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4.14 | 60 ratings | 6 reviews
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Album · 1997


1. Seventh Wave (6:50)
2. Life (4:31)
3. Night (4:45)
4. Hide Nowhere (5:00)
5. Sister (2:48)
6. 3 A.M. (1:56)
7. Voices In The Fan (4:39)
8. Greetings (2:53)
9. Regulator (5:06)
10. Funeral (8:06)
11. Bastard (10:17)
12. The Death Of Music (12:15)
13. Things Beyond Things (4:47)

Total Time 73:58


- Devin Townsend / vocals, guitar, keyboards
- JR Harder / bass
- Marty Chapman / drums
- Chris Valagao / backing vocals
- John Morgan / keyboards, samples

About this release

Label: HevyDevy Records
Release Date: July 21, 1997

Originally recorded as the album "Biomech" from the band Ocean Machine. Later renamed as a Devin Townsend solo album.

Thanks to negoba, Stooge, Lynx33, UMUR for the updates


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"Ocean Machine: Biomech" is the debut full-length studio album by Canadian artist Devin Townsend. The album was released through HevyDevy Records in July 1997 (Townsend´s own label). It was originally recorded under the Ocean Machine monicker, but was changed to be released as a Devin Townsend solo album instead (the original Japanese press of the album featured the Ocean Machine band name). Townsend had at this point already made his mark on the music scene, recording and touring with Steve Vai and subsequently touring with The Wildhearts, releasing the first and second Strapping Young Lad albums "Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing (1995)" and "City (1997)", and also releasing an album under the Punky Brüster monicker (which many consider his first solo album).

Anyone familar with the preceding releases by Strapping Young Lad will not be surprised by the layered soundscape on "Ocean Machine: Biomech". Layers upon layers of keyboards/synths and guitars are key elements of Townsend´s sound, and although the overall sound on this first solo album is very different from the sound of the Strapping Young Lad albums which came before, the massive wall of keyboards/synths and guitars are similar on the two projects. Stylistically "Ocean Machine: Biomech" is an ambient, atmospheric, and at times quite melodic type of progressive metal. It´s often relatively repetitive and slow building, and although some tracks appear a little simple in structure, the many layers of notes and sounds make the compositions sophisticated and quite intriguing. Townsend predominantly sings clean vocals on the album (again an element which is different from the predominantly aggressive screaming/shouting vocals he performs on the Strapping Young Lad albums), although the occasionally more raw sounding scream/vocal part can be heard.

"Ocean Machine: Biomech" is a pretty long album featuring 13 tracks and a total playing time of 73:58 minutes. Townsend had obviously composed material over a longer period of time, which didn´t fit his other projects and now was the time to release it to the world. "Ocean Machine: Biomech" is the kind of album which can be that long and not feel like it though (although a few of the longer tracks towards the end of the album are maybe slightly too long for their own good), as Townsend takes the listener on a dynamic journey with both mellow ambient moments, and the above mentioned louder and heavier wall of sound approach. The two shorter ambient songs "Sister" and "3 A.M." are for example placed strategically well on the album as track number 5 and 6, because after the massive wall of guitars/keyboards, and vocals on the first four tracks of the album, a mellow breather or two are needed. It´s not in any way a critique of the layered music, but with so many layers and so much going on in the soundscape it´s sometimes a bit difficult not to get lost, which is why the mellow ambient moments are perfect for the dynamics of the album.

The musicianship is on a high level on all posts, but it´s of course Townsend´s vocals and commanding delivery which are the dominant focus. If I have to mention one thing that´s not fully up to par with the remaining parts of the compositions/performances, it would be the drumming. It´s not bad quality drumming, but it´s sometimes very basic and a few more interesting rhythm patterns or fills could have made that part of the album a little more rewarding. Something similar can be said about the drum production, which is also what I´d mention if I have to say something slightly negative about the otherwise pretty impressive production values. A slightly more organic sounding drum production would have made the album a better sounding release.

