Album Reviews

Issue 2023-004

Elder — Innate Passage

Elder - Innate Passage
Catastasis (10:50), Endless Return (9:54), Coalescence (9:47), Merged In Dreams - Ne Plus Ultra (14:43), The Purpose (8:37)
Martin Burns

Elder fans who are fully into the stoner and doom genres that the band started with, are likely to be disappointed with Innate Passage. But, like Opeth who moved on from their genre origins, Elder have turned into a progressive rock band who have embraced heavy-prog with psychedelic rock elements. This continues the path they followed on their excellent 2020 release Omens.

In between these two releases, Elder collaborated with the German psyche rock band Kadavar releasing a joint album under the name Eldovar, A Story Of Darkness & Light in 2021. Unfortunately, I haven't heard it, something I will rectify in the near future.

Both bands are based in Berlin, though Elder are originally from Boston in the USA. Covid restrictions meant a joint tour was cancelled.

The new album Innate Passage is my favourite album of 2022, so you should be able to guess what is coming in review terms. There is an increased use of synthesisers on this album that makes it more progressive to my ears than their previous releases. Elder have a fully-justified faith in their ability to produce storming progressive rock and wow, do they deliver.

Elder's line up remains settled from the one on Omens, with Nicholas DiSalvo (guitar, vocals, keyboards), Jack Donovan (bass), Michael Risberg (guitar, keyboards) and Georg Edert (drums). I'm sure that this has helped move their music further on up the progressive road. A road that is heavy, wide-ranging, spontaneous but controlled, as they explore fluctuating textures, vibes and colours, while being supremely melodic.

Elder open Innate Passage with Catastasis's statement of intent. Moving from a fade-in of quiet, reverberant guitar, a restless energy is imparted by the bass riff and exquisite drums as a spacey groove gets going. Then the first of the album's jaw dropping moments occur, as a wall of keyboards come in to firmly show that Elder are moving up and on. Synth solos crop up as often as guitar solos throughout the album. As well as passages of Mellotron-like strings.

Elder use vocal sections sparingly on these songs, and they add more drama to the dynamic interplay and changes of focus between the instruments. Each track has its own identity, while working together as a cohesive whole.

Relocating to Berlin seems to be rubbing off on Elder's musical choices as well. Witness the Berlin school sequencers that open Endless Return's rhythmically-lithe melody. There is still a nod to their American roots as a bluesy guitar solo also snakes its way in.

The multiple sections of Merged In Dreams - Ne Plus Ultra features expressive drumming, spectacular bass, thunderous riffs and synth interjections that all serve the shifting and atmospheric melody. The album closes with The Purpose, the closest they come to post-rock, twisted with a trippy and intense psychedelia.

On Innate Passage Elder have upped their game again, and it stands as a near-perfect example of heavy-prog infused with psyche-rock. Don't miss this release.

Godzilla In The Kitchen — Exodus

Godzilla In The Kitchen - Exodus
Is (3:23), The Future Of Mankind (8:16), Forced By (3:28), The King Of Monsters (6:40), Because (6:31), Everything That Has Been Given (7:36), Will Be Taken Away (4:03)
Martin Burns

Leipzig-based power trio Godzilla In The Kitchen have released the follow-up to their 2015 self-titled debut album, and what a great find Exodus is. Wearing their influences (Tool, Kyuss, My Sleeping Karma, Faith No More) they have released an instrumental concept album where, in a post-apocalyptic future, humans face monsters of our own creation.

The track titles themselves, if read without the timings, produces an epigram for the concept "Is the future of mankind forced by the king of monsters because everything that has been given will be taken away".

The music they use to explore this concept is a mix of heavy-prog and psychedelic rock. They have a great way with a melody, and develop each one in engaging ways. Nothing here is wasted or extraneous. They are not afraid to leave space and air between the thrust of the music, and it is a testament to the production and the mix that everything is so clear.

