REVIEW: DEVIN TOWNSEND – “Lightwork”
The latest from Canada’s own Devin Townsend, “Lightwork”, is a unique aural canvas. Born out of the COVID-19 pandemic, it shares a similar heritage to its predecessor “The Puzzle”. Musically, this record provides a stark contrast to the complexity of “The Puzzle”. The main difference thematically is this album comes from the aftermath as opposed to the duration, and with this knowledge, the lyrical themes become much more relatable.
Overall, the album is an ethereal dreamscape, with almost all the tracks coherently fitting together as an album, unmistakably composed by Devin Townsend.
It begins with a shoreline soundscape; the foghorn and waves elicit an image, not unlike the artwork of the record. The track, “Moonpeople”, is lyrically based on those who observe society instead of participating in it, perhaps from as high above as the moon itself. It starts off as almost a pop indie rock number before a wash of reverb and drop of percussion lifts the listener to the intended one-sixth gravity of the song’s namesake. From there, the signature thick vocal harmonies and full instrumentation expected from Devin Townsend are introduced, and there’s no going back.
The next couple of songs starts rather robustly as there’s no longer need for an introduction. The third song, in particular, Equinox emerges with a memorable, almost playful walking riff as its main theme. It almost serves as a contrast for its lyrical heartbreak, written for those who had just begun a relationship but were torn apart by the circumstance of being forced apart. The range of emotion between softer vocals and full-on screaming is simply unmatched on the album.
“Call of the Void”, the second single from the album, is the one that fans will be ready to scream along to at the next concert. Oddly enough, this song is driven by a borderline, if not, hip hop drumbeat. Containing a memorable, relatable, emotional chorus, there is deep beauty in its overall simplicity which Devin himself admires as a divergence from so much of his music.
Next is an aberration on this album; “Heartbreaker” was never meant to be here. The original song, “Honeybunch”, was cut due to sampling issues. However, the end result is hard to argue with. To the fans who are enjoying the album thus far, it’s an interesting piece that transitions the album into a more intriguing territory, and to the fans who are adamant in their preference for earlier Devin Townsend, it’s a progressive metal masterpiece that will keep them hearing something new on every listen.
From here the album only gets stranger, which for the avid Devin Townsend listener means better. “Dimensions” is a powerful industrial-like track that chugs along on a pop-punk beat. “Celestial Signals” is symphonically and chorally grand, while remaining compelling and hard-hitting. “Heavy Burden” is heavy on the ear candy, and the morphing vocals between men, women, and children over a static base you wouldn’t be shocked to find on the first half of the album leaves you satisfied but wondering what you just heard. “Vacation” is a song that befits its title: nice, laid back, underlaid with some subtle steel drums; the only thing missing is a ukelele. Perhaps it is a little more melancholy than you’d want your trip to be, but you’ll still come back to this resort.
The album rounds out with the voice-filled “Children of God”. It’s as in your face as someone who proclaims themselves a ‘child of god’ would be, but because it’s Devin Townsend, that’s meant in a good way. It’s a powerful, deep, amalgamation of the album, bringing us back to the angelic origins of the prior tracks, ending up back on the shoreline soundscape, with the foghorn, seagulls, and [implied] lighthouse warning of the coast.
‘Lightwork’ is an evolution from a man, and for the first time a production team, that never stops evolving. Each track stands powerfully on its own, but together, they’re magnificent. If you’re still looking for another instance of Ziltoid, you will not find it here. But if you’re open to going along on the journey of Devin’s mind, you’ll find yourself enveloped in a world of triumph over circumstance, loss over what can’t be controlled, and at its core, the human experience.