We all know Devin Townsend by now, right? If not, for shame. This legendary Canadian metalhead has been on a journey from death metal through to ambient music throughout his artistic career. As every album is liable to be a surprise, that makes browsing his back catalog ever an interesting endeavor. Since today marks the 20th anniversary of THE DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND‘s “Accelerated Evolution,” what better opportunity to look back on an album that was originally released on March 31st, 2003, and see how it holds up today!
First and foremost, our Lord and Savior Devin is not, in fact, the best at mixing his own material, and this album is one of the unfortunate proofs of that, as it often comes across as having been recorded live in a stadium or something to that effect, while being a studio album nonetheless. The mix is just… not the best. That aside, this album is full of interesting delights to tickle even the most stubborn of fans who were waiting for more STRAPPING YOUNG LAD albums following the resurgence back in the early 2000s.
It goes to show that Townsend was rekindling his love of heavy with SYL, yet still had interest in music that was more melodic and progressive, as diversity seems to be the name of the game on this release. Album opener “Depth Charge,” for example, starts out on such a rough and raw note that I legitimately thought I had played the wrong album and was listening to that nonexistent live recording, while Devin shows off foreshadowing signs of his softer side in “Storm,” which wouldn’t be horribly out of place (barring a remastering) on, for example, “Transcendence.” Yet remnants of the heavy era still remain in the rawness of tracks like “Random Analysis.” Then, there’s tracks like “Suicide” and “Away,” which are more ambient and melodic, with dabbled progressive elements, whereas “Traveller” and album closer “Slow Me Down” are more upbeat and rockin’, even poppy in their melodies and vocals, and “Sunday Afternoon” is mellow and soothing, while still rather heavy due to the gritty mix.
However, if there’s one thing worth saying about Devin Townsend, it’s that the extra material that never made the album’s final cut (thus getting relegated to bonus tracks) is never as good as what makes it onto the album, and what makes it onto the album is never collectively as good as the songs he (almost always) chooses to play live. This means that songs we still hear at shows from time-to-time, like “Deadhead,” also stand out as highlight tracks on the album (even if it, too, sounds like a live rendition due to the mix). The smooth riff, stoner-y progressiveness, and grinding, driving sound at such a slow tempo really hits hard, while allowing for a bit of breathing room at the same time. This relentless force at a low speed is often prominent and creates an interesting soundscape where things feel garage rock-y, progressive, and experimental all at once.
Every opportunity to explore Devin Townsend‘s back catalog always feels like an adventure through an old dragon hoard – you’re just bound to find something fun in the treasure that you’ve either never noticed or haven’t come to appreciate beforehand. “Accelerated Evolution” makes for a pretty solid transitory album from the solo albums into the brief return of STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, meaning that – while there is a lot of melody and a bit of poppiness – the album remains fairly gritty and heavy, even if it’s nothing you’re liable to mosh to. If you haven’t perused the DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND in your Devinography yet, this album’s 20th anniversary is as good a time as ever to give this a spin and potentially find something new to add to your playlists!
Written by Bear Wiseman
- Depth Charge
- Random Analysis
- Sunday Afternoon
- Slow Me Down