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Feature On Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend
By Simon Thibaudeau

Devin Townsend...


Genius is a qualificative often used; is it really justified to use it? We could all agree on the fact that Einstein was a genius, so was Plato and probably Freud (although rarely used in modern psychiatry). What about Enrico Fermi? Those interested in physics and chemistry would probably say so but to us, it is just another name. What about Kant? Again, those interested in philosophy would say he was a genius but to me, it is still a name (I still have to read some of his work). What does all this have to do with Metal music you say? Well, often us reviewers are quick to point at genius, without much basis for our claims. Genius can probably be described as the quality of transcending time with one's work. Well, I am here to present you one person that will probably just do that: Devin Townsend.


Our resident genius was born some time ago in the Vancouver area, where he still operates. After forming a band called NOISESCAPES an playing with bands like CAUSTIC THOUGHT and GREY SKIES, Devin decides to send a NOISESCAPES demo to every record company known to man. A copy finds its way to Steve Vai's label, Relativity and is listened by the guitar god himself. Steve recognizes Devin's incredible vocal delivery and decides to bring him to record "Sex And Religion" (1993 - Relativity/Sony ZK-90943). The following tour will establish him as an entertainer to be reckoned when as he lets loose on stage (inserting all kinds of foreign object in different orifices, jumping and running all over the place).

Once the Vai experience finished, Devin got a touring experience as the guitar player of the British Heavy Rock band THE WILDHEARTS. It was then that a friendship with Ginger (the singer/songwriter of the WILDHEARTS) really began to grow. Devin was also asked around that time to participate on the FRONT LINE ASSEMBLY record "Hard Wired" (1995 - Off Beat Records-SPV086-22290). While enjoying all this, all he wanted to do was to bring his own music to people. So he recorded the tracks that would become "Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing" (Century Media), under the name of STRAPPING YOUNG LAD. That record was one monster of energy. Combining Thrash Metal with Industrial without loosing the sense of a melody line, "Heavy as..." was diverse and jaw-dropping. Many reviewers found themselves puzzled by the said diversity and gave it mixed reviews. But most of them felt the incredible drift it gave. It was recorded with a bunch of Devin's friend and him on pretty much everything but drums (even then, he programmed some drums loops).


In the two years that followed the STRAPPING YOUNG LAD's debut, he was once again brought to do different projects, including co-producing STUCK MOJO's "Pigwalk" (Century Media) and as guest vocalist on James Murphy's CONVERGENCE. He started to brew the next S.Y.L. album as well as starting the OCEAN MACHINE project. Around those time, he also had the idea of forming his own label to release his projects. Hevy Devy Records was soon founded.


"City" was soon released, a monumental piece of Thrash-Industrial music. With the help of drum-god Gene Hoglan (DARK ANGEL, DEATH, TESTAMENT), "City" was much more focused and intense compared to "Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing" but also less diverse. The record had rave reviews as the band secured its first (and only) US tour, supporting TESTAMENT and STUCK MOJO, as well as the Full Of Hate tour in Europe with the likes of ENTOMBED, SAMAEL, CROWBAR and OBITUARY. Devin and band were also the first Century Media band to tour Australia, where he was and still is having a large success. The same could be said of Japan, where all his records to date have been released by Sony! The two Melbourne dates were recorded to be released at a later time.


Soon after, he released OCEAN MACHINE, a much more toned down record in which Devin makes the ocean talk. The record, released by Hevy Devy Records and licensed by many distribution and labels around the world (yet no US deals was anywhere in sight), was much more Rock-oriented than the thrashier STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and showed a whole facet of Devin's work. It is dark, soulful and intelligent music that gets to the guts. Again combining keyboards, samples and heavy guitars, Devin created a thick and dense record (as is S.Y.L. records) in layering so many good elements that it is mesmerizing.

The next project in line would be the release of the Live EP "No Sleep 'till Bedtime, Live In Australia". Showcasing the Live energy of S.Y.L., as it ripped through a set to crush your nuts (if you do have some).


Again embarking a new and totally different project, he starts INFINITY. With INFINITY, he embarks into a long and difficult journey into his inner-self, as he says of the said project: "As close as possible at being inside my head". Released again through his HD Record label, it is a very difficult record to review as it is very diverse and strange in its own respect. After a few careful listen, you will be hit by the monster that INFINITY is; a monster of intelligent songwriting, unusual arrangements, catchy vocal melodies and just great riffs. Somewhat having a more accessible feel to it, it is nonetheless much too thick and full of a sound for any commercial success, rather disappointingly. Still, it is the highest selling Devin Townsend album ever. A CD single of the song "Christeen" was next released with the addition of three unreleased tracks of the INFINITY sessions. Those are mixed track of UNIT:187. That EP contains some very good songs that were unfortunately not properly finished as the deadline for INFINITY arrived. So it is not really left-overs...

As this page of the Devin Townsend's history is behind us, Devin started the next project on his list: PHYSICIST. Declared by the man himself as "The diet Coke of S.Y.L., or S.Y.L. light", I am yet to think of what this will sound like. I am sure I will like it though.

To order stuff and have more information on Devin-related projects, I suggest you go to: www.hevydevy.com and go listen to his projects at http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/83/devin_townsend.html for INFINITY and http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/84/devin_townsendocean_machin.html for OCEAN MACHINE


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