The Devin Townsend Band – Synchestra – Review

thedevintownsendband200The Devin Townsend Band

Synchestra (InsideOut)
by Martin Popoff

There’s just such a weird and soulful replenishing aura about Dev in mellow and melodic mode. You know, all the heavy life stuff that he doesn’t let interfere with Strapping Young Lad (well, he says it does, but all we see is manly conquer) is just achin’ to be, and here it is. And like his life, it always spills out surreal. Opener “Let It Roll” is all this and more, and so is “Hypergeek,” albeit of a louder nature. Seriously, two tracks in, it’s like a romp through the Garden of Eden, designed by the same lollipop-slavering guy who made The Yellow Brick Road. In the temples, there’s a buzz, but an avalanche of color pushes it to the background. As the album progresses, one enters a liquid world of layers that turns out sorta lulling the listener into Dev’s assertion that the whole album is like one song, sorta like a Zappa double album. There are demarcations, but you end up surrendering to the carousel world of it. But there are bumps: Happy ones and jolts. “Vampolka” is a jarring throwaway, but “Vampira” is like Gothic hair metal: Edgy and apocalyptic of melody, but smooth drinkin’ and super-strong of chorus. There are other respites and great full songs, but one can put that aside and just marvel at the production, which manages both industrial and weirdly cushy and heroin-gauzed like the great Jerry Garcia Band album, Cats Under the Stars.

Late in the sequence – and it’s really quite a difficult slog to get there – the album bogs and roils and heaves under the weight of Dev’s gleeful layering. It all begins to feel like a deathbed buzz, not altogether irritating, somewhat the wash that says there’s an afterlife, which I suppose you get to think about optimistically for a few seconds regardless of what follows. “Sunset” is that happy place after so much fragrant electricity, with faux-closer “Notes From Africa” sounding like Soundgarden or The Cult in tribal mode. The real closer is a hidden goofy Cheap Trick-styled rocker which, typical of Dev, throws up an enigmatic purple cloak over the puppet show before he packs it in the van.