A Townsend fan’s wet dream
Every genre has someone who can be considered virtuous and damn near god-like. Metal happens to have many of them, depending on the sub-genre and person discussing it. True to virtuous fashion, Devin Townsend transcends what can be considered any typical approach to metal. He has been self-made essentially from the start, from playing with the Canadian extreme metal band he started named Strapping Young Lad, to expanding into a few other projects and releasing music on his own Hevy Devy label, though each of them showcases his particular finesse for guitar and bass. Strapping Young Lad may have been Townsend’s first go at the metal scene, but his expansion into other projects has proved more than fruitful. Under his Devin Townsend Project moniker, he celebrated the 20th anniversary of his incredibly technical Biomech album, originally released with his band Ocean Machine. This time around, the album is simply referred to as Ocean Machine and it’s recorded live at the Plovdiv Roman Theatre. The first half of the album is a set of request songs accompanied by an orchestra. The second half is without the orchestra, playing the entirety of Ocean Machine front to back, so it’s a deep dive.
As with any live endeavor, there’s a level of showmanship and performative exaggeration that’s par for the course, and that’s definitely one way to describe Ocean Machine. From the get-go, the album marinates on audience excitement and an established acknowledgment of set songs. Crowd cheers and speaker haze roll “Truth” into “Stormbending.” The acoustics of the Plovdiv help to elevate all of the nuances during the concert. Townsend’s “shredability” shines on tracks like “Voices in the Fan” and “Funeral,” and the two longest songs (“Higher” and “The Death of Music”) kept the audience transfixed and locked on his instrumental aura.
There were instances of mathy and technical prog metal as well as bits of heavy metal and hard rock, but what ended up being truly extreme about the record was all of the technicality put into it. On top of being a blatant and showy recreation, it also includes bolstered fan-chosen additions from other parts of his extensive discography. “Gaia,” off Synchestra, has added woodwind instruments and Infinity’s “Bad Devil” has a new grandiose horn section.
While there are moments on Ocean Machine that lack the same oomph as Biomech originally did, Townsend makes up for it in other ways. This release (and its accompanying DVD) is a fan’s album, a consummate representation of what Devin Townsend is all about. A Townsend lover’s collection wouldn’t be complete without it.