by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Devin Townsend Band - Synchestra

There's just such a weird and soulful replenishing aura about Dev in mellow and melodic mode. You know all the heavy life stuff that he doesn't let interfere with SYL (well, he says it does, but all we see is manly conquer) is just achin' to be, and there it is. And like his life, it always spills out surreal. Opener Let It Roll is all this and more, and so is Hypergeek, albeit of a louder nature. Seriously, two tracks in, it's like a romp through the Garden Of Eden designed by the same lollipop-slavering guy who made The Yellow Brick Road. In the temples there's a buzz, but an avalanche of colour pushes it to the background. As the album progresses, one enters a liquid world of layers that turns out sorta lulling the listener into Dev's assertion that the whole album is like one song, sorta like a Zappa double album - there are demarcations but you end up surrendering to the carousel world of it. But there are bumps, happy ones and jolts. Vampolka is a jarring throwaway but Vampira is like gothic hair metal, edgy and apocalyptic of melody but smooth drinkin' and super-strong of chorus. There are other respites and great full songs, but one can put that aside and just marvel at the production, which manages both industrial and weirdly cushy and heroin-gauzed like the great Jerry Garcia Band album, Cats Under The Stars. Late in the sequence... and it's really quite a difficult slog to get there, the album bogs and roils and heaves under the weight of Dev's gleeful layering. It all begins to feel like a deathbed buzz, not altogether irritating, somewhat the wash that says there's an afterlife, which I suppose you get to think about optimistically for a few seconds regardless of what follows. Sunset's that happy place after so much fragrant electricity, with faux-closer Notes From Africa sounding like Soundgarden or The Cult in tribal mode. The real closer is a hidden goofy Cheap Trick-styled rocker which typical of Dev throws up an enigmatic purple cloak over the puppet show before he packs it in the van.
Rating 8.5

Cathedral - The Garden Of Unearthly Delights
(Nuclear Blast)

Peaks, valleys, dimension... that's what you get with Lee Dorrian's latest Cathedral, Lee always cognizant of sounding too commercial, always willing to throw in an arcane bit of sweet and sour melody to wrinkle the face up. One of those is the curious Corpsecycle, which sounds like yobbo melodic punk holler-along fodder. Elsewhere there's a hapless acoustic dirge, a crap spook intro waste, but also a capable speed-style rocker (speed is a relative term with these smothering mothers) amusingly deemed Oro The Manslayer and a boogie butt-shaker of a highlight called North Berwick Witch Trials. On this nice revisitation of arch theme, Cathedral's chemistry shimmers like a trout off to spawn, the band's wind tunnel riffing fusing metal-vain-glorious with Dorrian's mountain man caw o'er a crashing cymbal-ravaged drum beat for fist-shaking miles. Ride cymbal never got hit so pocket-proud. Two numbers could be classed as subtly grind dissonant and arty, but back to those original three words of premise, the album ends with a 27 minuter called The Garden (didn't GN'R do this?) where the rule book is tossed. Female voices o'er acoustic tinkling give way to jagged mega-doomed riffs with extra-crispy distortion and then, as one could imagine, all manner of faux prog silliness. Frankly, it's easy to call this the grand genius song on the album, but it's close to the worst, so you end up with a Loch Ness-type slog at the end I'll likely skip, which, on a 71 minute record, still fortunately leaves much snorting well-wished doom to feast upon.
Rating 8.5

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