Godzilla In The Kitchen, promo photo

The album opens with the densely atmospheric guitar soundscapes of Is, which sets the scene for the terrific The Future Of Mankind. Here Eric Patzschke's trippy guitar sings over Simon Ulm's bass shards; his bass taking the melodic lead on much of the material on Exodus. Heavy riffs channel classic rock through stoner psyche. All of this is supported by the shrewdly-heavy drumming of Felix Rambach.

There's a hint of blues on Forced By as the melody switches between the instruments, before rocking out in power trio style. The King Of Monsters uses the heavy/gentle dynamic brilliantly with a funky bass-line and liberal use of the wah-wah pedal on the guitar. Its phases are nothing short of awesome and has some Porcupine Tree-like melodic pauses. On Everything That Has Been Given there is a cracking guitar solo, as if David Gilmore was fronting a power trio.

I could go on, as each track carries its weight and then some. Godzilla In The Kitchen's Exodus is intellectual and passionate, and they don't abandon subtlety for monolithic intensity at any stage. One of the best instrumental albums I have heard for a while. This would have been in my top 10 for the year if I had got to it sooner. Apologies to the band; please don't send the king of the monsters around.

Limite Acque Sicure — Limite Acque Sicure

Limite Acque Sicure - Limite Acque Sicure
Sogno D’Oriente (12:48), Terra Straniera (7:53), Il Respiro Dell’Anima (8:25), Antico Mare (8:02), Fiamme Intorno (10:48), Il Giardino Del Mago (15:51), Ti Salverà (2:11)
Jan Buddenberg

Limite Acque Sicure is a band hailing from Ferrara, Italy that originates back to 2005. Completing their final line-up of Andrea Chendi (lead vocals), Ambra Bianchi (flute, vocals, percussion and harp), Antonello Giovannelli (piano, keyboards), Luca Trabanelli (guitars, guitar synth), Paolo Bolognesi (drums) and Francesco Gigante (bass) in 2016, it has taken them a few more years to present their highly-eclectic, eponymous debut album.

"Highly" might well be an understatement, for the music offers a richness in musicality from which I get the distinct impression the band tries to cover almost all the known bases within the progressive rock spectrum. If I had read the press statement properly, which I obviously didn't the first time around, this would not have come as a surprise. The band members all have different musical backgrounds that vary from rock to metal and classical to fusion. Their combined motto is to melt all these previous resources into its own direction where the element of surprise is paramount. And surprise it does!

Inspired by the philosophy of human and artistic change, risk and evolution, Limite Acque Sicure present a concept album that address self-awareness, the relationship with one's world and the need to satisfy the fundamental needs of life. 'The Real Journey' as they like to call it.

And an adventurous journey it is, as the strong opener Sogno D'Oriente in conjunction with the album's artwork so excitingly demonstrates.

As an example of how my anticipating mind works, it was the album's artwork that ignited memories of Angra's Holyland due to its colourful, geographical resemblance; although this time representing the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. The song's opening statement of Eastern-orientated influences and worldly percussion emphasised it somewhat, but any powerful metal expectancy quickly sailed out of view with the music speeding off into dynamically-designed Italian prog pleasantries reminiscent of Nuova Era, PFM and a somewhat firmer intonation, as for instance Fufluns express.

Within this song the band takes its time to add many colourful atmospheres with a bounty of styles that includes beautiful melodies on flute reminiscent of Camel and Solaris. Elsewhere, a long, dynamic piece with fantastic synth work seems to have sailed straight out of IQ's and Ranestrane's universe. Equipped with beautiful guitar work and excellent harmony vocals by Chendi and Bianchi, the quiet middle part with beautiful bass provides a varied perspective to this, while delicate images of Eris Pluvia also pass by.

The calmly constructed Terra Straniera, which opens with beautiful classically inspired piano and next to a short Mediterranean feel and an unmistakable Italian flair features strong emotional vocals by Chendi, adds a fine touch of Jethro Tull-dressed Genesis-likeness to this. Casting shady atmospheres it is once again the colourful contrast of the harmony vocals that stands out, followed by a cheerful dive into Folk and a beautiful elongated landscape shaped by excellent intensifying guitar work which initially manages to draw delightful images of seventies inspired prog impressions of Jane. Its coda surfacing again in a different acoustical approach in the short concluding Ti Salverà adds a nice touch of cohesiveness to the album.

