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Epicloud
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  • About the only thing that one can count on from Devin Townsend is not to count on anything at all. His career has continually subverted all previous expectations. Epicloud is the fifth release by the Devin Townsend Project. The previous four -- Ki, Addicted, Deconstruction, and Ghost -- were thematically linked. For fans who wondered where he'd go next, Epicloud was perhaps the least likely direction. It is the most unabashedly mainstream and "pop"-oriented recording of his career thus far. While it doesn't sound like any individual release from DTP's previous quartet, it does have elements of all of them woven throughout these 13 songs. The big news is that Anneke van Giersbergen is ever present here, reprising the role she played on Addicted. She is not only Townsend's foil here, but a shining standout -- she is certainly not a backing vocalist. Given the polish in production here, and the enormous weight the vocals in this mix carry, Townsend needed to be at the top of his game. He is. Speaking of production, given the emphasis on vocals, its very stripped-down compared to other records in his large catalog. The set kicks off with their multi-tracked voices on the brief gospel choir-styled intro, "Effervescent!" Heaviness and hooks alternate in "True North," with van Giersbergen in full duet with Townsend. The tune has a simple enough hook, but its thundering guitars and its knotty bridge offer a nice twist. The single "Lucky Animals" is driven by a catchy metal riff, but given the multiple vocal layers, it almost feels like Queen getting edgy. "Liberation" has an anthemic chorus line crossed with whizzing synths, manic drumming, and Townsend and Dave Young's guitars on stun. Ms. van Giersbergen's vocals take it to an entirely different level musically; her level of self-expression throughout the record, but particularly here, is remarkable. The re-recorded version of "Kingdom" (which originally appeared on Physicist) is stripped of its massive instrumental production touches. There are still massive guitars, synths, and tom-toms wailing and crunching, but they deliberately serve the transcendent vocals. The best example of this is on the fist-pumping anthem "Hold On." Ultimately, Epicloud was recorded to be accessible to a wide range of listeners, and as such, it succeeds in spades. It's not particularly adventurous, but it is a hell of a lot of fun. If half of what passes for mainstream rock was nearly as interesting or satisfying, radio would be worth listening to again. ~ Thom Jurek
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