release is the highlighting of Gene Hoglan’s drumming. Much of the setlist from this is from SYL, one of only a handful of albums on this list in which Devin didn’t take almost full songwriting control. So even though this is a Devin list: Gene Hoglan, listen and learn people. It takes serious skill and patience to play perfectly just behind the beat in perfect time on blast beats, but Hoglan is one of the few who can. Back to the music. Once you get past the first four tracks, it is an enjoyably listen, even if the remaining tracks aren’t the best. The crowd interaction is good here too if you watch the DVD. (Until Drew ruins everything)
Favorite Track: Detox
DT- Devlab 2004
Devlab is an ambient electronic piece meant to illustrate “an abstract nightmare”. It was meant as a stream-of-consciousness expression for Devin, and he says he truly enjoyed the making of it, although it was never meant for commercial release. It was only released physically on mail order because Devin thought that if anyone did enjoy it, they should have the right to buy it.
Devlab for me is a bit of a weird thought. I actually really think bits of it are cool, but it feels kind of disjointed in places as well. I don’t know very much at all about this style of music though, so take my judgment with a grain of salt. It’s worth hearing at least once if you’re a Devin fan.
Favorite Track: N/A
Ass-Sordid Demos II
DT- Ass-Sordid Demos 2004
This demos collection includes more songs from Grey Skies and Solo work, but also includes some Noisescapes (another early Devin band) demos as well. These were recorded between 1991-92. One of the Noisescapes demos, a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Friends” almost lost Dev’s spot on the Vai record because of its troubled nature, but I still find it very good.
This collection is hilarious. It’s clear to see Devin’s humor has always been present in his music when listening to these demos from his younger years. San Pablo Train details the story of a Mexican corn and bean farmer while Roadkill is about, you guessed it, animals getting squished and splattered across a road. The other demos are still pretty great, too.
Favorite Track: San Pablo Train and Roadkill
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SYL- Alien 2005
When SYL came out to less than stellar reviews, despite Dev agreeing, he got a chip on his shoulder that very directly led to Alien. In an attempt to “show them” he could do another City, he tried to intentionally put himself back into the dangerous and demented mindsets that created City. Rather than finding himself in these situations, he forced them, and it comes through in the record as a “schizophrenic” attack on the senses.
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Alien took me a while to get into. It alienated me at first, pun intended, with its weirder sound than other SYL work. This is an album that, after reading his book, I understood much greater with knowledge of what state produced it. The ending stretch of several minutes of static could definitely turn people off from this album, but the majority of it is right up with City in terms of an honest and uniquely heavy SYL sound. It is probably the most genuinely intense record from SYL for me, likely since TDEP and Meshuggah were somewhat influential to the writing.
Favorite Track: Shitstorm (very interesting/unfortunate story for how this was written)
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TDTB- Synchestra 2006
Synchestra was written during the Alien era, yet again as a direct response to Devin hating the feelings created when writing Strapping material. He describes it as a return to more innocent times. Dev’s favorite track of the album, as he often states, is Babysong.
|27||The Devin Townsend Band|
Synchestra is the first ever album I listened to by Devin. I had read a Periphery interview where they had cited Synchestra, Deconstruction, and Alien from Devin as big influences in their musical development (Yes, I like Periphery, get over it, yes, Devin is better, don’t stop reading this list because Devin doesn’t sound like them). Anyways, because this album title sounded the coolest at the time I decided to start with this. I hated it. I thought it dragged on forever, and it wasn’t that interesting. I knew very little about music at the time as this was several years ago, but I had pretty much decided I did not like this guy. After about a week, I decided it was worth giving Deconstruction a chance, and there is where my musical obsession with Devin began. Since then, I have revisited Synchestra several times and it has grown on me with each listen, but I still do not consider it a good starting point to his discography or near his best work.
Favorite Track: Pixillate
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The New Black
SYL- The New Black 2006
The New Black was written as Devin’s farewell to SYL. By the time it was finished, Devin had completely decided he was done with Strapping because he was tired of the hate and the scene around metal and heavy music. The lyrics were meant to show people his observations of it all and help them understand why he was quitting.
