ATF Review: Devin Townsend Band – Accelerated Evolution

Location: Vancouver, Canada
Genre: Progressive Rock/Metal
Released: March 31, 2003
Format Reviewed: FLAC
Feature: All-Time Favorites

By: Kris Kotlarik

Almost every Devin Townsend album can boast the claim that it “has no parallel,” and Accelerated Evolution (AE) is no exception. This was the first of just two albums from the Devin Townsend Band (the second also earning an all-time favorite nomination), and his sixth solo album overall, not counting the Strapping Young Lad albums.

What makes this album stand out from Devin Townsend’s other releases? There’s a lot of catchy, accessible material on here; it straddles the fine line of being “poppy” and “proggy.” If you’re asking what “poppy” Devin Townsend sounds like, you should start with Epicloud or perhaps Addicted. Both are good albums, but don’t nearly stack up to albums like AE or Synchestra.

The main reason AE makes the cut is due to the fact that it starts with five consecutive fantastic songs and another track later on makes it an even six. The rest have minor flaws with some good moments; “Traveller” and “Slow Me Down” are both quite poppy, but Townsend’s production (not to mention the lyrics to the former, which I can at least relate to) makes them listenable and are actually rather catchy. “Away” is a long, noodling instrumental that could have been cut down by a minute or three.

Now for the highlights:

Depth Charge‘s intro reminds me a bit of Seventh Wave in that it’s slow and crushingly heavy. but the similarities end there; it quickly turns into an uptempo, upbeat number driven by a simple yet effective rhythm on all instruments. I especially enjoy the chrous, as well as the layered vocals before the first chorus. The other standout moment comes in the second verse, when Townsend screams “Who’s behind the door? I’m behind the door!” A common theme for AE is the bridge section included in many songs, all of which are well-done.

Storm contains lyrical references to Townsend’s wife Tracy, which is a nice touch. Overall, this is a slower, slightly melancholic track that turns more upbeat as it progresses. In the final verse, Townsend shows off some of his operatic vocals in grandiose, epic fashion.

Random Analysis, at least from a lyrical standpoint, is self-described in the title. While it’s not the most musically captivating track, the lyrics do stand out in a remarkable way. About midway through, another great bridge section comes in and runs for over a minute and is among the best music moments on AE.

Deadhead is a titan of a track that deserves every bit of its eight minutes. It starts with Townsend setting the mood on guitar before the drums kick in. The main riff to this track is absolutely genius; if you’re not nodding your head while this song is on, then you’re doing it wrong. While the vocals are not lengthy, they are powerful, ranging from operatic to brutal; many others before me have said this is among Devin’s best vocal display, and I’m joining in on the choir.

Suicide, in 3/4 time, once again starts with a guitar intro. In general, it’s a suitable followup to Deadhead, as they have a similar feel to them. There’s a rather hilarious line which mentions the death metal band Deicide. The vocals, especially in the verses, appear to be saturated in reverb mixed with another production effect, a strange yet effective mixture. If you’re looking for a guitar solo, this is the track you’ll find it on.

Sunday Afternoon breaks up the rather mediocre (at least in comparison) second half with a nice melody. This is one of several examples from Devin Townsend’s discography in which he can create a song that bears a resemblance to a pop track while still being progressive and memorable. The lengthy instrumental section which occupies much of the middle third of this track is another mega highlight.

Overall: I’m running out of adjectives to describe how awesome most of this album is without using such cheesy words as “breathtaking” and “magnificent.” 

Rating: 4.5
Additional Thoughts: The special edition of this album comes with the three song Projeck Eko, a one-off electronica project of Devin’s. It isn’t anything that will change anyone’s minds about electronica, but it’s relaxing. The Hummer is your best bet for electronic music when it comes to Devin’s discography. You can also check out Traestorz, a 19+ minute electronic jam from the Deconstruction sessions. 
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