It’s starting to feel a bit like spring is a very Devin Townsend time of the year, considering the DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT was recently here in at least March of 2015 and 2014. No one can complain though, as this Canadian legend never fails to put on a worthwhile show. With the release of “Transcendence“ last year, it was only natural for the DTP to return once more for yet another show, this time accompanied by LEPROUS, whose 2016 live DVD promised an interesting show, and the ever-popular BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME. This tour came through The Circus on February 28th, 2017, and more than one of us at Musicalypse was there to watch the show. Check out the full gallery here.
Vincent: Having only fairly recently stepped out of the great Ihsahn‘s shadow, LEPROUS ascended the stage to greet an anxious crowd. It was clear that a good portion of the audience had intentionally showed up early in order to see all of the bands. To me this was a bit surprising, as I had understood that LEPROUS only has a very modest following. That being said, the atmosphere in the hall was absolutely electric as the first notes of “Foe” sounded. Acquired taste or no, on that night they were more than welcome.
The moody temperament of Norwegian prog metal clashed somewhat with Devin‘s happy and playful sound, but the dissonance did little to discourage The Circus. Each agonizingly sentimental note seemed to hit home as the crowd tried their very best to show their appreciation whenever they could figure out an easy enough time to clap their hands or even nod their heads, seeing as the time signatures proved largely unpredictable.
LEPROUS themselves never missed a beat or displayed any sign of weakness or confusion. They played everything with the same absolute precision as they have on on their studio albums and the aforementioned live DVD. How they managed to do that and still thrash about like any proper metal group on stage, I will never understand. Keyboardist and vocalist Einar Solberg in particular proved himself an exceptional live presence with his angelic voice. From the catchy choruses of songs like “Third Law” and “Rewind” to the chilling ballad, “Slave,” these avatars of suffering made sure that every last spectator became a LEPROUS fan.
2. Third Law
3. The Price
4. The Flood
Vincent: Known for their unique blend of progressive metal, psychedelic rock, and metalcore, BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME did little to ease us into a more optimistic groove but charged right into the carnival-esque intro of their 12 minute epic, “Fossil Genera – A Feed from Cloud Mountain.” The humongous and complex song sported a myriad of different styles that would have gone over the heads of almost any crowd, save this one. Their sound was very clear and distinct and all the various instruments came out in a good mix. Though if I had one nitpick, the keyboards were a lot quieter than I would have liked.
Having mostly familiarized myself with their earlier work, I found the set somewhat unexpected as it was exclusively built around their latest two albums. That being said, the newer material was much more mature and interesting. They had shaken off the metalcore sound of the 00’s without abandoning the extreme metal influences completely. This paired with their apparent astounding musical prowess, both in terms of precision and charisma, rekindled my interest in the band. I for one will be seeing them again next time they come to town.
Between the Buried and Me’s setlist
1. Fossil Genera – A Feed from Cloud Mountain
2. The Coma Machine
3. Lay Your Ghosts to Rest
5. Option Oblivion
6. Life in Velvet
Bear: Our clan arrived at the venue somewhere in BTBAM‘s set, which gave us the opportunity to enjoy their music for a while before DTP took the stage. The changeover was unique in that the venue was playing an interesting collection of pop hits, while we didn’t have the traditional “strange things playing on the screen” that Townsend often arranges. In fact, this year there was no screen at all – I appreciated the simplicity of the production, as there were fewer things for me to focus on (especially in a sold-out venue where I was already struggling to see the stage). The show had sold out by the 28th, so it was packed to capacity, and I’ll be a little surprised if he doesn’t upgrade to the Jäähalli Black Box by the next DTP gig.
Devin announced their arrival to the stage by telling us how awkward the night would be and, “Let’s make some bad life decisions!” as they kicked things off with “Rejoice,” which I’m glad they’ve still kept on the set. Anneke van Giersbergen‘s voice was present in the backing vocals alone (sadly), as Townsend promised a night full of awkward heavy metal for us and our kin. They then continued with OCEAN MACHINE‘s “Night” – a song that I clearly need to familiarize myself with better, because I’ve heard it live a few times now and it always sounds so cool.
Of course, they were promoting a new album, so Townsend said that the next song would be about something beautiful, from “Transcendence”: “Stormbending.” I have to say that I enjoy the way he doesn’t necessarily stop the songs to talk to the crowd, just saying whatever, whenever. They continued with the following “Transcendence” track, “Failure,” which featured some really noteworthy soloing from Dave Young on guitars as Townsend teased the crowd by having little interactions with random people.
By the time they started “Hyperdrive!” (which is fortunately back on the set after its absence in 2015) I had gotten really impressed with the flow of the songs, as they were all moving incredibly smoothly from one to the other. It was only after this (five songs!) that they finally had a little pause, as Townsend declared that he liked the way his voice sounded in The Circus, like an announcer, and that he was going to use that voice all night because it sounded cool. He then proceeded to tell a story about swimming in a pool that day with 60-year-old men whose balls floated some horrifyingly great distance behind them. He then went on to discuss their thirty records of shit, varying degrees of musical shit, and that it was time for some 80s-style shit, with “Where We Belong.” Perfect timing for a bit of a slower song, and this one in particular is always a lovely choice, with this occasion featuring a pretty cool solo-y outro.