While SYL the album was meant to be angry in a farcical way, this is an angry album in a much more genuine way. It blew me away the first time I listened to it. The frustration came though so hard, it was almost uncomfortable. After further listens, I have started to become more aware of the music, which is some of the less interesting stuff from Strapping, but while it has fallen slightly in my opinions, it still is a great record.
Favorite Track: You Suck
DT- The Hummer 2006
Much like Devlab, The Hummer was another electronic album meant to be a piece of pure expression for Devin. Its concept was to “shake a room into constant vibration, and that would instill a sense of peace”.
Again, I don’t know much about this kind of music, but I do like The Hummer much better than Devlab. It is a good album to zone out to and lightly follow along, and if any electronic music fans have an opinion on it or Devlab, I’d genuinely love to hear it.
Favorite Track: None
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SYL- C:Enter:### 2007
This was released as the bonus disc on the reissue of The New Black featuring only one new song (t/t) and three other previously released tracks. It should not be considered as a true part of Dev’s discography.
The best part about this is the name (pronounce the symbols as words if you don’t get it). It never needed to be made, though, and it is not an enjoyable listen.
Favorite Track: None
Ziltoid the Omniscient
DT- Ziltoid the Omniscient 2007
Devin always loved puppets as a kid. He put on puppet shows for the neighborhoods he grew up in and his parents, so it was only natural for him to eventually combine that love with his music, right? This is also the first album Devin wrote after the birth of his son Reyner in October 2006.
Ziltoid is an album that most all of Devin’s newer/younger fans know and enjoy along with some of the ones who stuck around after he left his fetid heavy, aggressive music behind. That being said, despite this being a bit gimmicky and cheesy, it sure is a ton of fun to be a fan of. The story, much like Punky Bruster, struggles to be completely engaging throughout, but it is better done, and has very good music as well. Here’s a great starting point for fans of cheesy comedy and metal.
Favorite Track: Solar Winds
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DTP- Ki 2009
Even though this is the first release from the newly formed Devin Townsend Project, the material for all four of the first releases was written at about the same time. Devin had been away from music for a while. He hadn’t toured or been in the studio for a longer period than ever since the SYL days all because he wanted to take time to focus on himself and his family. He just had his son Reyner, and had sobered up from drugs and alcohol. Of course, he couldn’t stay completely away from writing forever and slowly began composing a lot of sounds. Friends told him that his work sounded like four separate projects instead of just one, so he began grouping it all into what would become the first four albums of DTP.
|33||Devin Townsend Project|
Ki’s sound is one that at the time was venturing into a bit of new territory for Devin. The production on the vocals is heavier than usual and there are the beginnings of the country sounds that would later form Casualties of Cool (it even features the same guest vocalist Che Aimee Dorval). To me, the album sounds very much like a Casualties prototype that didn’t know yet what it was. Because of this, I feel the sound is a bit under-matured and there are places where the flow just doesn’t quite work for me. As always, even Devin’s mediocre work is a great listen, though.
Favorite Track: Coast and Heaven’s End (Heaven Send on some sources)
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DTP- Addicted! 2009
Part two of DTP is where we really begin to see Devin mix things up. Shocking and even alienating some of his fans, Devin’s place in life led to the creation of an incredibly pop-influenced metal album. This album is also the first to feature semi-regular DTP guest vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen of The Gathering. Devin feels the least personal connection to this of the four original DTP albums, but says it directly led to his explorations for Epicloud and Sky Blue.
|35||Devin Townsend Project|
Addicted! is another album that took a bit to grow on me. The pop influences turned me off to it initially (I believe I gave it a 2.5). I felt songs like Universe in a Ball! and Bend it Like Bender! lacked all the things Devin knew about making good musical structure. The song that made me give it another chance was Ih-Ah! Those two tracks are still probably my least favorite two on the album, but they have grown on me immensely. The rest of the album is surely some of DTP’s best work, and Ih-Ah! is one of my favorite songs ever as well. This is a good starting point for fans of poppier metal.
