Album Review

Devin Townsend - Casualities of Cool

Released May 14, 2014
Patrick Bailey
Once again, prolific Canadian songwriter Devin Townsend proves his musical sensibilities are as wide as his impressive vocal range (tenth widest of all time, according to this list) with his latest project, Casualties of Cool. Unfortunately, this soft-spoken piece of musical expression will leave long-time Townsend fans scratching their heads and wondering to themselves when the good parts will come in.

Stylistically, Casualties is a continuation on the boot-scoot, soft-shuffle feel of "Trainfire", from Townsend’s 2009 masterpiece, Ki. But unlike Ki, which found a nearly perfect balance of tension and release, dark and light, clean and heavy metal—the yin and yang dynamic, essentially—this album is defiantly monochromatic. It’s¬ all yang. Like eating salad for two hours straight; the repetition starts to wear you down after a while.

Townsend himself expected listeners to be underwhelmed by the project, saying it would fly over most of our heads. “This is something different,” he said in the description for the album’s PledgeMusic campaign. “This is something that I would write late at night while working on other projects as sort of a ’release’…a way to make music for myself, without pressure from
ANYONE to do things a certain way.”

But the problem with this release is just that… Essentially, this album is the stepping stone between his last album, Eplicoud (which was not so great), and his next album, Z2 (which I hope will be somewhere near his genius 2007 album, Ziltoid, the Omniscient). With the die-hard fan base he has built through decades of doing things his own way, he can now afford the chance to take those little risks along the way. You know, those little risks. Like, entire albums.

I think maybe I’m characterizing Devin as some kind of money-grubbing fiend, which he absolutely is not (Ziltoid the Omnisicent??). He’s one of the brightest, most uncompromising creative minds out there in today’s music landscape, and I’m sure he will always top my list of best singer-songwriters ever, but his apparent conviction to no longer listen to ANYONE may prove to have more to do with his personal life than the quality of the music he strives to release.

The album does have its strong points, like the gorgeous singing of Ché Aimee Dorval, its exact, pin-drop production and the way the cover art seems to sum up the album in one swift, visual blow. But basically if you aren’t part of the 93% of Devin Townsend fans who have already paid for this album through PledgeMusic, you probably shouldn’t bother taking the time it takes to listen and absorb it in its entirety.