To this interesting musical canvas, the uptempo and funk/pop oriented Il Respiro Dell'Anima adds a progressive extension of 80s inspired neo-prog which personally reminds me slightly of Fall Of Episteme partly due to the pleasant engaging melodies and its variety of influences, sensitive piano play and delightful symphonic ending. The modestly played Antico Mare that thereupon follows overflows with beautifully atmospheric passages which includes intricate play on harp and flute to which emotive vocals and piano add heart. Captivating through its cautious build-up that brings soothingly crafted atmospheric melodies it is especially the wonderful solo by Trabanelli that impresses and finalises the comfortably flowing composition on an inspired high.

In my view the most prominent example of Limite Acque Sicure's meticulously arranged, challenging and wonderfully inventive songsmithery is the subsequent Fiamme Intorno. Rising above the rest through its opening textures that show an uncanny resemblance to Landmarq, especially from synths, I find the seamless flow of dynamic heavy prog movements and theatrical bombast highly attractive. This is surpassed when a wonderful melancholic guitar solo finalises in menacing gulps of Pink Floyd machinery that brightly glows with the astral echoes of Eloy. Complemented by pristine vocal arrangements, and ultimately returning to its striking Landmarq resemblance, this is without doubt the album's highlight for me.

Admittedly only by the narrowest of photo-finishes, in light of the subsequent monumental live version of Il Giardino Del Mago, a Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso (Banco) composition that dates back to 1972 when it was first released on their eponymous album. The musicality and high energy unleashed within this phenomenally-executed song, borders on the unbelievable. Seeing is believing, so please check out the band's YouTube channel to experience how they do full justice to this, and other historic cover-songs, that long ago helped shape the Italian prog scene.

Fans of Italian progressive rock and those in favour of adventurously entertaining prog that brings surprising twists, should check this highly recommendable album out.

Magenta — The White Witch - A Symphonic Trilogy

Magenta - The White Witch - A Symphonic Trilogy
Part I - Sacrifice (22:25), Part II - Retribution (15:27), Part III - Survival (11:59)
Theo Verstrael

At the end of an incredibly fruitful year, with a convincing new re-release by his first band Cyan and the superb, two-part song cycle The Ringmaster, Robert Reed managed to release another new album, this time by his band Magenta.

"New" is not entirely the right description as The White Witch - A Symphonic Trilogy is a complete re-working and a large extension of the second epic song that featured on the first Magenta-album Revolutions. Back then, that song already took more than 20 minutes and was the strongest of the four epics on the album. It became one of the favourites of both the band and the fans, as can be witnessed on the 2021 DVD Angels And Damned where it got a theatrical performance with singer Christina Booth taken from the stage to be executed as a witch.

That splendid song was taken up by composer Rob Reed to give it a full orchestral re-working. It easily clocks in at more than double the original length, and that is only the slightest of the differences with the 2001 version. Many new musical parts have been added to the original song, stretching it to almost 45 minutes, divided into three parts that flow nicely into one another.

The most prominent difference is however the complete absence in the music of bass guitar, drums, percussion, keyboards and electric guitar: all have been replaced by a full orchestra. At least, that's what is suggested and what I hear, but again the after-production of a Magenta album appears to be quite sloppy. The card box sleeve, featuring beautiful cover artwork by Björn Goosses, doesn't mention any reference to an orchestra nor to a director, to players, instruments or whatsoever. Only flautist Katie Axelsen and oboe player Sam Baxster are mentioned, as well as long-time Magenta members Christina Booth (vocals) and Chris Fry (classical guitar) alongside Les Penning (storyteller) and Steve Reed (lyrics). Rob Reed himself is mentioned as composer and arranger of the orchestra but not as keyboard player nor as director of an orchestra. It all suggests that a real orchestra is playing but who's playing? Who's directing them? Why not mention those musicians? I assume therefore that all orchestral music comes from samples compiled by Reed. If that is the case, then the achievement is probably even greater, for it sounds like a very real live orchestra!

