REVIEW: CASUALTIES OF COOL – “Casualties of Cool”
Devin Townsend has been putting out music with formidable consistency and shown great promise in scope and bravery in his ideas. His latest offering, ‘Casualties of Cool’ is a collaborative effort with Canadian singer Ché Aimee Dorval. What we get is a fitting amalgamation of country, psychedelic blues and a space rock ambience. This is a strict departure from his metal releases and shows a broad spectrum of his compositional abilities, but if you thought that was it, you are mistaken. This is also a concept album.
To keep things under wraps, all you need to know is that the album is about a traveler who is floating in time and space. Upon hearing a woman’s beautiful voice, he is lured to her planet. Now what this planet is all about and who this woman is; you need to listen to find out. The rabbit hole goes deeper than you’d expect here, and that is the creative genius of Devin Townsend.
As odd as that sounds, ‘Casualties of Cool’ is a concept album that is spoken through the sounds of country rock, but with layers of twists and turns in otherworldly effects to paint a rich atmosphere. The story starts off with “Daddy”, and you are immediately immersed in the world; Ché’s ethereal vocals swing like a branch on a tree. This segues into “Mountaintop”, which is primarily strummed in a standard blues form but conjures feelings floating across space.
Casualties of Cool released “Forgive Me” as a trailer for the record, and it encapsulates its overall sound in the most descriptive way. “Flight” is another track that is riddled with subtle swells and melancholic lulls. Amongst all of this ambience, “The Code” comes as a straightforward blues track from the factory towns of the American south.
“Ether” has a strong melody and is also one of the most soothing songs on the record. “Forgive Me” features intelligent use of sound effects, and you can almost feel as if you’re sitting by the gaslight on a rainy evening while “Bones” comes straight out of a symphonic orchestra.
The second-to-last track, “The Bridge”, is my most favorite off the album simply because it is astonishingly beautiful, and I would have never expected the Indian influences here on the flute and veena if I hadn’t heard it. There are Middle Eastern melodies floating around in this track, juxtaposed with western classical gothic chants and enchanting Hindustani classical melodies. I’m still at awe at how brilliant this song is.
It’s a disservice to ‘Casualties of Cool’ if I cherry-pick any track. This is a complete body of work, and I expect readers to treat it as such. It’s one of those albums that you need to have in your collection; a testament to the fact that sound does not know borders constructed by humans. As far as the album’s production is concerned, one does not to be a genius to know that Townsend does no wrong in this department. He knows the amount of reverb and effects a song needs or can do without. His every release has an assured sense of consistency and clarity in how ideas are translated into sounds and structures. Nothing stands on its feet without the amazing vocal performance of Ché Aimee Dorval. She’s brought the character to life and it is this beauty in her voice that leaves the listener mesmerized. ‘Casualties of Cool’could not have been made without her involvement.
Overall, unsurprisingly, Devin Townsend has taken a wacky concept and narrated it through a genre of music that you would not ascribe to conceptual writing or expression. This in itself is worthy of genuine curiosity, but the most important aspect of ‘Casualties of Cool’is that is not overdone. It is well-balanced and ambitious, without being too full of itself.