For those who followed DEVIN TOWNSEND‘s career since its more humble beginnings in the mid ’90s with the heavier industrial metal madness of YOUNG BOY STRAPING – and before that as a singer for Steve Vai‘s rockers from 1993 “Sex and Religion” – it must be incredibly satisfying to see the versatile Canadian musician proudly making music on his own terms at this stage in his career. His modern musical work under THE DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT is the ultimate ideal of the term “progressive metal”, his most recent record – that of 2016 “Transcendence” – perhaps the ultimate recorded omnibus of his current musical endeavors, confirming his status as perhaps the most truly life-affirming performer in rock and metal.
It’s also gratifying that at a time when the majority of DVD releases from bands of a similar caliber consist of either competently recorded but shallow live performance material or standalone documentaries that lack the cohesive narrative of a real filmmaker, townsend really strives to give an “event” concert to the devoted fan who has already voraciously consumed his studio albums. The latest DVD release under the DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT banners — “Ocean Machine – Live at the Ancient Roman Theater Plovdiv“ – is a nearly three-hour show in an ancient outdoor stone amphitheater whose origins date back to the 1st century AD townsend‘s solo career and the album he officially split from YOUNG BOY STRAPING‘s early, unpolished rage.
The concert, recorded last September in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, consists essentially of two separate sets. The first set of the evening consisted of fan selections leading to the performance of many tracks that are not regular staples townsend‘s Standard Live Sets. But the real appeal of the first set on this DVD is what matters most DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT Lineup is connected by the Orchestra of the Plovdiv State Opera. townsend‘s expansive and multi-layered compositions have always had an aura of ambition, but the support of the full orchestra extends the aura of the original songs to truly sublime levels. From the second title “Stormbender” The orchestra’s strings sound beautiful and full to a level that impresses immediately and shows that real care and effort has gone into the execution of the orchestral side and was not meant to be just a half-hearted gimmick. The orchestra plays with enthusiastic panache as well, with many musicians smiling throughout the set and some can even be seen neglecting to stave off the odd headbang while waiting their turn.
The most transformative tracks of the orchestra set are “gaia”with woodwind performances adding a transcendent ethereal aura that culminates in the first movement’s most emotionally impressive finale, and “Evil devil”, an already swinging song that, with the orchestral accompaniment, sounds like dirty jazz on steroids. If the DVD ended with the performance “Deep Peace”coming after a spectacular fireworks display soared into the Bulgarian skies, the set would already come to an emotionally cathartic conclusion.
The second set of the evening celebrated the 20th anniversary of 1997 “sea machine”the album that launched the solo side of Devin Townsends musical career. The orchestra disappears for this part of the show. Fans who have become accustomed to the visual spectacle of recent times townsend DVD releases as of 2013 “The Retinal Circus” and 2016s “Ziltoid: Live at the Royal Albert Hall”may be surprised at first by the reticence of the species “sea machine” Stage set up but it quickly becomes apparent that the music will be the focus of this part of the set. Already at the beginning of this set, the emotion boils up, because “sea machine” bassist John Harder takes his position on the stage to join in townsend for the rest of the night. Even after all the ways townsend has throughout his career “sea machine” remains his most introspective record, and the emotion of revisiting this record from start to finish shines through townsendalso the vocal performance of : The highlight of the set was a rousing rendition of “Burial”.
As mentioned earlier, on a pure stage production level, this DVD isn’t the sensory overload townsendrecent releases of . The orchestral half of the set is still visually compelling as camera drones sweep over the entire orchestra on that side of the set. Musicians are occasionally lost and obscured as stage lighting fades to dark blue hues, but even at these points the imagery of the restored amphitheater architecture impresses. That “sea machine” Side of the set is very stripped down, only the main band on stage is shrouded in quite dark light.
For the devoted Devin Townsend Fans looking for new angles to explore the orchestral half with his music “Ocean Machine – Live at the Ancient Roman Theater Plovdiv” will provide a very satisfying deep dive. For those who want to relive the raw emotion “sea machine”the second half will do exactly the same.