Favorite Track: Ih-Ah!
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DTP- Deconstruction 2011
Here it is! My favorite album of all time! The album where Devin faces his heavy demons, and proceeds to absolutely obliterate them! After SYL, it is a well known fact that Dev said he was done with heavy music; he didn’t like the way it made him think, he didn’t like the time in his life that had revolved around it, and he swore to never go back to making heavy music. However, after his break from music, when he began writing again, he found himself coming back, face-to-face with these memories and sounds. Setting out to vanquish once and for all his fears, he writes Deconstruction, a tale of his history and his lifelong struggles and insecurities, all culminating into a very cathartic ending.
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What is there that I can say that can describe my love for this album? I think it is the greatest album ever written. As a concept album, this goes deeper both lyrically and musically into its themes than any other concept album I have heard. I couldn’t go into all of it in a simple paragraph, but this album is so incredibly autobiographical for Devin, and as a huge fan of his, it hits me hard. I definitely understand that it is a cheesy (there’s even a song about [on the surface] a cheeseburger), and those who don’t know Devin’s work or history may not get it, so this isn’t his best starting point for everyone. Fans of weird and chaotic metal will love this for sure. I hope to write a slightly less fanboyish review of this some day.
Favorite Track: All of them! But also Planet of the Apes
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DTP- Ghost 2011
Ghost was meant to be the end of the DTP. It was meant to be Devin’s unlearning of the way industry and fans and anyone not him wanted music, instead being an expression of his true self. With Ghost, Dev aimed for a tender sound that stripped away most all of his production to represent a more natural sound.
Ghost is an album that is so beautifully crafted, I know I won’t do well describing it. It is ambient and nature-y, but I’ll let the reviews on the site already speak to it more. The only reason I don’t have this rated higher is because I really have to be in a certain mood to want to listen to this, but who knows, I may bump it soon. The By a Thread live version is better to me as well. You could start here with his work if you don’t like heavy music.
Favorite Track: Feather
DT- Unplugged 2011
In order to serve as a balance for the massive amounts of production put into the first four DTP releases, HevyDevy decided to record some stripped down acoustic versions of some of those songs. It was all done live and was released exactly how it was recorded. It includes versions of songs from the Ghost 2 and Casualties sessions.
2011 had to have been Dev’s biggest year of releases for me. Yeah, there was City and Ocean Machine together in 1997, and that was a special year, but to have Deconstruction, Ghost, and this all at once with a live quadruple album recorded is unbeatable. Unplugged is exactly what an acoustic album should be. It has some great songs, entirely reworked into a new sound. Because what’s the point of redoing them the same way, but on an acoustic guitar? Start here if you’re coming from an indie rock background or don’t like metal.
Favorite Track: Ih-Ah!
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DTP- European Tour 2011
This is a live EP recorded in 2010 while on tour with BTBAM, Cynic, and Scale the Summit in promotion for the 2011 European Tour. It was only released digitally.
I have never been able to find these versions of the track listing. I have heard live versions of the songs on this and they were good, but since I do not own it or know where to find it legally, I can’t give a full opinion on it. If anyone does know where to find this, let me know.
Favorite Track: ?
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By A Thread: Live in London 2011
DTP- By A Thread: Live in London 2011 2012
Over the course of 4 days in November 2011, the DTP played four consecutive concerts in London. Each concert covered one of the original 4 DTP albums in order with an encore. It was released nearly a year later. Several prerecorded studio elements were used in the live performances. There are videos of the performances in the DVD box set, but I was only able to listen to audio versions (on Spotify, beware of misplaced track titles) as I do not own the set yet.
