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After the bombastic, poppy heaviness of Epicloud, the ever-eccentric Hevy Devy decided to pull another 180 and deliver something quiet, emotional, and entirely heartfelt. Casualties of Cool is in many ways the spiritual successor to the awe-inspiring Ghost, albeit with an interesting twist. Devy has experimented with a wide range of genres throughout his career, but his love of country was something previously unknown to many fans and hardly anyone expected him to incorporate it so extensively as he does here. Yet in true Devy style he amalgamates the soulfulness of Johnny Cash-type country music with spacey ambient explorations similar to those found on Ghost. To top it off he brought in Che Dorval (previously the backup vocalist on the Ki album) and she does an absolutely stellar job throughout. Her vocals are at once engaging, as if she's beckoning the listener to embark on a journey into the depths of the human soul, and distant, as if struggling to come to terms with the human condition and therefore ambiguous. While Anneke von Giersbergen, Devin's more well-known female collaborator, has helped contribute to some of his most legendary songs, I think that her more pop-oriented vocals would not have fit the introspective tone of this album as compared with Che's soulful, emotionally fragile singing. Song-wise Casualties has some truly sublime tunes like the Pink Floyd-ish "Moon" which is essentially a gradual build-up into aural bliss with a soaring saxophone complemented by Che's wordless vocalizing (a la "Great Gig in the Sky") and Devy's characteristic half-whispered crooning. Another highlight is the arresting "Flight" where Che is absolutely hypnotizing. "Mountaintop" takes things into a more upbeat, catchy area with an excellent video to accompany it. Finally, there's the sublime ballad "Bones" where Che once again shines like a star. Production-wise, this album features the same engrossing wall-of-sound
we're used to and, as always, it makes the music stand out all the more Casualties of Cool is a beautiful, engrossing journey but it's not without its speed-bumps. . Some of the interludes like "Hejda" and "Pier" feel out of place and detract from the album's cohesiveness. Then there are other songs like "The Code" and "Deathscope" which are merely good but pale in comparison with the highlights. So while Che may have given Devy some of his best songs here, the album as a whole suffers a bit from inconsistency unlike the superb Ghost which I fully enjoyed all the way through. Nevertheless, Casualties is still an excellent achievement in Devy's storied career and something he should be very proud of. 9/10