I am a huge metal fan, particularly of thrash, prog and power, and one of my absolute favourite artists of this genre is Devin Townsend and the various projects and bands associated with him (Strapping Young Land, Devin Townsend Band, Devin Townsend Project and Casualties of Cool). As such I would like to share with you five of my absolute favourite songs of his. I have set some key parameters for myself, namely that I’ll be specifically taking songs from his standard albums and not his concept albums (those being Ziltoid the Omniscient, Dark Matters, Punky Brüster and the Casualties of Cool self-titled album) primarily because these only really work within the context of their own albums, with the exception of one of the ZtO songs. I also limited it to one song an album as otherwise this list would be entirely songs from Ocean Machine.
So here are my top 5 Devin Townsend songs and their respective albums:
5) Universal Flame – Devin Townsend Project – From Sky Blue
This is a supremely triumphant song, exploding with a hopeful chorus from the entire band. It is a song of striving for your passions, searching for hope and holding onto it, telling those important to you that you love them, to not hold back. It is one of my favourites purely because it has the power to bring you out of feelings of darkness. The music itself is this big, almost operatic form of metal, utilising so many different power chords and layers of instrumentation to make a truly positive metal song that will completely derail any argument that all the genre is, is dourness and anger.
4) Fucker – Strapping Young Lad – From The New Black
This song is from Devin Townsend’s much angrier days and, whilst no longer in his live music repertoire, is still quite an effective song to listen to if you’ve been having an especially bad day caused by people simply making life difficult, whether through ignorant carelessness or constant pestering. The opening two words are simply “Fuck you” screamed at the listener, and the song intends to continue as it started, telling those who have made life difficult that they are all fuckers and need to “get off my case, get out of my face” and ultimately declaring that “I don’t fucking care”. It is a rather primal scream of what could otherwise be seen as a juvenile yelling of a naughty word just discovered. Perfect for a bad day, especially if that involves dealing with trying to find a new house or a particularly nasty break up.
3) Bad Devil – Devin Townsend – From Infinity
You ever wanted a jazz-infused metal version of a Bloodhound Gang song with even filthier lyrics? Well this is the answer to your wish. I love this song for just how unrepentantly it goes into its sex metaphors all whilst set to this supremely heavy blending of jazz framing and instrumentation with prog metal styling. The breakdown that feels like a seedy bar’s soundtrack, the build up that feels like a jazz band tuning up, the heavy riffs that carry throughout the song and deliciously diabolical vocals that introduce its concepts all help to feed into a wonderfully dirty song that you can actually dance to if the mood takes you.
2) Juular – Devin Townsend Project – From Deconstruction
So this song has a rather interesting history to it. When originally penning it, it was meant to be called Jugular, but due to a typo, it ended up as Juular. Devin Townsend started to imagine that this could be the name of some form of “religious fanatic who spends his life in penance, not due to appreciation of the infinite, but more based on the need to be right”, which the music helps bring into being, being this weighty, furious, chugging, piece that grants itself to the concept of such a holy warrior being denied his expected fate and instead going to Hell, which is rather effectively depicted in the video for it, showing a train that is angrily driven forward by this old man breathing rhythmically into a drum. It’s also rather hilarious when performed as part of an acoustic set, as all the various chants that pervade the song end up being sung by a load of metalheads. It’s some of the funniest shit in metal possible.
1) The Death of Music – Devin Townsend – From Ocean Machine
There are no two ways about this, the Death of Music is easily not only one of my favourite Devin Townsend songs, it’s one of my favourite songs in general. From the exquisitely structured composition to the haunting yet ferociously powerful vocals to the constantly building instrumentals, this is, at least for me, the definition of a perfect song. There is this yearning ache that gives it that quality that hits you in all the right places. The musicianship sounds like it’s reaching for something, slowly, longingly grasping and finally holding onto it as it reaches its climactic, screaming release.
This song also has a deep personal connection for me as it is a song that I turn to during times of anxiety attacks and the like and helps me greatly to calm down, and undoubtedly would help others to do the same by helping them to calm and then release.
Personally I would recommend listening to the Live at the Albert Hall version first, because that version has chills running through my body every single time. It is to a Devin Townsend fan what Dark Side of the Moon is to a Pink Floyd fan. Something about this version just gives it the gravitas necessary to really deliver the intended message.
I could continue but this song should really be experienced, there is just far too much to say in such a limited amount, and this is why it is my number 1 Devin Townsend song.