Devin Townsend just can't quit music, and I, for one, couldn't be happier. After the release of Z2 almost 2 years ago, and the follow-up Live at Royal Albert Hall in the late Spring of 2015, it was thought that Devy was going to step away from the guitar for a bit, maybe to work on that symphony, or just relax. I mean, he's been going non-stop following that brief break he took after disbanding Strapping Young Lad almost ten years ago. But, he is a true restless spirit, a conduit for the universal voices that course through his very soul. Of course he can't stop. We're grateful that he doesn't stop.

Yet, after many albums, much touring, and creating a niche sound that has gained a near-religious fanbase, where does he go from here? (See what I did there? See it? SEE IT???) What Devin did was to turn his band loose and give them a lot more creative input. As a result, their contributions spurred him on, and the songwriting has now reached a depth that exceeds that of all his previous work. Now, I know that's a bold claim but I truly feel that if you listen to Transcendence whether you're a fan of his or not, and it doesn't move you and gut punch you and make you sing, drag you through a rainbow of emotions from joy to sorrow to anger to releif and pure fucking love, then I will say that you, sir or ma'am, do not know how to experience music like this. May I recommend some Five Finger Death Punch or Katy Perry? Because if this does nothing for you I don't know what will.

Now... the music itself is perhaps the most progressive it's ever been, with many off-time signatures, lots of time changes, lots of varying dynamics, and the feel of a concept album, but it's not really a concept album. It's more like a journey. You start here at point A, you go through the good and the bad, you come out the other side to point B with more wisdom and perspective. With or without words, that's what I got in a way that I haven't experienced with any other DTP record. Specifically, I've found that much of Transcendence is driven rhythmically, by Beav's growling and bass undertow and by the standout drumming of Ryan Van Poederooyen. His cymbal work is boundary-pushing and his instincts compliment Devin's writing in previously unmatched ways, most notably in the song Failure. I don't know if it was an intentional nod to Rush but the solo and the way the music builds is reminiscent of the solo segment off of La Villa Strangiato. On the live version of Exit... Stage Left, guitarist Alex Lifeson gives a seminar in dynamic playing and how to build to a crescendo of cascading emotion. The cauldron boils over, with unrivaled intensity bleeding through the guitar. Townsend and his band perfectly recreate that feeling of overwhelming passion. It's beautiful. It's cathartic. It's watershed. And that's just 2 minutes of one song. Want to take a wild ride? Listen to Higher. That whole song is like going in one end of a storm and coming out the other side. Beginning with Dave playing a beautiful Zeppelin-esque intro on a 12-string, the song turns into a chaotic metal blizzard that sounds like it belongs on Deconstruction before resolving into something stong and ever-present. There's also a peppering of guest vocals from Anneke Van Giersbergen, though she is not as present as she has been on past albums. When she finally comes in full throated and trading lead vocals 9 songs in on Offer Your Light, it's like being assaulted in the face with a York Peppermint Patty. It need not be re-explained how well her and Devy compliment each other as vocalists. It's just magical. Like Sonny and Cher if they were metal, and if Sonny could sing.

Despite all of these elements, DTP never loses the hooks that make their music so accessible. It's just that, like every subsequent book in the Harry Potter series, the magic that is still there is supplemented by more and more gravity and depth. I despise this term when used to describe music, but this is mature. It's mature, but it still maintains much of the disarming playfulness that ropes people in. It still has those ethereal choruses and celestial orchestration, it's still ambitious and grand in a way that belies Devin's sometimes self-effacing demeanor. It is unapologetically geeky and vulnerably sincere, and that kind of honesty is what makes me love without the slightest pretense. Passionate, progressive, and with a heart on its sleeve, Transcendence is a record that will leave you ponderous and calm, and maybe mildly exhausted...

And then it hits you with a Ween cover.

Go Devy. Go DTP. Hail Ziltoid, go fucking buy this.