Release Date: January 30, 2006

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When not making music, Devin Townsend is supposedly sleeping. This self-proclaimed “average shmoe” out of Vancouver, Canada, has been a significant contributor to the (true) Progressive music scene, ever since his 1995 debut with Strapping Young Lad’s Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing. Numerous releases later, under numerous names he decided in 2002 to form The Devin Townsend Band. The ambition was to create a more defined forum for his music, allowing and ensuring more stability and commitment. The outcome was Accelerated Evolution, released the following year. This year’s Synchestra is therefore the band’s second effort … and what an effort!

The Music

With the risk of jumping to conclusions: Synchestra is likely to move anyone coming in its way! The album offers such musical diversity, it’s hard to grasp. At the same time, the musical expression is made up of all familiar elements and most importantly: joy!

The album kind of sneaks up on you, in a good way, as opener “Let It Roll” breaks the silence with its open-tuned guitar strumming and Townsend’s most soothing voice. The song resembles some of the Flower Power-era’s most poetic moments and it never tries to push itself onto you. It just sets an inevitable mood of peace. However, when a wall of distorted guitars breaks in, you’ll know they have got more up their sleeves than Flower Power.

The following track, “Hypergeek,” takes a brutal turn after a while and dives into the darkest abyss of Metal, still with a smile on its face. “Triumph” sustains the Metal, only with a more Ambient touch to it. And, after a most surprising intermezzo, it opens up for a simply wonderful solo by Townsend’s mentor Steve Vai.

The next 3 songs offer a range from a Naïve Waltz in “Babysong” via breathtaking, authentic Polka in “Vampolka,” to Polka meets Metal in “Vampira.” All of the songs are nearly seemlessly joined, and boast a rare touch of originality, without falling into the Avantgarde domain. If this doesn’t get you stomping or smiling, you’re either dead or you ought to sell your hi-fi and start knitting a parachute, preparing to dive off the highest cliff or building in you neighborhood.

“Mental Tan” is a tiny big song (or actually instrumental). Its introductory soft strings, guitar, and chimes/harp melody initiates remarkable evolution and harmony. It naturally leads onto the quite massive and uptempo “Gaia.” Somewhere along the way in the latter is a guitar solo, with the final tone being sustained until album highlight “Pixillate” takes over.

Now here’s a song impossible to ignore: “Pixillate” has so much to offer it can’t be justified by mere words in a review. Just take notice of the punchy guitar opening the show and see how The Devin Townsend Band wraps this epic all up …

“Judgement” is an obscure, dark, and heavily churning epic. It’s a challenge, but also a reward for the patient. It joins with “A Simple Lullaby,” which is a liquid, ambient experience, colored by sounds of a live audience and a heavier-than-hell movement (with the guitar tuned down way below common sense). A brilliant piece, but hardly a lullaby …

The lively “Sunset” becomes a relieving intermezzo before the hypnotizing “Notes From Africa,” which offers the most Ambient mood on the album: when the birds start chirping at the end, you’d almost think it’s all over. Then, though, the Pop-ish, uplifting “Sunshine & Happiness” breaks in and wraps it all up.

The Band

Although a band, Synchestra is a lot of Devin Townsend himself. He has had total control, no doubt, still his bandmates all make considerable contributions, resulting in a most convincing expression. There is really nothing more to say about that.

The Verdict

Some go for extreme, nearly Avantgarde expressions and absurd diversity for the sake of standing out from the over-commercialised crowd of more or less talented performers. With Synchestra The Devin Townsend Band leaves a completely different impression, as its diversity reflects joy and love for music and sheer enthusiasm to a level of contagiousness.

The David Townsend Band has made an album that could be played on 11 or on softer-than-soft and either way would have a lot to offer. It’s as heavy as it gets and as dreamy and airy as it could possibly get. If not a masterpiece, then at least unbelievably close …


  • Frode Leirvik

    Frode was a reviewer here at Metal Express Radio, based out of Norway. His headbanging experience started when his brother-in-law gave him Deep Purple’s Fireball at the age of ten. Since then, he has also been a fan of and active in several other musical genres, resulting in a deep and profound interest in music. Some of his favorites, among all of those who have somehow managed to tap into the universal force of Progressive Music are (in no particular order): Thule, Dream Theater, King Crimson,Pink Floyd, Rush, Spock’s Beard, Jan Hammer and Jerry Goodman, Ekseption, Focus, The Beatles, Deep Purple and Frank Zappa.

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