Sound — 8
Initially intended as a Devin Townsend Project release, "Casualties of Cool" quickly took on its own life and moved in a direction that couldn't quite be labeled DTP. Instead the album is being released under the artist name of Casualties of Cool, as well, and will quite possibly be the only album released under that moniker. Devin Townsend is an interesting dude, and an interesting musician - and that is clearly displayed on this release. He has described it as "haunted Johnny Cash songs" in an interview, and I can't completely disagree with that statement after listening. He collaborates with fellow Canadian, Ché Aimee Dorval, on the album. Ché performs the vast majority of all the lead vocals. Loosely, the concept behind the album is that a man is lured to a planet that feeds off of his fear, but eventually he is able to conquer his fear which frees a woman who was being held prisoner there. Yeah, it is a little weird. There are 15 tracks on the album and the runtime is a little under 74 minutes.
Okay, let's talk about the sound of this album a little bit - it is like listening to country music from outer space. There is some interesting guitar work on here, but probably not any of the near-virtuosic playing people expect from Devin Townsend. There is a lot of extra instrumentation in the form of flutes, woodwinds, saxophones, keyboards, and even a choir. It really does work as an album, and specifically as a "concept" album, but you almost have to suspend your disbelief a little bit. I listened to it a few times through and after eventually really giving myself the green light to be drawn in to the music I was absolutely caught up. The drumming is done mostly by Morgan Ågren, who has a pretty straightforward and minimalistic approach, which serves the empty-feeling that the album is aiming for very well. The sound of wind blowing through a desolate wasteland is a recurring sound on the album. This has been described as "country rock" by a few different sources - Wikipedia to name one. This absolutely is NOT a country rock album - it would more correctly be labeled as "psychedelic country prog" or something like that. The idea of trying to do a track by track description of this album seems like a very daunting task, and really serves no purpose. The strength of this album isn't in the individual tracks, but in the vibe and mood created by this album as a whole. The album opens up with "Daddy" and "Mountaintop," which are roughly telling the story of a traveler being drawn to a sentient planet that where his fears will be feeding the planet (at times I think that Ché Aimee Dorval is playing the part of the planet). After several tracks the tension builds up to "The Field." The traveler has finally conquered his fear, which frees him, as well as a mysterious woman who was also trapped in "The Bridge" and "Pure." The album was really a surreal experience for me, as a listener.
Lyrics — 8
Ché Aimee Dorval is still a relatively unknown musician, but she plays acoustic guitar as well as sings on this album, and I guess a lot of people are about to know who she is. Her solo album, "Underachiever," has been available at iTunes and CDBaby.com for a while now and is definitely worth checking out. Her vocals fit into the country-mystic type of vibe this album is going for very well, and her performance is near-perfection. The sporadic vocals provided by Devin fit the songs and help carry the song forward, but his vocal contribution is relatively minor. As a sample of the lyrics, from the opening track "Daddy": "Hey what's the matter/ are your dreams all gone/ well, you know/ the well was dry/ lazy lonesome monsters/ will your dreams meet you/ will you lie/ and wait all night/ go tell your daddy that dreams fell through/ for you the dream must die/ don't move, don't breathe/ look at you, you're a slave/ two by two, they pass you by/ two by two, they pass you by."
Overall Impression — 7
I'm a fairly new convert to Devin Townsend's work, but I'm pretty much a devoted fan at this point. This album absolutely makes me feel even more strongly about it, as it really shows a different side to his music. It definitely isn't Strapping Young Lad, and really isn't in the realm of Devin Townsend Project either, but you can hear his signature throughout the entire album. My favorite tracks are probably "Ether," "Bones," and "The Bridge." Still, to be clear, I wouldn't recommend this as an album where you grab a few tracks from iTunes or check it out on YouTube. This is the type of album you gotta devote an hour and a half to and sit back and listen to it when nothing else is going on and let yourself get pulled in. I promise that makes all the difference.