With the new Devin Townsend album Lightwork just about to be released, MetalTalk asked their resident Dev-Head, Robert Adams, to give it a spin and tell us all about it. Here are his thoughts…
Devin Townsend – Lightwork (Inside Out / Sony)
Release Date: 4 November 2022
Words: Robert Adams
Devin Townsend’s Lightwork album hasn’t had the easiest of journeys to reach completion. He started writing material for what would be the follow-up to Empath during lockdown. “I had written, I think, two songs for what would become Lightwork,” Devin told MetalTalk, “and I found that I wasn’t in the right mental space to do justice to what I wanted to achieve with Lightwork. I put the project to one side so I could concentrate on The Puzzle and Snuggles. Once those albums were completed, I could put all my energies into Lightwork.”
Townsend made the bold decision to work alongside a producer for the first time. Step forward, Devin’s good friend and über producer Garth Richardson. “I was completely out of my comfort zone,” Devin said about working with Richardson. “Usually, I’m the one making all the decisions, and now I’ve got Garth saying, ‘I should cut this bit or add that bit.’ I trust him implicitly, so there were never any issues regarding that.”
Townsend had already stated last year that the Lightwork album would be more streamlined than Empath’s “everything including the kitchen sink” attitude. Fast forward a few months, and Lightwork, along with companion album Nightwork is finished, mixed and given to the label as Devin sets out on tour.
Upon returning from the tour, Devin is told by the label that they couldn’t get permission to use a sample from Euro Pop band Aqua that was in a track called Honeybunch, so that had to be removed from the album. “I was gutted to hear that as I thought Honeybunch was a really strong track,” Devin says. “It featured Che (Aimee-Dorval) on vocals and had guitar from Chic’s Nile Rogers, but it had to go. That meant I had to write, record and mix another track to put on the album. That was Heartbreaker. Having to do that meant the album release had to be pushed back further, which was frustrating.”
Lightwork opens in the same manner it finishes, with the sound of the ocean and a foghorn before a processed drum sound leads us into a beautiful falsetto vocal from Devin. Moonpeople, which was the first single from the album, has a laid-back, almost reggae beat to it.
That’s the thing about Devin Townsend – you never really know what to expect from him.
Single piano notes alongside a sparse guitar suddenly burst into a loud string arrangement before settling back into a languid guitar and keyboard pattern on recent single Lightworker. The chorus is full-on operatic Devin, and this is a gorgeous song, which, combined with a beautiful video, really hits you in the feels.
Equinox has stunning keyboard programming from fellow Canadian Rhys Fulber from Front Line Assembly. Then the Empath style Devin appears with a single note guitar riff over a huge string and keyboard backing before it’s all reigned back in for the verse. Choral backing vocals join the chorus before we get the full-throated Devin vocal for the second verse. It’s incredible.
Lightwork’s second single, Call Of The Void, is up next, opening with the famous Rosanna shuffle drum beat as a clear as glass guitar joins in. This is glorious Devin pop with a huge earworm chorus that will stay with you for a long time. It’s also great to hear long-time Devin collaborator Anneke Van Giersbergen’s gorgeous vocals complementing Devin’s.
Heartbreaker is up next and is arguably the first proper Devin Townsend track on the album. By that, I mean that it has lots of musical twists and turns, including beautiful vocals from Che Aimee Dorval and could have easily been plucked from Empath.
Dimensions takes us into full-on industrial keyboard territory over a pounding beat. Nine Inch Nails comes to mind, especially when Devin vocally shreds in the second verse. Mike Keneally adds a suitably abstract guitar solo to a track that can only be described as a banger.
Celestial Signals was first released as a demo on Holding Patterns, which was the bonus disc on D.T.P’s 2016 Transcendence album. Not much has changed from the original demo version. There’s an epic wall of sound production with yet another huge chorus that will have you bellowing along to it.
Heavy Burden is another trip into Devin’s psychedelic side. Multi-layered chorus vocals, choirs, and a rolling beat set this track out as one of the most Devin-esque tracks on this album.
Vacation, on the other hand, is the biggest surprise on Lightwork. It’s a no-nonsense nice indie-pop love song that wouldn’t be out of place on a Belle And Sebastian album. It’s a beautiful song that just makes you smile.
Album closer Children Of God starts with a voiceover describing the job of a lighthouse keeper before a suitably gospel-sounding song unfolds. At just over ten minutes long, it’s the longest track on Lightwork and ends as the album starts with the sound of the ocean and a distant fog horn.
Children Of God part 2 can be found on the companion album Nightwork.
If you’re a proper Dev O’Tea (who should be the president of the Irish Devin Townsend appreciation society but isn’t. I checked), you will find elements of Ki, Ghost, Deconstruction, Transcendence and Empath running through Lightwork. That’s not to say that Devin is resting on his laurels. Far from it.
Lightwork is a very emotional album and is the perfect antidote to lockdown fever. Townsend has never been afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, and with Lightwork, that’s the lasting effect. It’s a healing album, and it’s beautiful.
Devin Townsend – Lightwork:
Call Of The Void
Children Of God