‘All Hail The New Flesh’ was always a mythical beast of a song – a brutal, sludging, rib-crushing aural stampede – but, barely constrained by his virtual cage, Devin Townsend lets forth a near impossible blend of fry screams, panther roars, and angelic operatic warbles. This version makes City’s monstrous take sound pathetic.
More impressive still, the band is dialling in from separate locations, spliced and diced into hitherto unimaginable performances, recorded late last year. Devy didn’t even try to go for realism with these gigs: the band played on spaceships, in lava pits and mountains, with himself clad in various wigs to fill in for absent friends.
‘By Your Command’ continues in much the same vein, a pummelling waltz that mellows into proggy keyboards and OTT voice acting that would put Jeff Wayne to shame. ‘Almost Again’ produces much the same effect as the black hole scene in Interstellar: Devolution inspires awe. The concert changes tack again with the playful show tunes of ‘Juular’ and ‘March of the Poozers’, then slides into middle-of-the-road rock music with ‘Hyperdrive’ and ‘Stormbending’. The latter is aiming for pleasant, but it doesn’t really please. ‘Deadhead’ resolves that tension, simultaneously thrilling and soothing, like the swell of a wave.
‘Aftermath’ returns us to Strapping Young Lad territory. Pure catharsis, wrapped in rage-strangled yelps and juddering riffs, then released in an exultant lift. (Surely those drums can’t be possible.) Devin is the master of emotion: the music plays us.
Devy pilfered the chorus to ‘Love?’ from a song by Yes, but he jostles it about with towering guitars and percussion, before belting it out like a Broadway performer. Then ‘Spirits Will Collide’ strides in with the confidence of a toddler in a Batman shirt, and it’s one of the rare moments where the album version is better. It’s still stirring, sure, but it really needs the full wall-of-sound context to truly hit its mark. It’s not bad, by any stretch, but it’s disappointing … until “… So we rise …”, which, bolstered by the bass-vocal, bursts forth like a broken dam, an all-encompassing, enveloping, blinding, overwhelming flood that carries you to warm shores.
Topping that with ‘Kingdom’ is just clever: the one vocal coaches endlessly pore over is as perfect as ever here, with vocal layers draped and woven over and around Devy’s flawless central performance. The grand finale is a bracing, rousing round of Strapping Young Lad’s ‘Detox’, like Disney’s firework display at closing time: some magic for that ‘Kingdom’.
If quarantine has been about making the best of things, Galactic Quarantine makes it better. A few minutes here, and you’ll forget about lockdown. It does us good to get out and about for a bit; Andromeda looks nice this time of year.
Release Date: 25/06/2021
Record Label: InsideOut Music
Standout tracks: All Hail the New Flesh, Aftermath, Kingdom
Suggested Further Listening: Strapping Young Lad – City (1997), Devin Townsend – Ziltoid the Omniscient (2007), Devin Townsend – Empath (2019)