The Devin Townsend Band - Synchestra
InsideOut Music
Progressive Metal
14 songs (65:27)
Release year: 2006
The Devin Townsend Band, InsideOut Music
Reviewed by Al
Album of the month

I first encountered the so-called mad scientist of metal when I heard a few bits and pieces of Strapping Young Lad’s self titled album. What I heard put me off slightly and made me loathe to experience his previous work with SYL as well as his solo efforts and thus his work slipped under my radar for some time. That is until last years seminal Alien changed everything, finally I understood what all the fuss was about. After entering said album into my top ten for the year I eagerly awaited new material from Mr Townsend expecting and hoping for something good, I didn’t however, expect this.

To call the sound Townsend and co. achieve on this record ‘unique’ would simply not be doing it justice. It manages to encompass such a broad range of styles and influences in the space of one album and even in each individual song that I think classing it as simply metal would be an insult, I can only describe the sound by using the word ‘music’ in it’s most broad and all encompassing context.

According to the man himself, Synchestra was created as the opposing force to Alien. For those who are yet to hear it, the latter was a veritable explosion of some the most brutal, complex and vitriolic music I have ever encountered. Synchestra on the other hand is an explosion of the most uplifting, complex and unique music I have ever encountered. This endows both albums with a yin and yang effect that was obviously intentional and works very well.

The album kicks off with two intro tracks. The first is the folksy Let It Roll, which makes for a jarring listening experience to fans of SYL such as myself with its meandering melody and softly delivered vocals. It is however a superb and calming build up which leads neatly into the second intro track, Hypergeek which features a rather bizarre arrangement of acoustic guitar and samples that drops into a vortex of sonic lunacy akin to SYL but with a much lighter, melodic bent.

Triumph follows with it’s superb staccato riff and an unbelievably clean and accomplished vocal delivery. Combine this with an inexcusably catchy sing-along chorus and sublime drumming and the listener knows immediately that they are onto something special. The album after this features track after track of unrelenting genius that I could describe at great length had I the energy, instead I will pick out some of my personal highlights.

Gaia features the band firing on all creative and musical cylinders. It’s addictive melody and awesome riffs lend it a quality that makes it one of the finest tracks I’ve heard this year. The track which follows, Pixillate, is in a similar league employing countless twists and turns over its 8 minute running time that it would take a hardened soul to escape being impressed. It also features some superb female vocals mixed in with Townsend’s trademark screams. This leads me neatly onto my personal favourite, Notes From Africa. A track which features so many different styles in the space of 5 minutes that I am at a loss to describe them all. Tribal-esque drumming, electronica, metal and aspects of other world music to name but a few.

There is more to be experienced and analysed in each song than a lot of bands manage in an album. This all combines to form a musical tapestry so rich that it plays like one enormous all encompasing song that makes this an album that needs to be listened to in one sitting to truly appreciate it.

I struggle to find a downside this time, but if I have to mention one it would have to be that Vampolka and Mental Tan are short filler tracks and the album would have been no worse with their removal. My favourite band Tool are also guilty of this bizarre trait however so it may be some sort of mystical secret ingredient of incredible albums that us mere mortals know little of, regardless it detracts very little.

Mr. Townsend is a treasure of the current scene and if he continues to produce work of this calibre, character and originality his output is more than welcome on my stereo for the foreseeable future. This is easily the best album I’ve had the pleasure to hear this year and if you own Alien and not this, you’re missing half of the picture. Go and buy it…now.

Killing Songs :
All besides Vampolka and Mental Tan
Al quoted 93 / 100
Ken quoted 99 / 100
Aleksie quoted 97 / 100
Other albums by The Devin Townsend Band that we have reviewed:
The Devin Townsend Band - Accelerated Evolution reviewed by Danny and quoted 80 / 100
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