Upon conclusion "Ocean Machine: Biomech" is in most ways a very impressive debut solo album by Devin Townsend. Although it´s quite melodic and some tracks are relatively hook laden, it´s not an easily accessible release, and it´s the kind of release which deserves a lot of listens before being evaluated. One of the obstacles is of course the long running time of the album, but another is the repetitive ambient nature of some tracks. As a listener you have to adjust to the fact that it´s not a heavy metal album loaded with catchy and powerful guitar riffs, but instead an album focused on creating massive multi-layered atmospheres. Townsend is truly a mastermind musician, and "Ocean Machine: Biomech" is just one of the products of his ultra creative mind, but it´s not the most perfect example. For that some songs drag on a bit too long and feel a little aimless, but it´s a minor issue, considering the generally high quality of the material and a 3.5 star (70%) rating is still deserved.
Ocean Machine: Biomech is the first solo release by prog metal wizard Devin Townsend (the second if you consider Punky Brüster’s 1996 album Cooked on Phonics to be the first official release in Devin Townsend’s solo career, as some do). Curiously, Ocean Machine: Biomech was not released under Townsend’s name initially, but under the artist name “Ocean Machine”, with the album titled “Biomech”. Subsequent releases of the album used instead “Devin Townsend” as the artist’s name and the name of the album became “Ocean Machine: Biomech”. The album was first released in 1997. Much of the material was actually written a couple of years prior, but problems with recording and production significantly delayed the record’s final release. On Ocean Machine, Townsend plays guitar, keyboards and sings and is accompanied by Marty Chapman on drums and JR Harder (who had also played on the Punky Brüster’s record) on bass.

Although the music on Ocean Machine is considerably lighter and more accessible than many of Townsend’s later releases, the trademark elements of his sound are all already here. The songs revolve around groovy riffs of distorted, layered guitars that are repeated obsessively throughout each composition. Keyboards and sound effects are layered on top of the guitars to create a wall of sound that envelopes the listener and transports them into a parallel sonic universe. Bass and drums do not do much more than keeping a steady tempo, but that’s all the compositions need, really. Most songs stretch past the 4 minutes mark, and some are 8, 10 and 12 minutes long. Despite their length, the structure of most songs is actually quite simple, with only a handful of riffs being played throughout each song. The simple, stretched song structures and the layered arrangements bring to mind krautrock, space rock, as well as the most experimental stuff by Pink Floyd – all music that plays on mood and atmosphere, rather than on technical show-off.

The thick, immersive musical background sets an ideal stage for Devin’s vocal melodies. His voice weaves in and out of the instrumental background and sometimes is nearly buried underneath it, but it is always arresting, also thanks to the passion and energy Devin injects into his varied delivery, using clean voice, falsetto and screamed vocals. It is Devin’s versatile and emotional voice that makes songs like “Seventh Wave”, “Night”, “Funeral”, “Bastard” and “The Death of Music” unforgettable moments of the album.

The album contains some spectacular compositions, like those I just mentioned, but I am not convinced it is the masterpiece that some think it is. To these ears, about a third of the material on this record is pretty weak. The production could also be better, as the album sounds a tad too loud, muddy and “dirty” (but maybe that was the intention). Moreover, the structure of the LP is far from optimal, with all the best material appearing at the end of the record, after a rather dull stream of mediocre songs.

The album can be roughly divided into three parts. The first consists of the first four songs, from “Seventh Wave” to “Hide Nowhere”. These tracks are of medium length and are perhaps the most straightforward material of the album, relying on standard verse/chorus structures and melodies that are accessible and even catchy (“Life”). “Seventh Wave” and “Night” are good songs, packed with strong vocal melodies and punchy riffs. I am less enthusiastic about “Life”, whose pop ambitions make it a tad too bland, and “Hide Nowhere”, which I find rather forgettable.

The record then transitions to a second section comprised of shorter, more varied material, from “Sisters” to “Regulator”. This is the part of the album that I find weakest. It is too fragmented, with songs like “Sisters”, “3 A.M.” and “Greetings” being little more than sparse interludes that, somewhat inexplicably, have been all put close to one another. “Voices in the Fan” is quite weak melodically and again passes by without leaving any strong impression. “Regulator” is much better, it has a hard edge in the guitar riff and the vocals that livens things up and manages to catch back my attention just in time, as I often find myself drifting off during the preceding four tracks.

The last part of the album, the 30 minutes of “Funeral”, “Bastard” and “The Death of Music”, are simply magnificent. In fact, if the album had only consisted of these three songs, I would have perhaps given it full marks. Those 30 minutes of music come close to a religious experience for me. The repetitiveness of the riffs, the layers of sound, the gorgeous vocal melodies, and the poignant lyrics, all combine to create an immersive and emotionally-charged atmosphere that leaves the listener almost in a trance state. “Funeral” is gentle, with a semi-acoustic feel but it swells in volume and intensity towards the end. “Bastard” is an absolute masterpiece and is divided in two parts, the first epic and desperate, the second mellower and more peaceful. “The Death of Music” is a weird, experimental song that is sustained by the same, minimal sequence of drum beats for all its 12 minutes. It starts with background noise and voices, before Devin comes in with one of the most beautiful vocal melodies of the entire album. Eerie yet incredibly emotional, this is a song that does indeed feel “like when death becomes musical”, as Devin sings on the refrain.

