Sunday, July 25, 2021

Devin Townsends continues his Galactic Quarantine

Galactic Quarantine is the second album in Devin Townsend’s Lockdown series. Denied the opportunity to gig, like all other artists, he’s used his downtime to do a series of ‘quarantine albums,’ comprising oddities and interesting material from various ‘live’ events recorded over the past couple of years, though not being put out as major releases. This set was recorded at various venues around the world as a replacement for the cancelled C19 tour, and it’s as different as it’s possible to get from his previous lockdown release and played by musicians who were based in Vancouver, Atlanta, Philadelphia and Winnipeg respectively at the time… real social distancing!

This is a ‘wall of sound’ album, with some seriously powerful stuff on offer. It’s amped right up to eleven, bombastic to the Nth degree and occasionally ferocious in execution. Devin Townsend is a Polymath who can shift styles and sound with consummate ease but, on this album, he’s offering crunching guitar riffs and, on tracks like ‘Deadhead,’ some throat-shredding vocals and screams which Bruce Dickinson would be proud of. But this isn’t all in one tone, his voice fluctuates between the growling heaviness of ‘By your Command,’ with its flat out amazing speed playing during the middle eight, to the soothing cadences on the very commercial ‘Spirits will Collide,’ a song in direct contrast to most of the album.

Proceedings begin with some electronic static, Townsend stating “don’t let the bullshit get you down, people” and then it’s off into the short intro. ‘Velvet Kevorkian’ though, he isn’t mentioned, is a puzzling reference to America’s premier exponent of assisted suicide. ‘All hail the new Flesh’ follows on with the musicians playing full on industrial and speed metal, and it’s then off into a trawl through Townsend’s extensive back catalogue.

The frantic pace continues on ‘Aftermath,’ ‘Detox,’ ‘Kingdom’ and the powerful ‘Stormbending,’ from 2012’s Transcendence album. ‘Supercrush’ and ‘Hyperdrive’ are, by the standards of much of the album, almost standard rock songs with the frantic pace relenting, while ‘Juular,’ from the 2011 album Deconstruction, has more than an echo of Nightwish about it, and sounds almost out of place here.

It isn’t easy pinning Townsend down to any specific genre, though it’s a truism to state most people who know of him, and have heard him, will quite likely be from the heavy rock end of the spectrum, where he has a solid rep, and this new release will do it no harm at all.

Laurence Todd
Took early retirement after many years as a teacher in order to write books as well as about music. A long-time music obsessive, has wide and eclectic tastes but particularly likes prog rock and rock in general. Enjoys going to gigs and discovering new acts.

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