What is there to say about DEVIN TOWNSEND that hasn’t been said a thousand times before?
He started out as a vocalist for legendary guitarist STEVE VAI’s band all the way back in 1993. Then he left to do his own thing and now has some of that legendary status for himself.
His newest release, a live album entitled Order Of Magnitude – Empath Live Volume 1, is a recording of a show at The Roundhouse in London. The release oozes the charisma, charm and wit that ‘Hevy Devy’ has become well known for. To make it even better he’s brought some incredible musicians with him. Diego Tejida (HAKEN), Morgen Agren (FRANK ZAPPA), Markus Reuter (STICK MEN), Mike Keneally (ex-FRANK ZAPPA), Nathan Navarro and his former CASUALTIES OF COOL cohort Che Aimee Dorval.
Featuring all the tracks from the original studio album, it also includes a few tracks to keep you on your toes. Making notable appearances are Kingdom and a cover of the 1976 club classic Disco Inferno by THE TRAMMPS.
Why?, his Disney-esque exploration of anxiety and ennui is incredible here. It feels so much larger, like you’re sitting in the orchestra pit and the notes are swirling around you. I have to say I might actually prefer this to the studio version and it’s very rare that the live recording has that effect on me. Admittedly that might be because halfway through he scolds his fans and has them jump and say beep repeatedly as punishment.
Castaway/Genesis proves that there are no tricks in Townsend’s voice, he is exactly that good. Beautiful harmonies and emotion are apparent in every micro-second of this track. His voice never gets lost among the backing instrumentation but instead everything has the space it needs to stand prominently. I think a decent amount of kudos should go to the sound engineer that was in charge at this show.
Disco Inferno is a disco classic, and it’s honestly my fault for not expecting one track like this. He’s already released a cover of the VENGA BOYS this year (which for the record is pretty good, check it out if you liked Ziltoid). Dorval takes the lead on vocals here and is excellently supported by vocalists Samantha & Anne Preis and Arabella Packford. It’s this kind of break that makes his releases such a joy to listen to. Townsend is a serious musician, an auteur in virtually every sense of the word. He pours so much of himself into his music, he gives everything he’s involved in his absolute best. But he’s not a serious person, and he can’t run away from that. …And that’s why it gets a bit apocalyptic towards the end.
He says his thanks and then dives into Kingdom. It’s the Townsend track I go back to most , there’s something about its simplicity that sticks with you and has you singing it to yourself at odd moments. I tend to go watch the video he made for EMGtv when I want to hear this, but actually, this version is better. The live backing vocals make it so much better. It’s like putting sweetener on your pancakes when you really want maple syrup. Sure, it’s technically doing the same thing but I’ve had the better version now, do I really want to go back?
Look, I’m under no illusions. If you like ‘Devy’, you’ve likely heard the studio album and are already considering buying this, or have already bought it. If you haven’t heard of him I’d recommend this as a way of testing the waters. Hearing him speak and interact with his fans is a large part of what makes people fans. And if you don’t like him, I’m not sure why you’re reading this review, but thank you for your time!
Words: Jacob McCrone
Order Of Magnitude – Empath Live Volume 1 will be released this Friday via InsideOut Music.
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