Devin Townsend has kept himself quite busy and his audiences just as happy in the past couple of years or so. Between the release of his then latest album, Empath in late 2019 and its re-issue less than a year later, and a live recording to accompany those two releases a year after that, Townsend has offered audiences quite a bit to enjoy. Now early this month, he has returned again with yet another new offering in the form of Lightwork. Released Nov. 4 through InsideOut Music, the 10-song record is everything that audiences have come to expect from Townsend, musically and lyrically. The record’s musical arrangements make for their own interest and will be examined shortly. The lyrical content that accompanies those arrangements is just as interesting and will be examined a little later. The record’s production rounds out its most important elements and will be discussed a little later, too. Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of this album. All things considered they make Lightwork a shining addition to this year’s field of top new overall albums.
Lightwork, the latest studio recording from Devin Townsend, is a welcome addition to this year’s field of new overall albums and rock albums alike. It is everything that audiences have come to expect from Townsend. That is proven in part through its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements in question feature even more of the hybrid symphonic/experimental approach and sounds for which Townsend has come to be known throughout his career. They don’t necessarily break any new ground, as audiences got a healthy sampling of that approach and sound in Empath most recently. It is also an approach that he has taken as far back as his 1997 album, Ocean Master and at points after. The key here is that even with that familiar style in mind, the arrangements here still manage to hold their own identity separate from those other works. That even includes the works that he has composed under the moniker of Devin Townsend Project. To that end, the arrangements featured throughout this record make for plenty of appeal in their own right and form a strong foundation for the album.
Building on that foundation is the lyrical content that accompanies those arrangements. As usual, Townsend has presented lyrical content that speaks quite a bit in metaphors and such poetic fashion that each song presents such depth just in that avenue. Case in point is the early entry, ‘Call of the Void.’ The song comes across, lyrically, as a very contemplative work, as Townsend sings in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “Shapeshifter to the weary-eyed/With nothing left/We take it all and run and hide/Take a walk down by the river/Revelations/Paranoia/And the thoughts that pull us under/Are they calling?/’Cause when you see the world’s insane reaction/To follow your heart/The worst reaction is to freak out/So don’t you freak out.” It is almost as if Townsend is addressing the effect that the world has on a person and reminding listeners to take on those thoughts and feelings in a calm manner so to speak. He seems to be reminding audiences that what they are thinking and feeling is normal, and in connection, they can control their own situations despite the outside world. This is especially inferred as he sings in the song’s brief second verse, “Collide into your interior/You doubted for so long/It took control.” He further adds in the chorus’ refrain, “‘Cause when you feel the urge to feign reaction/Just follow your heart/The worst reaction is to freak out/So don’t you freak out.” Again, this further seems to illustrate a message of hope and positive vibes. If in fact that seeming positive message is what Townsend is trying to deliver, then he has succeeded in so doing. The gentle musical arrangement that accompanies that seeming message makes it all the more powerful and moving in its delivery. The whole makes the song its own standout addition to the album.
‘Moonpeople,’ which opens the album, is another notable addition to the record, in regards to its lyrical content just as much as its musical arrangement. Townsend said of the song during a recent interview, that is it in fact a contemplative work. He said that the song’s lyrics that they are al allusion to someone looking forward while also looking backward.
“Post pandemic…kids are now teens…50 years old, who am I now?,” he said. “Beyond any platitudes or delusions, who am I now that the smoke is clearing and what do i want to do, and who do I want to be moving forward?”
He added the to him, ‘moonpeople’ are introverts; those people who would rather watch things happening rather than interact.
Townsend’s comments are illustrated through the song’s lead verse and chorus, which state, “Ode to the unknown/If we’re gonna face it alone/Don’t trust the fearing/of revealing/Off to the unknown/I’ve often wandered alone/It don’t bother men/Talk the talk/You’ll find there’s no place in the city/Let the moon clear slowly on your day.” He adds in the song’s second verse, “Ode to the unknown/We’re gonna take the high road/Though what is appealing/Is the act of disappearing/Stop it/Walk the walk/You’re finally free from it all/Let the mood keep clearing for today/Moon people challenge the ways of the sun/But the Earth moves for you, babe/So breathe now.” Again, here is that poetic, metaphorical language for which Townsend has come to be known. Even with the understanding of the song’s theme, the very approach taken here is sure to generate its own share of interest among audiences. To that end it is another example of the importance of the album’s lyrical content.
‘Celestial Signals,’ another later entry in the album’s run, is yet another example of the importance of its lyrical content. Yet again, Townsend sings in metaphors here, leaving plenty of room for interpretation. He sings in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “You know where to find me/In my room at night as I retire/Say you’ll find me/redefine me/Awake again/No Shangri-La/No change at all/You’re like a butterfly/Caught in the middle/You’re like a star/Oh, when all we do/Cries out with all that’s true/Never regret for a minute/Now all is new.” He continues in the song’s second verse, “Pain, are you here to remind me/No Shangri-la/No shame in failure” before adding in the chorus’ refrain, “We’ll never regret for a minute/When all is new/Just say your goal/When all we do/Cries out with all that’s true/We’ll never regret for a minute/When all is new.” The whole of this content paints a progressing story of sorts, starting out as someone who maybe feels alone and is asking for someone to reach out. Eventually in the second verse and chorus refrain, that person seems emotionally stronger after being told in the pre-chorus to “hold on” because “when all we do/Cries out with all that’s true/We’ll never regret for a minute.” It really all comes across as a message of hope. That is at least this critic’s interpretation. Whether the inferred theme is the case or something else, the fact of the matter is that the depth that Townsend uses here is certain to lead to its own share of discussion among audiences, just as with so many of the album’s other songs. Keeping all of this in mind, there is no doubt that the overall lyrical content plays its own pivotal role to the album’s presentation. It is still not the last of the album’s most important elements. The album’s production rounds out its most important elements.
The production that went into the album’s presentation is important because it clearly showed the attention that was given to each arrangement. From the smallest nuances to the fullest orchestral arrangements, it is clear that painstaking efforts were taken in the production to make sure each song’s instrumentation was expertly balanced. What’s more it ensured those expertly balanced instrumentations also brought forth the fullest emotional impact on listeners. Those painstaking efforts paid off all the way around. The result of that work is a general effect that makes the album all the more enjoyable if only for that item. Thankfully that item is, as noted, hardly the only important element here. When it is considered alongside the album’s musical and lyrical content alike, the whole makes Lightwork one of the best of this year’s new overall albums.
LIghtwork, the latest new album from veteran musician Devin Townsend, is another impressive new offering from a figure who is one of the greatest minds of the current musical era. That is proven in part through its featured musical arrangements. The arrangements do not necessarily break any new ground for Townsend, but still boast their own unique identity separate from the works in Townsend’s other most recent albums. The album’s lyrical content is certain to generate plenty of discussion among listeners because of its depth and general presentation. The production that went into the album’s presentation rounds out its most important elements and completes the presentation. Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of Lightwork. All things considered they make the album a complete success that is among the best of this year’s new albums.
Lightwork is available now through InsideOut Music. More information on the album is available along with all of Devin Townsend’s latest news at:
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