Such flaws may have been made in the production of the physical album package, that is certainly not the case with the music. The lush, often romantic, sometimes melancholic, once in a while really bombastic orchestral music is breathtaking. The interplay with Fry's classical guitar is phenomenal. The variation in musical themes are numerous without sounding disjointed, and the musical production is immaculate.

Reed's arrangements are very open, with many subtle and beautiful oboe, harp and violin parts alternating with the full orchestral parts bursting out the speakers. The music is fluent, melodic, romantic and threatening when need be. It is quite obvious that composers like John Barry, John Williams and Ennio Morricone have been important inspirations for Reed when completing this work.

The lyrics are also extended, with Christina Booth delivering all vocals. Singing with a full orchestra has always been a dream for her, and now that she gets the chance, she excels throughout the entire album.

The three parts are divided by an introduction narrated by Penning. As with the Ringmaster albums his spoken words work remarkably well. All lyrics are reproduced in the fine booklet with fabulous artwork.

Normally Magenta's music can be characterised as complex, hard-edged and rocky with a very tight and solid rhythm section, supporting Christina Booth's well-suited voice and the often prominent role of the electric guitar. On this album Fry only plays the classical guitar against the full orchestra. He also does a terrific job.

The White Witch - A Symphonic Trilogy is simply stunning, completely different from the original epic song and exceptionally well played and performed. This album is without doubt a must for anybody who likes classical music with a bit of classical rock as we've come to know from symphonic albums by Barclay James Harvest and Renaissance in the 70s or more recently, Tuomas Holopainen and Nightwish. Those albums rank among my all-time favourites. This Magenta album will certainly be added to that very special list.

Manticore — Elements

Manticore - Elements
The Wood (8:25), Open Your Eyes (5:48), New Horizon (7:08), Rain Is Falling (5:07), Nordic Shadows (3:50), Elements (10:22)
Thomas Otten

Manticore, hailing from Uppsala in Sweden, were founded in 1985 and is a band which I came across in the beginnings of my more intensive and regular prog-rock listening and collection period in the early 90s. I bought their first CD, Time To Fly, when it came out in 1993, and thereafter, it ran on my earphones or in my car on a regular basis. However, as there was no follow-up album, and with so many similar sounding releases from other bands to come, I gradually "lost ear" of it thereafter.

Hence, I was positively surprised to discover that for whatever reasons, Manticore had returned with a new release almost 30 years after their first one (I have missed out on their 2018 album Next Step: Flight 19) and was anxious to find out how the band sounds today. I have not at all been disappointed.

The line-up on Elements consists of Jon-Terje Sundberg (vocals, keyboards), Ulf Holmberg (guitar, keyboards), Per-Ake Saavedra (drums), and Göran Holmberg (lead vocals, bass). The latter three belong to the founding members. Jon-Terje joined prior to a 2006 live-reappearance the band made. Kjell Haraldsson, the keyboard player of Manticore between 1996-1998 and now with Hasse Froeberg & Musical Companion (HFMC), acts a guest musician on the track The Wood, which he also wrote himself (all the other ones being credited to the band as a whole). Jonas Dominique is responsible for the subtle string arrangements on the track Open Your Eyes.

Now let us lend an ear to the music on this release and start with some general remarks. Time To Fly was clearly rooted in the neo-prog field. I consider Elements to be more in the retro, and symphonic prog segment. The release evokes the spirit of the 70s, starting with its LP-friendly length. An overall influence by the "classic" prog bands such as mid-period Genesis, and Camel, and some of the 90's neo-prog bands à la Marillion, and Jadis is audible. A reference to ELP's music, which might have been obvious given the band's name, identical to ELP's record label, seems less recognisable to me.

