Devin Townsend – Devolution Series #1 – Acoustically Inclined, Live In Leeds

Devolution Series #1 - Acoustically Inclined, Live In Leeds Album Cover Art

Devin Townsend – Devolution Series #1 – Acoustically Inclined, Live In Leeds
Inside Out Music
Release Date: 19/03/2021
Running Time: 60:56
Review by Beth Jones
10/10

The last year’s been pretty weird, right? I’ve felt it, in particular, in the last couple of months. And even though there is now a light at the end of the tunnel, I don’t think any one of us can say we’ve come out of these strange times completely unscathed. There’s going to be a lot of healing to do, and it’ll take a long time. But thankfully, as a community, we’re all connected by one thing. Music. And we should never underestimate the healing powers that it possesses. It calms the mind and soothes the soul. It doesn’t matter what sort of music you dig, if it connects to you, then it consumes you, and brings you back to a place of centring and peacefulness. If ever there was an artist that has that power over me, it is Devin Townsend. His spectacular voice, intricate composition, and flawless understanding of technique and musicianship make him, for me, one of the greatest composers of the modern age, who is in possession of a very special mind. He’s the type of creative who finds, and taps into, a euphoric Nirvana of music, to channel and challenge the woes of life. The last person to do this was Freddie Mercury.

So, it probably comes as no shock to you that I was ecstatically happy to receive his latest release to review. “Devolution Series #1 – Acoustically Inclined, Live In Leeds” is the first part in a series of recordings that Devin will be releasing, to exhibit a culmination of work, including the quarantine project, and live shows from the past few years. Devin describes these as “a grouping of oddities and interesting material that I would like people to hear, but don’t necessarily want to present as a major release.” The double bonus for me with this release is that it’s an acoustic album, and not only do I worship Devin Townsend as a god amongst men, I’m also a sucker for an acoustic album, because it strips everything back to focus on raw talent, rather than modern methodology.

This whole album is essentially a stripped back, acoustic whistle-stop tour of the history of Dev, interspersed with amusing anecdotes, like his dad’s view on life, and how Ziltoid became a thing. The album starts with a 6 minute ‘Intro’. The majority of this is talking – the opening banter of this intimate performance. Here, we see another reason why I hold Devin in such esteem. His jovial, light-hearted, but completely unassuming character is just joyful. He’s funny and quick, but also shy, and not afraid to admit his flaws. And crazily, he still finds it difficult to comprehend why audiences love him so much. He sees himself as just a guy playing some music. In a world full of egos, it’s refreshing. Anyway, I digress, again… So, the music. Well, that’s just as spectacular as the persona of Devin. Even in the intro, where he’s essentially just tuning up.

This sheer perfection continues without effort in ‘Let it Roll’. Stunning vocals, with strength but tenderness, and a ridiculous range, that most would give their eye teeth to possess. He even takes a brief pause, to have a chuckle with the audience after a top end note, then effortlessly drops into crunchier vocal tones. And this is essentially how the entire album continues. Faultless and flawless. Particular highlights for me are ‘Funeral,’ ‘Deadhead,’ ‘Love?’ and ‘Solar Winds.’ But in all honesty, there really are no weaknesses in this recording. Stunningly performed (and damn how I would have loved to see it live), and beautifully produced, mixed, and mastered. Another complete masterpiece from the mind of a genius. And, with every release that this magnificent human drops, my respect and admiration for him only grow further. Thank you Devin.

‘Hyperdrive’ (Acoustic – Live in Leeds 2019) (Official Video)

TRACKLISTING:
01. Intro
02. Let It Roll
03. Funeral
04. Deadhead
05. Ih-Ah!
06. Love?
07. Hyperdrive
08. Terminal
09. Coast
10. Solar Winds
11. Thing Beyond Things

LINKS:

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.

Mike West – The Next Life

Mike West – The Next Life
Self-Released
Release Date: 07/08/2020
Running Time: 33:27
Review by Beth Jones
7/10

We first came across Mike West at our favourite haunt, Mcleans Pentre, and he instantly became a hit with me. His southern style acoustic jams conjure images of chilling round a campfire as the sun sets. And now we can all enjoy the sultry tones of his gravelly pipes from the comfort of our own homes, with “The Next Life” – his debut full length album! You can’t beat a bit of country folk/blues, can you? The tormented, Jack Daniels fuelled ramblings of the jaded, set to music, has long been a favourite of many a music fan, and I’m no exception! When listening to Mike, you’d be forgiven for thinking that he was a pure deep south cowboy, come across the pond to serenade us with ramblings penned on his back porch. But he’s not, he’s actually from Rock Ferry up on the Wirral!

“The Next Life” is packed full of all the bluesy goodness that I would expect from Mike, and has a few tracks that were my favourites live, too! It starts with the title track, which is a lilting, folk inspired tune. The addition of slide and violin here really enhances the sound, and the track travels through tempo changes which keep it interesting. And, of course, on top of it all sits Mike’s unmistakable vocals. They’re reminiscent of Tom Waits, and this pleases me greatly!

The album continues in a similar lamenting style, with Mike’s lyrical poetry featuring strongly throughout. This is one of his strongest points – his word smithery creates a wonderful storytelling element, which is both heartfelt and thought provoking. This is displayed perfectly in track 3, ‘What If?’.

With most tracks recorded in a minor key, the melancholy air of this album is tangible, but not in a bad way. It takes me back to my days playing in a folk band, where the best songs were always in a minor key! That said, I think my favourite track on the album is ‘For Them’, which is actually in a major key! However, it doesn’t lose any of it’s storytelling ability, and is full of reflection upon life, which is Mike’s forte.

The production of this album is also very well done. Recorded at Kingwood Studios in Liverpool, it has the effect of a live performance, which somehow adds to the impact of the music. And more importantly, while the addition of other instruments does fill out the sound, nothing overpowers Mike’s guitar and vocals, which are the stars of the show.

Because of Mike’s unique vocal style, “The Next Life” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it’s a very well created debut full-length, of which he should be extremely proud. There’s nowhere to hide when playing acoustically and creating a set of songs that are musically sound, deep and thoughtful, but also able to captivate an audience, is a difficult thing to master. With this album, Mike West has done them all for me, and I look forward to seeing where he takes things to next, as I think he has really found himself, and now has a lot more to give.

TRACKLISTING:
01. The Next Life
02. Work On
03. What If?
04. Company I Keep
05. Away I Go
06. Father to Son
07. Rock Ferry
08. For Them
09. No Grave

LINE-UP:
Mike West – Vocals, Guitar, Harmonica and Bass
Paul Miceli-Fagrell – Harmonica, Recording and Mixing
Amy Chalmers – Violin
Travis Egnor – Pedal Steel, Slide Guitar

LINKS:
www.mike333west.com/
www.mikewest333.bandcamp.com/
www.facebook.com/mikewest333/
www.instagram.com/mike333west/
www.twitter.com/Mike333West
www.open.spotify.com/artist/4Pd2PAm9bznnxQLxQdQQ5W
www.youtube.com/channel/UCgNLsH3duyQg_VH_qlK9kpQ

Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Beth Jones and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.