Review: Devin Townsend – Casualties of Cool

Posted: November 18, 2014 in Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

The story of ‘Casualties of Cool’ is much more than that of just another record by one of music’s greatest minds. No, this is more a tale about the man himself. Devin Townsend is somewhat of an icon of mine. I have a Strapping Young Lad tattoo on my right arm; after seeing them support Arch Enemy at a tiny club venue years ago, it ignited my desire to listen to more extreme. It was a defining moment for me. ‘Casualties of Cool’ was crowdfunded in less than a day I believe, and ended up making just shy of 550% of its target by the end of the pledges, allowing Devin to work on the massive ‘Z2’ double album, which hopefully I’ll review soon. It just goes to show that the community will support something they believe is worth it, and the infectious humanity of Devin Townsend and the essential nature of his work make it all the easier.

But what of the record? ‘Casualties of Cool’ is not your typical (if there is such a thing) Devin album. Originally slated to be a Devin Townsend Project album, it stands alone as its own piece, unrelated to the others. It is a bleak country record, with parts of the blues and ambient elements too. It’s a very serious record, recorded as a duo with Che Aimee Dorval, whose soulful croon inhabits most of this record. She has a wonderful soft voice, and if you liked her moments on ‘Ki’, you will here too. Her come-hither vocals on the funky ‘The Code’ are just so cool.

There is an underlying eerieness to everything. Devin referred to these tracks as ‘haunted Johnny Cash’ songs, and that’s probably the best thing you could describe them as. There’s a darkness that floats in amongst the ambient backdrops, wonderfully evident in the gloomy ‘Mountaintop’. The record is vast in scope, open but desolate. It’s a strange analogy, but I could feel myself putting this on while I ride across the prairies on Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption. It’s got that softly menacing vibe to it, with subtle drumming that drives us along.

The underlying theme of the record is the story of a man drawn to a sentient planet that feeds on fear, and how he eventually liberates himself by facing it. Yet, this doesn’t come across as cheesy as it sounds, nor as ludicrous as Ziltoid is. It’s a mournful, emotional record that uses that concept to hold up the feelings of loss and fear that permeate each lonesome twang of acoustic guitar. There is nothing METAL here, but yet there is a link. Without this, Devin could not create his most exhilarating moments of metal. He is yin and yang, one cannot be without the other.

‘Casualties of Cool’ is a soothing record, hauntingly poetic. Swelled by epic choir in places and guest appearances from Shining’s Jorgen Munkeby and Kat Epple from ‘Ghost’, ‘Casualties of Cool’ has invented a new genre; space prog/country. Definitely one of 2014’s sleeper hits, and a soothing look into the darker recesses of a music genius.

 

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