When Nirvana and Pearl Jam exploded commercially in the early '90s, there was a real "out with the old, in with the new" attitude in the rock world -- out with pop-metal, hair metal, fantasy metal and '80s-style arena rock -- and in with all things alternative. Some '80s favorites were still considered modern and cutting-edge after that Nirvana/Pearl Jam upheaval -- Metallica, for example -- although many '80s bands suddenly found themselves being described as dated or old-school. Nonetheless, some alt rock albums have longed for that hooky, shiny, big-sounding '80s pop-metal/arena rock gloss; Hole's Celebrity Skin (1999) and Veruca Salt's Eight Arms to Hold You (1997) were alt rock treasures that, in their own way, seemed to be saying, "Hey, let's not forget everything the '70s and '80s stood for." And similarly, singer/guitarist Devin Townsend's Accelerated Evolution is an alt rock disc that successfully draws on different eras. This album isn't flat-out retro; the Canadian rocker provides enough downtuned guitars to put this CD in the alt rock category. And yet Accelerated Evolution has a big sound that suggests the pop-metal, arena rock and hard rock of the '70s and '80s -- big melodies, big harmonies, big guitars, big vocals, big production. Yes, Townsend provides downtuned guitar and chugging guitar, but he also provides a lot of gloss and brightness -- the sort of gloss and brightness that '70s and '80s arena rockers brought to the studio. Another thing about Townsend that recalls those decades is his sense of pop/rock craftsmanship; Accelerated Evolution is extremely listenable. The fact that Townsend's credits includes Steve Vai and Front Line Assembly tells you how far-reaching and eclectic he is, and it also explains how he manages to make a blend of '70s/'80s arena rock/pop-metal and '90s/2000s alt rock sound so logical and coherent on this excellent CD.
AllMusic Review by Alex Henderson