Manticore are a Scandinavian band, but for me the usually typical elements of music from this region are less evident here. Yes, there are some reminiscences to Sinkadus, Viima, Wobbler, Jordsjoe, and early Kaipa, mainly on The Wood, but overall the music on this release is not that melancholic and gloomy. It sounds as if the music was mainly composed in the major key, a fact which makes it more upbeat, light and airy. The title track reminds me of Moon Safari, and The Flower Kings. The album features a blend of instrumental (two tracks) and sung songs (four). Furthermore, there is a healthy contrast of more complex numbers, such as The Wood, and the title track Elements, and simpler sounding (without being so) songs such as the romantic Rain Is Falling.

Hammond, Mellotron, and synthesizer (I just realised, whilst I am writing this that I did not hear any piano) are very present, but I would not call them dominating. Their interplay with the guitar is excellent. The number and length of the solos is balanced, with guitar and synthesizer interacting by playing, and transforming repeatedly a common musical theme on various occasions.

The opener The Wood is my favourite on this release. Here the listener immediately dives head-first into the retro-prog world of the 7's. It is very "Scandinavian" and symphonic due to its melancholy and the catchy, accessible melodic hooks, played alternately and elaborated by the guitar and the synthesizer respectively. A roaring Hammond sound is present throughout the entire song as well as crisp and fluid bass lines (reminds me of Chris Squire). I suppose Göran is playing a Rickenbacker.

Open Your Eyes starts with a church organ intro and is characterised by a tasty combination of Mellotron and "real" string instruments. Although sounding a bit sweetish and mellow, it has catchy vocal melodies and refrains, which make the song straightforward and accessible. The guitar solo towards the end could have been found on an early Steve Hackett album, whilst the entire song reminds me of Barclay James Harvest, and The Moody Blues.

Rain is Falling is very much in the same vein with strong, accessible and easy to listen to melodies. It is Mellotron-laden, gentle, subtle and upbeat, with catchy multi-vocal harmonies. As a matter of fact, this song dates to the band's founding year. Originally being like an Asia song according to the band, it was completely rearranged here to be closer to Genesis' And Then There Were Three-period; thus revealing some of Manticore's neo-prog side.

Both tracks flank New Horizon, which, with its alteration of soft, and harder, subtle, and louder parts, some synthesizer and guitar extravaganzas and a pounding Rickenbacker, is closer to the retro-prog style of peers such as Magic Pie, and Brighteye Brison.

The short instrumental, Nordic Shadows, with spherical keyboards and a melodic Steve Hackett guitar sound fits in perfectly and allows the listener to gather him/herself prior to embarking upon the title track. Elements in fact summarises the elements of Manticore's music inherent in the previous songs. We have an abundance of keyboards, melodic guitar, multi-harmony vocals, bombast, but also subtleness and catchiness, as well as the necessary complexity, variedness, changes of rhythm and tempo. A worthy ending to a strong release.

I very much liked this album. Being geared to the prog-rock of the 70s, Manticore certainly do not reinvent the prog wheel. Nonetheless, they have been able to create their identity and individuality, and their music, whilst not difficult to pigeonhole, does not sound trite whatsoever. It is easy and fun to listen to.

This style of prog will appeal not only to a wide spectrum of already versatile prog-rock fans, but, given its accessibility, also to listeners wanting to get involved in prog-rock for the first time. No wonder that my favourite prog-rock radio station featured Elements in their blog Prog Rock For Beginners recently.

Robert Schroeder — Floating Music Edition 2023

1980 / 2023
Robert Schroeder - Floating Music Edition 2023
Floating Music (9:09), Divine My Future (5:08), Pastime (4:12), Visions (3:54), Meditation For The Next Part (1:10), Out Of Control (1:53), Shadows In The Night (6:59), Rotary Motion (3:27), Floating In Slow Motion (23:08)
Jan Buddenberg

After recent Robert Schroeder releases in the form of Pyroclast and Spaces Of A Dream, Lambert Ringlage's Spheric Music label this time presents a reissue of his second album Floating Music, originally released in 1980 on Klaus Schulze's Innovative Communication label.

Some may still remember this innovative label from the various vinyl albums they released, P'Cock's In'Cognito for instance, which were intended for 45 RPM but could also be enjoyed at 33 RPM for different effect (check out this video). Schroeder's Floating Music featured the same principle at the time, and now through its bonus track Floating In Slow Motion in spirit revisits this sadly lost phenomenon when CDs made their entrance.