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By A Thread: Live in London 2011
Since this is a huge pile of music and I have written up stuff for these studio albums, I will treat these live versions a little more concisely. The first, Ki, is done very well, and may be the one of the four in which I prefer the live version most preferentially to the studio version. Addicted! live is better than expected as well, living up pretty equally or slightly superior to the studio version. It sounds as if it was put on much like a party and is a lot of fun, but a little less natural as more pre-recorded elements begin to show up. Deconstruction, being my favorite studio album, obviously gets a major bump here. Everything sounds great live, but there isn’t enough different to make it essential outside of the context of the brilliant tracklist. Some of the commentary really adds to the listen, and then some doesn’t, but this is the only one worse than the studio.
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By A Thread: Live in London 2011
Ghost, much like Ki, is much better suited for the live environment with much less production. It is a definite improvement to the studio version because everything in it is so much more personal. Its beauty is magnified through the chapel in which it is played, the only one of the four not played on the University of London Union stage.
Favorite Tracks (1 per): Trainfire, Ih-Ah (as you should know if you’ve read this far) , Planet of the Apes, Kauai
4.1, 4.3, 4.5, 4.5 = Overall 4.4/4.5
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DTP- Epicloud 2012
Devin’s interest for creating Epicloud started with his kid. He was listening to radio pop around the house because that’s what his friends liked, and Devin, hearing it, began to get interested in what made it so popular. Initially writing it off as formulaic, he kept listening and it began to grow on him, inspiring this album. Following these same styles, he wrote Epicloud in a month. Devin claims this album is one of his proudest moments along with his electronic adventures and Casualties.
Even though this album meant a lot to Devin as a way to have fun with music, I believe he did not quite take this album to where it could’ve been. Inspired by formula, the album produces a formula. It leads to some really good and fun songs too, but as a formulaic album is plagued by a lack of variety, so is Epicloud. I would point people who don’t like metal but are interested in Devin to this album if not for Sky Blue.
Favorite Track: Lucky Animals and Kingdom
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DTP- Epiclouder 2012
Epiclouder was written at the same time as Epicloud, and was released as a bonus disc as Devin tends to do. Everything he wrote that he felt didn’t fit into the flow of Epicloud was left for Epiclouder.
To me, Epiclouder falls into the same category of Epicloud, only slightly deeper. The formulas just grow a bit more tired and the best songs just aren’t quite as good. This was a disappointing release for me, unfortunately.
Favorite Track: Heatwave
The Retinal Circus
DT- The Retinal Circus 2013
This was conceived as not just a concert, but as more of a musical dramatic production. It was to be complete with spoken lines by Devin interacting with recorded portions all as actors and performers brought the story and songs to life in the background. The story follows loosely the path of Devin’s life through a character named Harold, all narrated by a Steve Vai recording. It spans most of Devin’s career, even including 2 SYL songs (the only ones performed live since the band’s breakup) as a way to reconnect with guitarist Jed Simon.
The Retinal Circus
While clearly this size of an epic production encompassing one of the most acclaimed musical career’s ever is an interesting idea, the execution was not quite perfect. So many aspects of this concert were absolutely incredible to watch, but one cannot ignore the fact that there were numerous mistakes in the dramatic portions of the show. That being said, while it is not perfect, this is still an incredible live release and an amazing show to watch, recommended for any Devin fan.
Favorite Track: Detox
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Casualties of Cool
CoC- CoC (discs 1 and 2) 2014
Devin began writing material for this at first passively, often while watching Antiques Roadshow at night (seriously). After Ki, he felt he had tapped into a new inspirational source, but didn’t want to lose it while moving onto work like Addicted! and Deconstruction. Slowly, it turned into songs, then demos, then concepts for the album over several years, and is now one of Dev’s personal proudest achievements. It is a concept album of a traveler on a foreign planet who, upon conquering his fears, liberates himself and the soul of a trapped woman. There is a bonus disc containing several songs from these and the Ghost sessions as well, and a Pledge-exclusive resequenced album with additional tracks that was never release on CD.
