Devin Townsend’s “Lightwork” is multilayered kaleidoscopic arthouse in a shape of a musical album

Author Julia Suloinen - 7.12.2022

Devin Townsend is surely one of the most distinctive and original artists on the metal scene. Having listened to his latest album, “Lightwork”, which is, surely, the finest example of how pure freedom of creation and eclecticism beyond borders sound like, I’ve come to the conclusion that it can be at times too surprising for the unprepared listener.

Because what is Devin Townsend aka Heavy Devy famous for? Well, maybe guitars, powerful vocals, and the wall of sound, if in a nutshell? Sure, yet none of that will be found in the first album’s song – “Moonpeople”: here’s lotta soft, bright, and kind acoustic tunes with birds singing around. This hippie vibe will be delivered in large supplies in the next song, “Lightworker”, multiplied by the positive mantra-type of lyrics. However, here you’ll finally get some metal. Well, if seriously, this song already points on the major concept of the album: it’s the sensational union of intimacy and rough expressiveness, where intimacy comes with acoustic lullaby-ishness and sweet synths, while expressiveness is brought via extreme metal parts.

But even with the expressive parts the whole album gives off a very light-hearted mood, due to the versatility of the soundscape. Like “Equinox” is marked by cheerful 80s games synths, screaming catchy chorus, wave sounds, and Anneke van Giersbergen. Its multilayered composition made me think that generally “Lightwork” should be better listened to in headphones or on a very good stereo system, in order not to miss any single detail, because every detail is in its place and is an essential stroke of this musical picture.

The sound palette of the album is far beyond diverse, and so from playful mid-tempo “Call of the Void” with soft guitars and ASMR-like vocals we pass to a much heavier “Heartbreaker”, with guitars heavier proggy and with less predictable rhythmical pattern. From here we seem to go further into the darker territory with the energetic industrial “Dimensions”, which immediately reminds of Devin‘s old Strapping Young Lad. The monumental“Celestial Signals” could already be heard on the “Transcendence” album as a demo, but here the epic part of the chorus was cut out, which, in my opinion, didn’t work in the song’s favor, yet who am I to tell maestro what to do…“Heavy Burden” is one hell of a groovy musical kaleidoscope with guitars, choir, passionate drums, children’s voices, and cosmic vocals, while “Vacation” is a pretty predictable, acoustic and chill piece. The closing act of the album is “Children of God” which deserves being a part of a huge Broadway musical, you know, the song at the very end, where all heroes come on stage holding hands.

And this could be the very end of my review HOWEVER “Lightwork” has an “evil twin”, a bonus disc called “Nightwork”, and there we enjoy a bit more of a darker side, which was only hinted at in songs like “Heavy Burden” and “Dimentions”. “Nightwork” is still filled with light cosmic energy the “Lightwork” is all about, yet there must be the other side to every story, so here we go. The opening song for “Nightwork” – “Starchasm, Pt. 2” – is metal from the very beginning and with no further compromises, vortexing in a spiral. “No surprise this song isn’t on the main album” – you might think, yeah, and how about “Stampys Blaster” and “Fractions” with some blast-beats? The angelic choir and birds singing try to help it look less scandalous, but it hardly works if we still recall the recent “Vacation”, for example. Yet you won’t remain shocked for too long as some classic rock-n-roll two-quarters of “Yogi” will allow you to take a breath…just in order to dive into the fantasmagorical extravaganza of musical creativity in a shape of a song, which is “Precious Sardine”, the longest song on the album, which won’t let you get bored.

“Hope is in the World” is already more habitual hippie-metal song where industrial-metal waltzing develops into an uplifting acoustic; “Children of Dog” is the new vision of the song from the main album, a bit harsher and that sounds like a mash-up; “Sober” is super-relaxing, with some water sounds and with a soothing solo; “Boogus” would fit perfectly to Tarantino’s “From Dusk Till Dawn”; and “Carry Me Home”, the last one on the album, is another cozy acoustic with a slight twist of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” by B.J.Thomas, that concludes with a symbolic “Good Night”.

Devin Townsend‘s “Lightwork”, especially accepted with its “evil twin”, is a work of art, where the artist isn’t scared to be himself and to express himself in a way he feels right. This album is surely the reaction to the recent tough years for humanity, and it’s shown it its multifaceted complexity on one hand and eagerness to always turn to the bright side – on another. And the cover art represents the album’s mood fully: a calm and peaceful atmosphere…of a raging storm with some sea monsters trying to break in and with a shining lighthouse on top of it.