Ocean Machine: Biomech is a strong artistic statement from one of the most unique voices in the progressive metal universe. All the trademark elements of Townsend’s sound are already present here, which is impressive for a debut album. Moreover, the record has a youthful exuberance and recklessness that are endearing and have surely contributed to the creation of authentic masterpieces like “Bastard” and “The Death of Music”. On the other hand, this youthful inexperience is probably also responsible for the suboptimal album structure and the unfortunate inclusion of songs that are not as well developed or strong as the rest of the material. Despite the mixed bag of impressive and mediocre, Ocean Machine is a great album that I recommend to anyone interested in exploring the music of Devin Townsend.
"Ocean Machine: Biomech" was Devin Townsend's first real solo album, even though the band project was initially named Ocean Machine. Prior to that, he had done the Punky Brewster farcical album about a death metal band that turns pop punk and had found some decent degree of success with his extreme metal / industrial metal band Strapping Young Lad. SYL's second album was in response to the Devin's experience with the music industry, or as he might have put it, a big middle finger to the music business. The rage, the frustration, the unbridled and unrestrained angst, not to mention uncensored, ironically made Strapping Young Lad's album "City" a big hit in certain circles and is still considered by many to be the best of the five SYL albums.

Devin Townsend, however, had another side to his music. He was interested in melody, in ambiance, and in music with depth. While writing "City" he also produced several other songs that, although employing heavily distorted guitars and his trademark powerful, ragged edged vocals, was too soft for "City". Some of these songs had actually originated years before when he was still undiscovered by Steve Vai and recording with his Noisescapes project. This other side of Devin came out as the Ocean Machine project, later renamed simply Devin Townsend while the Ocean Machine moniker became part of the album title.

The music on this album gives us a great indication of where Devin's career would go in the future. Sounds and styles from the Devin Townsend Band and the Devin Townsend Project are already apparent here as well as his interest in ambient music. The guitars are richly distorted and layered, there are synthesizers with an atmospheric bend also layered, and Devin's distinct vocals both harsh and soft layered in as well. Music styles range from the melodic industrial metal of "Night" to the radio pop friendly chorus of "Life" (sounds like a potential hit) to the ambient style of "The Death of Music" to the heavy riffing of "Regulator" to the heavy but atmospheric and melodic sounds of "Funeral". There's a wonderful church chorus part, sparse and beautiful, at the end of "Voices in the Fan", too.

While still on the loud and heavy side, "Ocean Machine: Biomech" doesn't hit with the machine gun intensity of Strapping Young Lad's "City" but instead seems very aptly named as the music sometimes feels like the surface of an ocean, fluid and gently shifting with swells of loudness and sound building, rising, cresting, and falling. In "Funeral" we even hear seagulls as if to enhance the oceanic atmosphere of much of the album.

This is not an album of apparent technical virtuosity. There is little if anything that comes across as tight and complex as one finds on albums like "Synchresta" by DTB or "Deconstruction" by DTP. Some parts are heavier and intense, some parts sparse and melodic, but always the undulating waves of a distortion-filled sea are never far away. In a way this sounds like relaxation music for someone who still wants to be loud.

A final observation, "The Death of Music" includes some spoken dialogue in the background in parts that are from a trip Devin made to Japan. We can hear him getting directions from a woman speaking with clear but accented English and Devin responding with , "Thank you very much" and then later hear him describing a driving range on the top of a building or the pedestrian crossing melody for the blind which plays to the tune of "When a Buddy Sees a Buddy Coming through the Rye". As the track fades he comments on a sign for Fukuoka City, reading it as "Fuk U, OK, eh?" A small detail but as I live in Japan, it caught my attention. The album concludes after the slow album closer "Thing Beyond Things" with Devin providing a full on scream as if to remind us that the furious rage of "City" is not far behind it all.

Fans of non-complex ambient metal or melodic industrial metal or even just fans of Devin Townsend will find this a decent album to add to their collections. My personal preference is for some of Devin's later albums, but recently I found that I enjoy this album more than I did a year ago when I first purchased it.
Now for a slight history lesson. After the major success Devin had with Strapping Young Lad, releasing “City”, which even to this day, is still considered one of the greatest metal albums ever made. Because Strapping Young Lad was pretty much a joke band and really wasn't what Devin wanted musically to be doing.

So...he set up his own record label and decided to release this album. Now, sometimes this is under the band name 'Ocean Machine' and the album is called 'Biomech', but really...this is his first solo effort.