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Casualties of Cool
This album seems as if Ghost and Ki got together to have a child that was smarter and more athletic than either of its parents and its name was Casualties of Cool. I’ll admit, this one took a very long time to grow on me, but grow it has, and I now see it for what it is: one of Devin’s best albums to date, even at this late stage in his career. I prefer to listen to both discs together, which is why I am not separating them as I have for other double releases. But, separately, I like them almost equally. My only complaint is I feel the vocals are overproduced. The ending suite of Aquarius and Perspective on disc 2 is the highlight of the album for me (and I swear I’ve heard the riff for Aquarius somewhere else, but I don’t know where). This is an excellent point to start into Dev’s work if you like more ambient or country sounds.
Favorite Track: Mountaintop (1) Aquarius and Perspective (2)
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DTP- Z2: Sky Blue 2014
I’m including Sky Blue separately because sonically, these albums within Z2 are not meant to go together. Sky Blue came from a very similar place to Epicloud in terms of Devin’s influences, but there is a return to Devin’s own songwriting style and themes. Originally, Z2 was meant to only include the Ziltoid sequel, but pressure from record labels led to the need for a double release.
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Despite its similarities to Epicloud, one of my least favorites of his, here Devin turns out what I see as one of his best works. The pop influences are still considered in this album, but Devin’s characteristic sound is back and bigger than ever. Sections like when the more mellowed, yet beautiful Midnight Sun flows masterfully, and the bombastic Universal Flame really shows Devin has taken out the formulas from the pop, and instead has crafted some intelligent proggy pop metal. I’d highly recommend this to anyone coming to Devin’s music from softer styles as pop and indie. This album got my girlfriend into his music (along with Unplugged).
Favorite Track: Universal Flame
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DTP- Z2: Dark Matters 2014
As the follow up to Ziltoid the Omniscient, Dark Matters continues Ziltoid’s story, which we follow through an Earth invasion by the decidedly hideous “Poozers” and their war princess mother, Blattaria. Ziltoid is recruited by Captain Spectacular to help save Earth using the omnidimensional Planet Smasher.
For me this was a strong follow up to the original Ziltoid album. Parts of it were a bit confusing, and the dialogue was a tiny bit annoying in places, but that was to be expected considering the first album. I might slightly prefer this to the first, but the live version done later at the Royal Albert Hall is by far the superior addition to the series.
Favorite Track: March of the Poozers
Ziltoid Live at the Royal Albert Hall
DT- Ziltoid Live at the Royal Albert Hall 2015
This production is very similar to The Retinal Circus in terms of its performance. Its is a very over-the-top musical type show that begins with the entire Z2: Dark Matters before intermission, then continues with songs from throughout Devin’s non-SYL catalogue, essentially chosen by the fans on a Facebook poll. The Ziltoid set is complete with costume and puppets while the encore set is more laid back.
Ziltoid Live at the Royal Albert Hall
Even though Dark Matters is one of my lesser-favorite DTP albums, I thought this concert was overall much better than The Retinal Circus. The parts of the production involving memorized lines, which were often forgotten or misplaced in TRC, were replaced with prerecorded bits (thankfully), but in general were cut in frequency as well, leaving more time for music. This meant the production had significantly fewer flaws and ran much smoother. The track list was great as well since the Ziltoid series is better served for concert than studio album anyway, and the second half consisted of markedly less Epicloud than TRC. I recommend watching over listening. This is probably the greatest concert video of all time, in my humbly biased opinion.
Favorite Track: March of the Poozers (first half), The Death of Music (second half, I know Bastard is my favorite song of all time, but holy crap is the first ever live performance of this song freaking transcendental)
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DTP- Transcendence (disc 1) 2016
On this album, Devin gave up a lot of his responsibilities as a songwriter to his band. He said that, by now, he had been with the band long enough to where he felt more than confident in their ability to interpret what he wanted from a song and write very meaningful contributions. Devin struggled to give up this control a bit, but mentioned that if he gave pieces written by the members a couple days, he would realize they were great and sometimes better than what he imagined.
This album holds an interesting place for me because it is the only full-length studio album he has released since I first heard the name Devin Townsend. Although I don’t think it is one of his best works, it is still a really freaking good album and one of the best from 2016. This is the album that got my dad into his music.