The great thing about this newly remastered edition is that it shows how Schroeder's art has perfectly withstood the test of time, and when compared to today's sonic standards it still sounds remarkably fresh. Another fine aspect is that next to the abundance of classic EM hallmarks associated with Berliner Schüle, Retro EM and ambient-orientated EM, the music shows originality, with Schroeder pioneering into genres that would eventually evolve into synthpop and other electronic dance related movements. Using his own designed analog synthesizers (Polymoog, CS-80 and PPG-Modulator) he also explores some elements that helped shape the world of progressive rock. Put together this makes Floating Music a beautiful 'Progressive Electronic' experience.

Within this shape-shifting journey opener Floating Music slightly reminds me of Alan Parsons with additional funky elements and percussion-emitting visions of the aforementioned P'Cock.

Divine My Future then changes the sceneries into cosmic realms that pulsate with repetitive patterns to which bleeps, flares and melody bring warmth. Then the richly decorated Pastime perfectly reflects its title as upbeat pop flavours reveal themselves, and a rhythmic universe gets unfolded which satisfyingly finalises the first suite as originally presented on side one of the album.

In a changed running order compared to the original recordings, the second side-spanning suite opens with Visions, which brings a cosmic environment invaded briefly by psychedelic elements, before it slowly evolves into danceable rhythmic textures and shares contemporary astral likeness to Eloy from melodic synth flows. Neglecting the noticeable transition, the ensuing gamely tension of Meditation For The Next Part thereupon creates feelings of haunting anxiety rather than relaxation to me, which the vibrant Out Of Control washes away through its lively showers of elevating sequences and sprinkled synth droplets amidst its eerie atmosphere.

The oasis of thoughtful tranquillity that slowly reveals itself afterwards in the beautifully-designed, dreamy moodiness of Shadows In The Night fits in nicely with this, and is probably the reason behind the changed playing order. Designed with percussion elements and authentic sounding drums Rotary Motion then colours this expressed darkness of night into the brightness of day as superfluous synth-flows warm up the atmosphere with their energising melodies.

Overall this re-issue is an excellent initiative and well worth picking up for the dedicated EM fan who enjoys the adventurous side of Schulze, Tangerine Dream and Klangwelt. At the same time it's a wonderful gesture for Schroeder fans who now have the opportunity to add this critically acclaimed album (once again) to their collection for an affordable price, with the benefit of a lengthy bonus track. A win-win situation.

Tales of a Liquid Dawn — Fall Of The Xafyre Dynasty

Tales of a Liquid Dawn - Fall Of The Xafyre Dynasty
Tome Of History (10:24), The Rain Season (7:41), The Son Escapes (2:06), Twin Serpents (10:08), The Qunja Monks (9:00), The Betrayal And Death Of Emperor Var (4:51), The Battle For Xafyre Palace (14:36), The Nomad (11:55)
Calum Gibson

Tales of a Liquid Dawn is a one-man psych/prog/doom project by a chap named Anthony Yip from England. Having released one album in early 2022, he didn't stop there and released this in September the same year. Crafted around a story written by himself and Ben Plater (you can read it on their Bandcamp page), the album is Part One of the Xafyre Chronicles.

Kicking off with some fuzzy guitar work, it evolves into some Tool-esque riffing mixed with some more solos. Grooving and rolling, it keeps moving along as more elements of old school prog-rock weave in and out. Every now and then, we are led in by grooving bass lines over some almost tribal and psychedelic drums, while solos fly overhead, creating an atmosphere again similar to some 70s prog, but with a bit more “bite” as it steadily gets heavier.

Solid rhythm work is one of the main features on this album, coupled with solos and leads that focus more on the atmosphere and building the tension from the story. This is particularly evident in Twin Serpents (I won't spoil it here, so have a read).

