Devin Townsend can be a difficult guy to nail down musically. Whether it’s coffee-themed prog-metal concept albums, stadium rock or Strapping Young Lad levels of brutality, there are few styles the man hasn’t touched upon. And now he can add Country music to his repertoire.
The man’s latest album, released under the Casualties of Cool moniker with Ché Aimee Dorval, is the result of a massively successful campaign on Pledge Music. The success of the campaign is testament to the Canadian oddball’s enduring popularity as even in the bio he explicitly states, “It’s not a metal album, nor is it meant to be a statement about my interest in metal…This is something different.”
It’s rarely worth looking at Devin’s solo work in any sort of grand context; previous Devin Townsend Project albums were all radically different from each other, and the bombast of 2012’s uplifting Epicloud was as different to them as it is to this. But there are traces of Ki‘s minimalist songwriting and Ghost’s (all HevyDevy/InsideOut) almost ambient mood music to be found here.
Casualties of Cool opens with ‘Daddy’, a dark country tune, and from there we’re taken on a quiet acoustic journey. Everything is very understated; some parts are quietly uplifting, some more eerily haunting, and the whole thing is full of ambient atmosphere. Dorval (previously heard on the DTP’s Ki) and her deep, smokey voice takes centre stage for most of the album, with Devin providing backup.
With the exception of the epic ‘The Bridge’, it’s hard to pick out any standout songs. They flow into one another quietly without any big fanfare. Whether it’s the jazzy saxophone of to ‘Moon’ or the dark melancholy of ‘The Field’, the quality rarely drops but the quiet, introspective nature means CoC requires multiple listens. What may be little more than ambient whispers on the first or second listen can turn out to be actually a worthwhile bit of music.
It doesn’t have the same kind of highs of previous albums, but Casualties of Cool is an intriguing experiment from a man who excels in making left-field music. Go in expecting massive a prog-metal exercise will only lead to disappointment, but having an open mind will result in a rewarding if largely uneventful experience.