Favorite Track: Higher
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DTP- Holding Patterns 2016
Holding Patterns is the name given to the leftover songs and demos from Transcendence sessions. They were songs Devin felt did not fit into the theme and flow of Transcendence as usual. This time, the band argued over the exclusion of some of these songs because they were so well liked by the other members.
I definitely see where the band was coming from on this issue, because there are some killer songs on this disc. The fact that they are demos even helps them more since I felt Transcendence erred on the side of over-production. I do think they may have disrupted the flow slightly had they been included, but I still think several songs could have made the record better. Several even had an industrial heaviness reminiscent of SYL, musically (see Victim and compare to SYL the song).
Favorite Track: Time Overload
4.0/4.3 (only 2 votes)
DT- Iceland 2016
Iceland was the accompanying CD released with his book in 2016. It is a live, one-session straight recording by Devin only on an acoustic guitar. It includes work from his solo and “semi-solo” projects.
I really like this recording because of its spontaneity. It is one of Devin’s very very few unedited works. There is almost no production; there are no backing tracks or effects save for “End”. It is just a collection of songs in their most stripped down form. Because it is so pure, I revisit this fairly often, but I can admit that, to a non-fan, the mistakes that pop up every now and then could definitely lower the enjoyment value. For me they contribute to the feel and make me love it even more.
Favorite Track: Deadhead and (I can’t leave off) Ih-Ah
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Live at Amos' Southend
DTP- Live at Amos’ Southend 2016
This isn’t a release, but I felt it was worth including my own personal experience seeing Devin live. Fallujah and BTBAM opened, who were okay and awesome, respectively. They almost didn’t play because Devin hyperextended his knee some time before in a crossfit accident (which you can view on youtube).
I really enjoyed seeing him live way more than I probably should have here. His setlist was very good, but not particularly amazing, and there were several instances of technical difficulties such as when his guitar connection went out before the solo of Failure, and you couldn’t hear a note of it. But, despite the distractions from it being a “perfect” performance, I had wanted to see him so badly I didn’t care. Devin was still Devin, as always, hilariously quirky, and entertaining at all times, and the rest of the Project were amazing as well.
Favorite Track: Ih-Ah! (yeah I love this song, get over it)
Realistically: 4.0; To Me: 5.0
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DT- The Moth
Hype for everyone’s favorite Voldemort lookalike’s Penis and Vagina Symphony/Broadway Show?! Coming Soon?!
Predicted Ratings: Me- 4.4, Sput- 4.1
|Whew, this is finally done. I’ve been working on this for a few months now, and I really enjoyed it, but I hope it will be of some use to anyone wanting to get into Devin’s music. All of the facts I included are true to the best of my knowledge and backed by sources, but if anyone feels something is misleading or incorrect, please let me know with a source and I will be happy to update it (unless the source is old/unreliable in which case I may reply with my source and an explanation for why I will not change it). I know tons of details are left out, but I was limited by the size capabilities of the list format, so I tried to be overly concise. This thing still took over 15 pages 12 pt font in a Word doc. Many great reviews have been written for these albums, so I recommend reading those if a particular album catches your interest. I hope you guys enjoy it. Feedback appreciated.|
|Holy fuck that's a lot of text, game recognise game.|
|I did this on mobile|
|Not really, glad to get this done though|
|But my personal take on a guide to Devin Townsend is bashing your head against the wall and the sending shockwaves through your body using guitar cable jacks.|
|you weren't kidding about that massive list, bgill.. reading it all.. feature!!|
|This piece will be featured faster than if it was a mod's thread.|
|holy magoly! you deserve a medal for the amount of time and effort you've put into this. absolute champion mate.|
|Thanks Guys! I just hope it helps out someone interested in this music. I read a lot of lists on this site before I joined to try and get into new music and there were some good ones but I don't remember finding one for Devin, so I made one myself.|
