Devin Townsend's Twitter bio reads "Strive to Be Happy!," a piece of advice the Canadian metal stalwart has applied to both his personal life and music since he chopped his signature skullet, disbanded Strapping Young Lad and began his journey to sobriety. It's a change that has resulted in Townsend creating some of the most uplifting music of his career, and new album Transcendence is no exception.
Townsend takes his fusion of weighty progressive metal and string, horn and choir sections to lofty heights here, not unlike what he achieved with Epicloud and Sky Blue. An incredibly emotive first half, opened with a rerecording of "Truth" from 1998's Infinity, is both uplifting ("Stormbending") and urgent ("Failure").
Splitting the difference is nearly ten-minute monster "Higher," a grandiose piece that plays to darkness and light, sure to appease prog heads with its many rhythmic twists and turns. But while the back half hardly suffers a lack of power or creativity, "Stars" and "Offer Your Light" play out just a bit less brilliantly than their counterparts.
Perhaps most importantly at this point in Townsend's career, the record sounds inspired, a result of him increasing the role of his band members during the record's writing stage. It's a feeling that's only aided by the uplifting metal makeover given to Ween's "Transdermal Celebration" that closes the listen. (Hevy Devy)