Townsend then said that he had woken up inspired this morning, as he had gotten 8 hours of sleep, saying that he probably hadn’t gotten a full 8 hours in 8 months. There were lots of ideas in his head, he thought about the upcoming cock symphony, and then about achievements in general, and that the crowd probably gets it if they’re watching that show. “Feel the power coursing through my infinite veins!” he shouted as they then set into “Planet of the Apes” – about midway through the song, the crowd began waving their arms back and forth, to which Townsend teased, “I know, it’s that time, right?” and began waving his fingers at the crowd. The song itself isn’t one of my favorites, but it was kind of cool to see fog coming from below Townsend during his solo.
“Hi! I’m just trying to get on your wavelength,” Townsend said, wondering what persona he should take on, such as the jackass, which comes so naturally; he was looking at who was in the crowd to get a feel for us – there were people in paper crowns, some wearing bowties, and so many Ziltoids! He then went on to talk about how he had been having a great day – he did cool things (“Don’t applaud!”), and got some new underpants. Well, not new. He had flipped them inside out. He also found stray underpants on the tour bus and gave them the sniff test; they definitely smelled of piss, but it wasn’t his! He then explained that when he’s uncomfortable he defaults to shit talk and by the end of the show he wouldn’t be talking about poopoo and peepee and that, “We will rock like in your dreams!” This led into “Ziltoid Goes Home.”
As “Suicide” followed, the intro got the crowd absolutely screaming, with their hands up in the air and clapping. After this, Townsend profusely thanked the crowd for 25 years of this, seriously, seriously, seriously. “There has been alien puppets, mellow stuff, suicidal, brutal… your mid-40s is a brutal place in life to be.” He almost made a poop joke, but caught himself and called it progress, and then announced a song about being happy, because he knows that we are, and then shouted, “I love your balls!” before they started “Supercrush!” I love that he sings van Giersbergen‘s parts in that song, incidentally, as opposed to relying on a backing track.
Then afterward it was time for a song about Poozers. Townsend told us that, in fact, Ziltoid was born and raised in Helsinki, “though you’d never know it to look at him… ball balls balls shit piss!” Because why not, right? “March of the Poozers,” incidentally, had disappointed me a bit last time with a lack of energy (Townsend was getting a bit sick, if I recall correctly), and this year it was completely remedied, with all the heavy energy and glorious moshy goodness I had hoped for in 2015. He then announced that it was time for the last track (though not really): a Canadian love song from the depths of his mother’s uterus straight to our ear pussies, which was of course “Kingdom” – a sort of DTP requirement song that I could actually do without one of these days (though I’m betting most people at that show would disagree, based on their reaction to it).
The band left the stage for the encore, but Townsend remained because it was time for a popular acoustic number: “Ih-Ah!” If you haven’t seen DTP before, this may have been disappointing, because Townsend was goofing around with it the whole time, testing how high he could take the notes and so on; however, if you expect him to take anything too seriously, you might be at the wrong concert. I caught a nice version as done by van Giersbergen not too long ago, and her acoustic shows are the place to look if you want to hear a beautiful version of that song! Townsend then teased us with a little excerpt of “Life,” but truly, truly unfortunately, didn’t play it all the way through. It’s possible that he was baiting the crowd for it, and they just didn’t sing along loud enough for him to want to continue. He then teased a little bit of “By Your Command.” “It’s been hard to connect tonight,” Townsend said, admitting that sometimes he’s got it and sometimes he doesn’t, and thanked the crowd for their patience with him before the band returned to end the show with “Higher,” which I have to say was the only song off “Transendence” that I didn’t enjoy (to be clear, I like about 75% of that song, but the 25% that I don’t like ruins it). I suppose if you like that track, it was a great closer, but I for one hope it doesn’t stay on the set.
So, my third official DTP club show proved to be an overall success! I like that their setlists are a bit unpredictable. However, I think songs like “Secret Sciences” might have worked better live than “Failure,” and of course, personally wouldn’t have chosen “Higher” at all. As for the rest of the set though, apart from “Planet of the Apes,” it was a fairly nice blend of older material. Perhaps there could be a little bit less from “Addicted!” and a few more from some of the other albums – I wish “Universal Flame” from “Z2“ had become a regular (listen to your son, Devin!), and perhaps either “Seventh Wave” or “Regulator” from “Ocean Machine: Biomech.” And bring back “Life”! Okay, but really, I loved the show. They brought better energy and life to the shows than they did at least in 2015, and I enjoyed this set more than the 2015 set too. The performance was great across the board – Bryan “Beav” Waddell and Ryan van der Poederooyen keep a phenomenal and heavy beat throughout almost effortlessly, and Mike St-Jean‘s keys add a little something extra into the mix. If only Anneke van Geirsbergen didn’t have her own things going on with VUUR – then the line-up would be perfect. But, yet again, I do believe that if you didn’t stick around for this show, you missed out on a worthwhile use of a Tuesday night!
Devin Townsend Project’s setlist
2. Night (Ocean Machine)
6. Where We Belong
7. Planet of the Apes
8. Ziltoid Goes Home
11. March of the Poozers
13. Ih-Ah! (encore)
14. Life (clip) (encore)
15. By Your Command (clip) (encore)
16. Higher (encore)
Written by Vincent Parkkonen & Bear Wiseman
Photos by Jana Blomqvist