by Scott Hefflon
Devin Townsend is more or less a genius, so while he isn’t a household name or anything, he’s known by most of the people you’d like to hang out with. While some miss his zaniness of the early days (Strapping Young Lad’s Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing being requisite listening in some circles, and, like most of Meshuggah’s output, combines humor with stunning musicianship in a way that makes Static-X and pretty much all of those nü metal boy band blowhards look like the lame cover bands they are), Devin’s “serious” solo stuff ranges from sonic landscapes to delicate noodlings to brutal bashings (pretty much all top-notch, cuz the guy, as I say, is borderline genius).
With Terria, Devin aimed to record the feelings of travelling across the vast expanse of his homeland, Canada. That’s when it starts to click… That’s why there are breath-taking vistas and dawn-twinkling hushed moments as well as urban congestion and frustration, loneliness, feelings of insignificance, road rage, hairpin turns, and more metaphorical woo-ha than I can fit in a 300-word review. There’s more open country here than on the more aggressive “speed metal pop” Physicist, and it’s more “solid” than the “fluid” Ocean Machine band/project, and more Pink Floydian than the Broadway cheesed Infinity. On “Nobody’s Here,” seagulls squawk on the empty beach, the waves crash on the shore. The swelling chorus and expansive “oooooh” background wash wouldn’t be out of place on rock radio, but the “metal” roar would confuse too many people, as would the majestic Satriani-esque cloud-hopping solo. And “Stagnant,” the last (named) song, is a hair ballad filled with leaves rustling at your feet and wistfully staring out rain-spattered tour bus windows while passing through small town Amer-, uh, Canada, and a mountaintop guitarist throwing hair and sweet solos into the heavens. Man, you gotta be good to play so cheesy, ya know? And that’s Devin. He’s got the skillz and the humor, and he’s more versatile than practically any musician working today. Buy everything he’s touched and be humbled.