Devin Townsend, as far as I am concerned, needs no special introduction. An insane genius and relentless workaholic, he incorporates his eccentric persona into his music delivering a unique product the likes of which you won’t hear anywhere else. For the making of this live album, Devin decided that the classic formula wasn’t good enough for his fans, and decided for a completely different approach that unites his entire discography into a coherent audio-visual experience.
Essentially, The Retinal Circus is one big musical that incorporates songs from different albums, and that Devin Townsend has worked on into a single story. The songs are connected through a series of spoken intermissions, linking tracks off of the latest release, Epicloud, to tracks from Ziltoid the Omniscient, like “Planet Smasher” and “The Grays”, and even two tracks originally performed by Strapping Young Lad (coupled with a guest appearance by Jed Simon). To enhance the experience a set of extras were recruited, who acted out different roles to various songs: from animals, to soldiers and hippies. This carnival-like performance also featured pole-dancing and fire-breathing, contributing to the cabaret aspect of the release. Last but not least, the legendary guitarist Steve Vai narrates the entire show, guiding us through the story that binds the tracks together.
As it should be obvious by now, the set list was very diverse, going through 20-odd years of hard work and a myriad of styles. Apart from the legendary SYL songs “Detox” and “Love?”, the set included such progressive gems as “Color Your World” and “Planet of The Apes,” acoustic pieces “Hyperdrive” and “Ih-Ah!” or the Broadway-inspired hits “Vampiria” and “Lucky Animals.” The release also features the guest appearance Anneke Van Giersbergen, whose beautiful and melodic voice fit perfectly with pounding tracks like “War” or “True North.” Needless to say, the musicianship is impeccable. The production brought out the best out of every element, giving them a clear sound, but retaining the raw power of a live recording.
The Retinal Circus is something you have to see and hear in order to believe. Looking to give his fans only the best, Devin Townsend has come up with a concept that, although not so unique, is definitely refreshing in the metal community when it comes to live releases. Still, this is not an album meant solely for fans, since anyone who loves thought-out conceptual performances and heavy-hitting progressive metal will definitely enjoy it. Take the two hours to check out this amazing piece of art; you definitely won’t regret it.