|Anyone who reads this, I'd love to hear what you think.|
|F is for feature!|
|Also for the grade you give prog. I'm gonna find something that changes your mind Unique!|
|Good luck with that, mate.|
|Hol' up, I just realised that all you'll ever rec me in the Rec Roulette is from now on going to be Prog...|
|Also, in all honesty, I stopped reading somewhere at 25, cause I just can't relate.|
|But Strapping isn't too proggy. You might would dig Alien if you liked anything he did|
|grats on feature|
|Holy shit this list is epic. Very nice work dude!|
|So this is the list you were talking about! I love it!|
|I am impressed that you even took the time to do his live albums and basically every little thing he's put out. His concert at the Royal Albert Hall is one of the only live compilation of any artist that I would want to hear - simply because it's interesting to hear AND see. Plus, some of those live renditions of songs give the studio versions a run for their money. |
|I think it is not bad that his is in chronological order - look at that effort - but I think if people want to get into Devin, maybe chronological isn't the best way to go seeing as SYL was amongst his first stuff and that's a grower for a lot of people. If I were to give someone advice on how to get into him, I'd point them in the direction of his solo or DTB/DTP work: maybe start with Addicted!, Accelerated Evolution, or -even better - Terria. |
Overall, awesome list, though! =D
|Ok - just finished the whole thing. Nice! =D|
|Ocean of Noise|
|Damn dude, nice work. Devy is truly one of the great rock musicians of our time.|
|Terrible list, unnecessarily long. This is the ultimate guide|
Sleep after that
|Shut up, Maco. |
Nice list, man. Can't say I've heard everything on here, but I definitely get down to City.
|finally got the time to sit down and read through this.. fantastic work, bgill, a proper labour of love.. an incredibly involved list, and even though I haven't listened to any of this, I loved reading about it.. that's the best part about write-ups like this.. like reading a short bio of an artist.. amazing!! cheers, dude//|
|I appreciate it everyone! @rifkadm, I totally agree SYL isn't the best place for everyone to start. I'm gonna edit the list description now, but I did include several points where I suggested people fans of ___ should start here. I tried to point that out in the description but I'll make it more visible|
|And @rifkadm I wasn't super excited about listening to By a Thread just because of how long it was, but it was definitely worth it for how much better ghost and Ki got|
Just saw a few edits! I appreciate the "start here" for certain albums depending on the new listener, and I agree with them. =)
Might make an awesome flowchart. :O
|This is pretty awesome. Major respect for this. Devin is one of my role models. |
|The "start here"s were there the whole time. I just added a bit in the list description. But yeah, Dev is a cool guy. You should get his book if you're interested. It makes this list look like there's no information in it at all.|
|Great list. Awesome work.|
I always liked Heavy As a Really Heavy... more than everyone else, I think. Critic is one of his most brutal songs, Happy Camper is just insanity, and I love the grooviness on Goat, Cod Metal King, and Drizzlehell. Also, Satan's Ice Cream Truck.
Could never get into Sky Blue or Z2. Too poppy/genero. Epicloud had a couple of goodies (Kingdom, Save Our Now) but is mostly meh. Casualties is his best album since the 2011 combo of Deconstruction/Ghost.
Ki is underrated, but the weakest of the 4 'main' Project records. Coast, Heaven Send, Terminal, and Winter are great.
Tiny Tears is SO underrated. I never hear about that song and he never plays it live, but it's one of his best.
Other underrated Devin songs: Lady Helen, The Way Home, Stagnant, Voices in the Fan, Soul Driven.
|deadhead is my go to song when i want to get someone into heavy devy |
those high notes in the last chorus are his peak imo
|Wow, this is the ultimate Dev list, no other list needs to be made. Incredible job, now I want to go listen through his entire disco!|
|Do it Harry! And thanks for the opinions Easter. Terria is by far the hardest album for me to pick a favorite song from because it changes every time I hear that album. Tiny Tears and Stagnant are among my favorite songs of his even though I didn't mention them. Deadhead is of course great too Scoot!|
|great great list. been binging all of his stuff lately, it's insane how much talent this guy has|
|Love the hell out of this, enjoyed reading it. Favorite artist.|
|Hoovy Doovy is best.|