ALBUM REVIEW: Devin Townsend – Lightwork


It’s been three years since Canadian musical contortionist Devin Townsend confused the hell out of everyone with Empath, an album of such relentless eclecticism and stupefying eccentricity that even now it remains almost beyond comprehension. A kitchen sink album in every respect, our heroic Canuck threw literally everything into the mix. From death metal and jazz to Chad Kroeger and cats, Empath was the mindfuck to end all mindfucks.


With no room left on the cliff before a sheer drop onto the rocks of terminal insanity below, the dual release of The Puzzle and Snuggles (HevyDevy) took a few steps back from the edge and into calmer territory, only occasionally venturing back towards the absurd.


Now, having moved on from that more personal project, Devy returns with Lightwork (InsideOut), his latest and much anticipated musical journey into the unknown. Similar to Empath, opening track ‘Moonpeople’ begins with the sound of the ocean, only this time with a coastal atmosphere complete with foghorn and seagulls. Airy vocals and a pop music rhythm build towards something more pronounced as the song reveals a strong but understated chorus before ‘Lightworker’ adds more layers to the record, combining arpeggios, breezy keys and choral backing with power chords, bursts of joyous orchestration and a phenomenal, rousing chorus.



“Just as you’re falling apart, I fall for you” croons Devy on ‘Equinox’, a beautifully executed song that keeps the more metallic aspects bubbling just below the surface even when turning to his more impassioned, gravel-throated delivery. ‘Call Of The Void’ recalls the late eighties commercial hard rock of acts like David Lee Roth and Whitesnake while adding his own inimitable style to one of the album’s more commercial and radio friendly cuts.


From open commerciality to cultured progressive rock, ‘Heartbreaker’ is seven glorious, occasionally dark minutes of swirling keyboards, tempo changes and mood swings as Devin’s more experimental side has a night out with Rush and Rick Wakeman. ‘Dimensions’ sounds like sci-fi synthwave if Rammstein and Steve Vai were overlords of a dystopian future, Devin shouting himself ragged while also allowing his bright, clean tones to soar.


‘Celestial Signals’ is a blast of eighties Rush style commercial prog rock boasting a sensational, uplifting chorus while ‘Heavy Burden’ finds Devy at his most playful, trading vocals with a children’s choir as proggy keyboards bounce along to tweeting birds, bleeping computers and guitars that sound like cats. The breezy acoustic strumming of ‘Vacation’ allows you time to chill out before the record comes to a glorious conclusion with ‘Children Of God’, a ten minute track that fades into soothing background ambience halfway through as familiar coastal sounds lead you back to the beginning to repeat the process over and over again.


Delightfully unorthodox yet deviously accessible, Lightwork manages to be heavy without being oppressive and sentimental without being excessively twee. Extrovert and celebratory one moment, thoughtful and restrained the next, Townsend’s music remains as bi-polar as ever but aside from the occasional moment of whimsy or flash of quirky humour, it also happens to be one of the most balanced and cohesive of his career.


Pop prog metal perfection.


Buy the album here:

10 / 10