The Qunja Monks is another stand-out track. Featuring a bit more intricacy and movement in the music compared to some others, we have a wide range of styles and influences coming in, from prog-metal, psychedelic, stoner rock, and some almost oriental-sounding parts; to name but a few. It also helps to showcase Anthony's instrumental talents.

I think the concept is good. I like the music and story. Anthony and Ben have done some fine work with this. But I must confess that I did find an hour and 10 mins of instrumental music maybe a bit much in this situation. Don't get me wrong, they are both very good. I feel though that the story needs to be fleshed out more into one that could roughly match the length of the album. Or perhaps split it into a couple of EPs to go with some more in-depth bits of the story.

If you're a fan of Tool, Pink Floyd, Riverside or Coma then this should work for you.

Devin Townsend — Lightwork

Devin Townsend - Lightwork
Moonpeople (4:44), Lightworker (5:29), Equinox (4:39), Call of the Void (5:53), Heartbreaker (7:00), Dimensions (5:23), Celestial Signals (5:12), Heavy Burden (4:23), Vacation (3:10), Children of God (10:06)
Chris Rafferty

I had the good fortune to see Devin Townsend play in the Olympia in Dublin in April 2022. That night, to a full house, he gave no impression of being rusty. In fact, the set he played gave little evidence of the impact of the pandemic. Career-wise he could have been a comedian rather than a musician. He continually engaged with the audience. He is a funny guy! Apart from the four post COVID quarantine gigs, the break from gigging did not dampen the performance. Coincidentally, Vola, who have also graced the review pages of DPRP, played support.

Born and bred in Vancouver, Canada, Devin Townsend's career commenced as a vocalist following an invitation in 1993 from Steve Vai to join his band. The formation of Strapping Young Lad followed in 1997 in which they released five albums,. The musical genres included death, black and extreme metal. Demonstrating his considerable work ethic, Devin has released 13 solo albums occupying a mix of genres from ambient and progressive to hard rock. The Devin Townsend Band was set up in 2002. In 2009 this evolved into the Devin Townsend Project. He has recently released Lightwork, his 21st studio album.

It is his first since the 2019 release of Empath. I think Lightwork is a tidier selection of tunes. Possessing a softer tone than Empath, one could argue that Lightwork is quite poppy. While coming in with just under an hour of music, I think it is fair to say that what we have here differs from his previous outings. Lightwork is his response to the emergence from the pandemic.

The first difference is that he has employed a producer, Garth Richardson, (Slipknot, Rage against the Machine) for Lightwork. The format is simpler, in that Lightwork shifts from the Empath concept album format, to a collection of songs. The wall of sound Devin has established before, also prevails on this album.

Devin is a complex character. He is often referred to as a genius. He is a renowned producer, has a tremendous voice and pIays numerous instruments. His commitment to touring and recording, not to mention his stage presence and engagement with the audience, is second to none.

Studying the album cover, the artwork says a lot about where Devin is with this album. It conveys a message of calmness, the “Beacon of Light” sitting in a reflective state in choppy waters exuding a strength in adversity, he appears to have emerged from the pandemic in good shape.

Kicking off the album is Moonpeople, a soft, layered introduction to Lightworker. Both tracks are dreamy. Incidentally, the term Lightwork is a spiritual term that emerged in the 80s. It describes a person who emits light in the form of good; they help others, illuminating the dark places of life. Whereas an Empath takes on other people's feelings. Empath and Lightworker are often used in the same context, in that they go out of the way to help others.

The third track is Equinox which brings a momentum to the middle of the album. The next four tracks maintain the momentum.

This is a very accomplished album. It demonstrates Devin's ability to produce albums of various genres. Intrinsic to and dominating Lightwork are the layers of synthesisers and vocal and choral arrangements. It is hard to fault this album mainly because there is too much quality on it. If I was to be critical, I would think the last three tracks are weaker links. I may be being unfair, but I also find it too poppy, although I feel because of the quality of Lightworker this can be forgiven.

As usual this album comes in a range of different versions including various vinyl options and even one with a Blu-ray. Townsend completists should look out for the two-CD version that also features a collection of B-sides under the heading Nightwork.

Album Reviews