Casualties Of Cool review by Casualties Of Cool

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  • Released: May 14, 2014
  • Sound: 8
  • Lyrics: 8
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 7.7 Good
  • Users' score: 8.8 (27 votes)
Casualties Of Cool: Casualties Of Cool
1

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.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    ScottStewart1
    Devin has been knocking it out of the park fairly consistently. Ghost side all his solo projects have been quite brilliant
    BadBikaDamo
    As an old hippy and prog rock fan, it's great to have a "headphone" album again. The production on Casualties is sublime and there are so many little additions you can find if you lose yourself in this record. As you'd expect from Devin, it also has a dark side. I was happily listening to the beautiful song "Flight" when it slowly dawned on me that this was a track about suicide. With this realization, the fabulous singing from, Che Aimee morphed from ethereal to haunting and I knew I could listen to this record many times and still discover new things to add to the experience. Devin described it as Johnny Cash om acid which just about sums it up.
    peachesenregali
    This album is brilliant. Strange to hear Morgan Ågren so reserved, I get the feeling the reviewer isn't aware of his previous work. If I'm right and the reviewer is reading this I recommend they check out this link, it may surprise them;
    BadBikaDamo
    Apparently, Devin said he wanted Morgan on drums for this project because A: He was massively over qualified and B: He can play quietly. Good choice.
    julianvhansen1
    This definetely have some of the best songs of his career, even though he got some help from Che Dorval, absolute deadly combo, i have never heard sexier yet prettier female vocals, and then plus that with Devin coming in here and there with his vocals, plus that with Devins sense of ambience and songwriting/playing/producing/arrenging. The first three tracks, Daddy, Mountaintops and Flight, and then Forgive me and Bones are for me the five by far standout tracks. And apart KI, this is way more cohesive and flows much better, it may not be quiet as complicated, but i feel this is his best quiet album, also better than Ghost. Much better in fact. One of the only albums where he really got the "less is more" thing, maybe his best album along side with Ocean Machine.
    AdriAn934
    For those of you who have called this a "headphones album", I completely understand what you mean by that. And I am SUPER excited to really listen to this album. My question for you is: Where did you buy the album? If I bought it on iTunes do you think it would have the same production value? I haven't been able to find it at my local record store so I'm trying to figure out hte best way to go about listening to it Please HELP, any input/suggestions is appreciated
    BadBikaDamo
    I bought it off the pledge site that was set up by Devin. The download version came in both FLAC and MP3 with an additional bonus 13 tracks. The first 15 tracks were around 420Mb, the Amazon version is MP3 so will only be about 220MB. The CD goes on sale on June 2nd, It's well worth paying for a good copy IMO due to all the layering that Devin does.
    Shotgunmerc
    I second this. I went with the 2CD pack off the pledge site, and this is one of those albums (bonus disk as well) that just sounds incredible on CD. Highly encourage getting a physical copy of the CD if you can.
    jaybrink10101
    This is the first Devy release I didn't absolutely love. It's not because it's soft, because I loved Ghost, I think it's probably the note choice and how the album flirts with Country. Country and ambient don't go down quite so well with me, I think, which is a shame. Still, solid effort, Devin never ceases to amaze me.