On September 18 in North America, (September 24th Europe), HevyDevy Records and InsideOut Music will release Epicloud, the monumental fifteenth studio album from visionary singer/guitarist/producer Devin Townsend. From the infectious anthem "More!", to the cabaret-worthy "Lucky Animals" or the rhythmic electronica of "Save Our Now" all the way to the meditative "Divine," Epicloud draws on a wide range of influences to create an album that celebrates optimism in humanity, WHILST simultaneously remaining absolutely crushing. A wide variety of textures and moods makes Epicloud a very fitting follow-up to the emotionally varied prior Devin Townsend Project albums.
Townsend is no stranger to musical diversity, and 2011 saw him complete a four-album cycle – Ki, Addicted, Deconstruction and Ghost – of which no two releases sounded similar. Yet Epicloud takes his love of multiple genres to a new level: "I've rarely done the same things twice", Townsend says, "but as I've grown as a musician, one of the things I've learned is that it should be possible to make different genres 'play ball' with each other while illustrating a common theme." Epicloud is a time in the creative cycle of Townsend that is unique and very specific. It celebrates the music of his past while looking forward to the future. A mixture of moods and styles summarizes Epicloud and the DTP to date, but this is not meant as a 'definition' of a career, rather a celebratory moment of creative liberation that isn't held down by genre expectation.
Indeed, while portions of Epicloud demonstrate why Townsend is so well-respected in the metal world, the album's overall aural array of Epicloud actually marks a return to the musician's melodic rock roots. "It's really gratifying as a musician to be invited into a 'club', for lack of a better word, that puts technicality and complexity on a pedestal as the pinnacle of musical expression," Townsend says. "But before I became fascinated with technical music, I was interested in melodic music and simpler songs. For example, I loved Def Leppard, I loved The Eurythmics, I loved Enya, movie soundtracks and so forth. I feel in the past, my love for things that aren't typically encouraged in the heavy metal circles made me hesitant to express my interest in it. Epicloud isn't necessarily indicative of what I'm going to do in it the future; it was the moment where I allowed myself to put those hesitations aside and just go for it."
Not content to do what seemed the most obvious approach for a 'simpler' expression, Townsend gravitated towards making Epicloud more ambitious than your average rock record. Spurred by THE album's lyrical themes -- "Epic music that doesn't impose its agenda on the audience" – Townsend was struck by a typically atypical idea: "The thought of utilizing a gospel choir in harmony with very secular statements on spirituality, life and loss would be something that a wider range of people could enjoy while still reaching that lofty emotional height. I am fascinated by the power music mixed with many human voices, and to have that sound based on subject matter that doesn't preach I find very satisfying." The philosophy behind this record is celebrating life and engaging in the awe of the universe with no dogma or agenda created a very liberating atmosphere.
So often, we as listeners ARE confronted with music and artists that base their expression on focusing on life's hardships, but as Epicloud was being written, there was a deliberate intention to avoid that type of theme. To make music that has power based on mood and rhythm, but not on seeking sympathy as a way to engage the audience. Epicloud chooses to view the glass as half full. Indeed, the sentiment – "THE TIME HAS COME TO FORGET ALL THE BULLS**T AND ROCK!" -- is expressed in the larger-than-life chorus of "Liberation," a joyous rock saga that in some ways could be viewed as Epicloud's mission statement: "I wanted to provide music that people could sing along with... can participate in and put aside the bullshit definitions that hold us back as musicians and artists. I think Epicloud is about that. Regardless of what we're dealt, it's our reactions to things that define us. This album is exactly what I wanted to do, and serves as a musical reprieve between the nature of the last four records, and my ultimate goal of writing epic symphonies and musicals."
If the prior four Devin Townsend Project albums carried a common theme of 'working to overcome creative hang-ups', then it's fair to view Epicloud as 'having overcome them.'