Alex Lebl, Contributing Writer
Devin Townsend – Epicloud
This was one of my most anticipated albums of the year. After he released Deconstruction and Ghost last year to conclude his four-part “Devin Townsend Project” series, I was curious to see in what direction the progressive rock/metal artist would go next. Over his 25-year career, Townsend’s albums have spanned most genres, so it was a wild guess as to what he was going to do next. After a year in the studio, he came out with Epicloud. Upon hearing the first two tracks, “Effervescent!” and “True North,” I was blown back by the huge sound Townsend creates by combining his grandiose arrangements and vocal range with a gospel choir and the vocal talents of Anneke van Giersbergen. The album continues its epic sound and includes a wide variation in tempo and orchestration. The choir remains an element throughout the whole album, and is brilliant on the song “Grace,” where its sound makes the song swell vocally to counter the heavy guitar riff. The album also finishes strong with the track “Angel,” where van Giersbergen’s voice soars above the choir, and the layering of the guitars gives you something new every time you listen to it. The only two tracks in which the sound does not reach the epic proportions attained by the rest of the album are “More!” and “Lucky Animals” (a track which Townsend described as the most annoying song he had ever written), but they’re still worth listening to. This album is everything I hoped it would be, and truly showcases Townsend’s talents as a musician. 8.4/10.
Young Empires – Wake All My Youth
This is a band that I happened upon one day over the summer and have been listening to ever since. Its debut EP is filled with catchy songs that are great to listen to while studying, cleaning or doing pretty much anything. The opener, “Rain of Gold,” is definitely one of the highlights of the album, and is to be featured on the FIFA 13 soundtrack. It begins with a catchy flute loop, which continues throughout the song and carries the melody. Young Empires describes itself as a “world beats” band, and this is evidenced by its use of a wide array of percussion instruments in every track. Each song is well crafted and keeps a steady, groovy beat, and, coupled with choruses that stick in your head for hours, makes for quite a pleasant listen. My favorite track on the album is “Let You Sleep Tonight,” which is a bit of a departure from the rest of the songs, but showcases the band’s ability to succeed outside of its element. Despite its fun nature, the album can get a little repetitive at times, with songs such as “White Doves” going longer than seems necessary. But if you want an enjoyable, short album to listen to in the car or on a run, this is the album for you, because this album will get you moving. 7.1/10.