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Monday, 5 September 2016

Reviews: Devin Townsend Project, Dante Fox, Sedate Illusion

Devin Townsend Project: Transcendence (InsideOut) [Review By Paul]

If there is anyone in rock who is as prolific and diverse as Steven Wilson it has to be Devin Townsend. With 21 albums stacked up behind him, the seventh album with his band the Devin Townsend Project has arrived with little hullabaloo and after a period of relative quiet from Hevy Devy. Now I don’t claim to be the man’s biggest fan, and I really don’t get all the Ziltoid shit, but his releases with DTP from 2009’s Ki through to 2014’s Sky Blue are pretty consistently fantastic. Transcendence could be the best of the lot. A progressive, rather beautiful album with the most stunningly constructed compositions, there is little that I can criticise. The production is superb, and the band are on top form.

Opening with a re-recording of Truth from his solo work Infinity, the musicianship is quite breath taking, with the keyboard work of Mike St. Jean layering and softening the sounds. Failure and Secret Sciences are immediate stand out tracks with the ever reliable Anneke Van Giersbergen providing the feminine counter balance to Devin’s rougher edged vocals. As with many of DTP’s releases, the sound is massive, swirling and swooping to envelope the listener into another world. Eleven tracks and 64 minutes’ equals pretty decent value too. The nine-minute epic Higher is an ideal fit in the middle of the album whilst the delicate Stars segues perfectly.

With the fusion of heavy guitar work from Devin and Dave Young mixing with St. Jeans’ keys, a hook to die for and the most ethereal harmonies, Stars is one of the most complete compositions I’ve ever heard. The operatic fuelled title track is incredible, with Van Giersbergen’s delicious vocals again enhancing the mix, Ryan Van Poederooyen’s drumming brilliant and the whole band really demonstrating that the more relaxed approach that Devin took during the creation of the album was oh so beneficial.

Live, Hevy Devy and his band are absolutely ball breaking to the extent where sometimes it’s impossible to hear the subtle levels that characterise much of DTP’s work. On record, these levels are more apparent and the emotional From The Heart is a stunning example of the lighter side. It also provides a fine example of the range of styles which DTP and Devin in particular are able to produce, with the high production and uplifting dramatics quietly reducing to a beautifully chilled conclusion which raises the hairs on the neck. It’s a perfect track. A breath taking cover of US alt-rockers Ween’s Transdermal Celebration brings this pretty special release to a spectacular conclusion. As I said at the start, I’m not Devin’s biggest fan but I know good stuff when I hear it and Transcendence is very likely to sit close to the summit of my albums of the year. Absolutely magnificent. 10/10

Dante Fox: Breathless (AOR Heaven)

Dante Fox were part of that small group of AOR groups that made their mark on the early 90's just as grunge was exploding, melodic rock bands such as FM, Ten, Romeo's Daughter, Shy, Heartland added a British grit to the American radio sound wrapping the radio driven songwriting in leather and giving it a cool edge.

Unfortunately as we all know grunge was too all encompassing and many types of rock fell by the wayside, one of those being melodic rock. After the grunge sound gave way to the Millennial bands (Nu-Metal *shudders*) many of the bands that had been active in the early 90's melodic rock scene came back from their self imposed hiatus' and started to write music again. Dante Fox was one such band, having released two albums before 2000 (1996 & 1999) before taking a break, they reconvened in 2007 and since then they have released two album with Breathless being the third since 2007 and their fifth overall, along with doing a hell of a lot of touring including two HRH AOR's.

Dante Fox is the creation of frontwoman Sue Willetts whose voice is the main element to the music, her vocals are fantastic expressive, clear and powerful no wonder she was voted number 19 in the 50 top female vocalists by Classic Rock Magazine. As always guitarist and co-founding member Tim Manford is the foil for Sue's vocals, his fluid guitar lines dancing on top of Andy Perfect's drums and Alan Mill's bass to make the melodic rock sound Dante Fox have always done so well, worth noting too is the keyboard contribution of Eric Rango who bolstered the sound of the record with his ivory tinkling. This fifth album is a strong return from the Melodic rockers who are a testament to the cyclical nature of rock music, criminally overlooked during their formative years but with the huge resurgence of melodic rock/AOR acts it's time to sit up and take notice of Dante Fox. 8/10

Sedate Illusion: Glass Delusion (Self Released)

This Greek act started as a solo project for multi instrumentalist Vangelis Kakarougkas, over the course of four albums he has relinquished most of the instruments to other players meaning that on this fifth full length he is the keeper of the vocals and keys and Tasos Kibizis, Vagelis Glavinas, Andreas Alamanos are the guitar, bass and drums respectively. Unsurprisingly Sedate Illusion's sound is very keyboard heavy almost like Dream Theater if Jordan Rudress took the lead role, on the other hand the rest of the band hold their own with progressive metal riffs, expansive drumming an technical solos but with the modern prog sound of bands like the Von Hertzen Brothers.

The bands' time as an instrumental project shines through as this record is full of sweeping instrumental passages, with Kakarougkas' vocals cutting into the mix on all of the tracks bar Livid Endless Nation which is the only non vocal number. At just over an hour the record offers a great insight into the bands sound with opener Innocence Within starting things off at over 9 minutes of flowing, time changing prog metal, it's the least sedate track on the record and the one that draws the mind to Dream Theater the most. The sound throughout the record is kept as varied as possible with All Will having a pumping electronica at it's core, this song was originally on the bands' 2012 album and this reissued version is by far better than the original.

Where the band experimentation is at it's finest is on the 10 minute plus title truck which starts with traditional Greek Bouzouki's before adding layers and layers that culminate in a middle section that fuses chunky metal riffs with the authentic Greek musical sound making want to bang your head and stomp your feet as the Bouzoki's, distorted guitars, huge keys and even some grunts all fuse together to make the Glass Delusion perfect centerpiece for album of the same name. Sedate Illusion have really gained my attention with this record it's strong progressive metal with an experimental feel that really benefits the record, the problem is that they are featured in the same review as the master but still they hold their own. 8/10

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