Devin Townsend - Order Of Magnitude - Empath Live Volume 1 review


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Band: Devin Townsend
Album: Order Of Magnitude - Empath Live Volume 1
Release date: October 2020

01. Borderlands
02. Evermore
03. War
04. Sprite
05. Gigpig Jam
06. Coast
07. Gato
08. Heavens End
09. Ain't Never Gonna Win
10. Deadhead
11. Why?
12. Lucky Animals
13. Castaway / Genesis
14. Spirits Will Collide
15. Disco Inferno [The Trammps cover]
16. Kingdom

Gather round children, this is what we used to call a concert.

I usually treat live albums as novelties in the grand scheme of things, a second rate experience compared to both attending a concert by said band or to the original studio versions. So why review one then? Well, I was fortunate enough to attend the concert this release was culled from and owing to the remarkably sparse year for live events, I have a good recollection of the show to compare it to and want to relive the nostalgia of actually being able to attend shows normally.

For those of you who are fans of Devin Townsend (and his multiple iterations, be they the project, the band, etc.) you will enjoy this release as a largely faithful archive of his past tour and a chance to hear some tracks Devin doesn't usually play so often ("Ain't Never Gonna Win") mixed in the usual one or two staples ("Kingdom"). Those who are casual fans or are not yet fans (go on, make the leap) will find a collection of songs that highlight the charm and charisma of the man while being able to explore some of his more…eccentric work and a side of his creativity that is oft overshadowed by his other work. Order Of Magnitude does have something to cater for each type of fan and non-fan alike.

Given live albums are very flat and one-dimensional experiences compared to being live and in the flesh, Devin does a good job of breathing some sort of life into this recording to make it at least appear to have some substance to it, almost like a picture you have to stare at to get the illusion of 3D. The banter and stage patter that is intwined within evokes a level of immersion that helps draw you in and gives a level of freshness. While yes, it does age and lose its lustre on repeated listens, it is no different to the aging of a studio album once you have heard it several times and it no longer feels fresh. Whereas a novelty album such as the like Steel Panther produce feels contrite after repeated listening, Order Of Magnitude does not age in the same manner and for that we can all be grateful.

Order Of Magnitude does manage to maintain two important aspects that made the live show so brilliant and will be of huge service to Devin fans. initially found Empath hard to fully absorb; being so multi-faceted, it was hard to digest and fully appreciate the insanity of it all. It was like looking at a complete puzzle and not understanding how it all fitted together, given the precision it was melded together with. One important aspect to this release is that given the nature of live performances, there is the odd crack of light between the puzzle pieces, enough that you can begin to see how the shapes of the pieces formed into the vast puzzle you first encountered.

The second aspect is that the album is chock full of Devin's charisma and wit that makes him such a unique and beloved figure in the metal world; being able to take himself so serious before volte-facing and saying something wacky and breaking the ice will surely make you chuckle.

The setlist/track listing is certainly an eclectic mix, a heady dose of Empath with several more mellow works largely culled from Ki taking centre stage. Given the latter album is not as represented as often as some of Devin's other work, it is a boon to fans of the man's work to hear such less played material being given the time of day again. The inclusion of "Disco Inferno" is a fun idea but one that ultimately falls flat; though it is still as danceable as the original (you will get your boogie on), it does lack the charm that the rest of the set has.

Much like looking at a Hollywood star, you do find yourself thinking which parts have been touched up and had work done on them. It was a given that the level has been mixed better to create a clear sound, though unlike the latest Hollywood blockbuster, none of the ensemble cast appear to have cosmetically enhanced the flaws that make them who they are. You can hear the occasional bum note or Devin's voice losing its power in places, and that is what makes the album what it is; an immersive experience rather than one that is curated and touched up. There is the cutting and omission of some stage banter that occurred on the night; however, none of that is relevant to the album or detracts from the experience, with it likely cut to make the album more inclusive to everyone who wants to listen rather than as a souvenir for those who were there.

If you find yourself reeling from withdrawal symptoms from the live concert experience then might I suggest giving Order Of Magnitude a spin; sure, it won't replace the cravings you may be experiencing, but it may at least dull the void in the meantime.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: -
Originality: -
Production: 9


Written on 26.10.2020 by Just because I don't care doesn't mean I'm not listening.


Comments: 2   Visited by: 45 users
27.10.2020 - 16:59
I am waiting for this to land in my mailbox any day now and am far beyond thrilled to hear how Coast (and the other Ki tracks) integrates into a set that wasn't the whole album in its completion ala By A Thread. I remember when Ki released how it made me feel, was such a contrast to coming fresh off the heels of SYL's finale. That album gave me a rare feeling that not many albums have ever given.

Canadian black metal
27.10.2020 - 18:14
Good review! Will definitely be picking this one up. I was lucky enough to catch Devin right before the pandemic hit in the states. His setlist was very similar to the one represented on this album, but with less Ki. He even played Love? with Jed Simon on guitar. One of the best live moments I've ever experienced.

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