Now musically, this is a very different affair to anything Strapping Young Lad were doing at the time, and fans reacted rather gingerly towards this album. But this album has aged very well, and has pretty much stood the test of time. If you haven't heard any of Devins music before, especially his solo stuff, this album pretty much is the genesis of his trademark sound. Mixing metal with a whole load of different genres, including ambient, electronic music and progressive rock, it is a rather beautiful affair.

The only real negatives I have with this album would be the production of the vocals. Devin is one of the best vocalists out there in the music world today and really needs his vocals to be a striking highlight. On this album, they move rather fluidly with the music, which I do respect to a degree, but I do usually prefer his vocals to be heard a lot more. And, due to it being rather self funded, the artwork on this album can look rather like clip art at times.

The opening track “Seventh Wave” is a brilliant intro. With a great build up at the start and some rather odd melodies in the chorus, the song is a pretty big mammoth of a track.

The album's most popular or well known song would probably be “Life.” In fact, this is a song that is usually played live still to this day by Devin. Definitly one of the catchiest songs Devin has ever written. An absolute brilliant composition with some beautiful moments throughout.

“Night” is a rather rocky and punky sounding song, and is probably more of a tribute to Devin's friends in The Wildhearts, who he was a touring member of for a brief period of time. One of the more less serious moments on the album.

One of my odd favourites on the album would probably have to be “Sister.” Even though it is only really an interlude, the simplicity and the beauty of it really stands out.

The album's real headbanging moment comes in the form of “Regulator.” A heavy mammoth of a song, it definitely is one of the strongest tracks on the album. It is also a rather catchy affair too.

“Bastard” is a rather epic moment, that would have closed the album off perfectly. The first part of the song has a lot of build ups with the last bit being a massive ambient meets metal explosion.

The last track “The Death Of Music” is more of an experimental piece and I think would have been more suited on an album like “Devlab.” Although, this is a rather interesting piece. I do feel it is rather long, but it still packs quite a punch.

In conclusion, I can't find any real faults on this album. For a debut solo album, this is pretty spectacular. Some small production problems may arise, but other than that it's pretty awesome. This is the start of a long line of Devin's musical wonders. I recommend this album to any beginner, because this one really is a starting point, for Devin and for the fans.

Biomech was originally credited to Ocean Machine, a moniker for Devin Townsend's solo projects before he just applied his own name to them. Whatever name is applied to it, it's an intriguing brand of metal which unlike many prog metal releases focuses not on references to prog bands of the past but rather concentrates on presenting this light, shimmering wall of guitar which reminds me at points of the work of shoegaze bands such as My Bloody Valentine. Personally, I find the album gets a bit wearing after the first few minutes and lacks the variation or wit of later works by Townsend, but it's an interesting enough listen and by no means an embarrassing start to a solo career.
Gorgeous, Brilliant, Perfect.....I guess I like it

Devin Townsend is a once in a generation talent and the fact that he's my generation only enhances my love of his work. I'm sure the fact that he grew up with the same backdrop of musical culture contributes to the fact that his music really connects with me. Or perhaps it's just that good. When I put on the earphones and listen to Ocean Machine, I get lost in another world. The beautiful thing is the music is actually uplifting, energizing, and colorful. So much of the post metal scene is cold, depressed, or angry. Though Devy certainly taps on those emotions, his music never seems depressing. It's full of energy, invigorating.

Ocean Machine, I believe, was the first time Devy created the (relatively) softer, multi-layered, semi- ambient sound that now has become his trademark. His modally tuned guitar was already heard on Strapping Young Lad, but the full range of tone color really wasn't expressed until this project. Townsend worked on this for some time, writing some of the material as far back as his stint with Steve Vai. The result is nearly flawless, and the few tripups are minor at worst (The nasty surprise at the end, the ambient effects being just a little too loud on "Sister", etc.).

The songs flow seamlessly one to another, despite running from aggressive metal to pure ambient keys to near a cappella voice to pop. The pop is usually what loses my interest on Devy albums, but here the instrumentation is so good (like the back beat riff on "Life") that the major melodicism doesn't bother me. The flow and sequencing is phenomenal, the entire album seeming like a continuous experience. The songs are still distinct, with varied feels in the guitar, vocal tonalities, and use of keys.

This has been a review I've put off a long time, because I don't have much to say other than "It's awesome." The later Terria has better production, hit higher highs of brilliance, but doesn't flow as perfectly start to finish. This is the one to lose yourself in, eyes closed, laying back with good headphones. It's just beautiful metal-based art music, a masterpiece.

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