Friday, June 3, 2011

Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction

Devin Townsend Project
HevyDevy Records/Inside Out Music/Century Media Records/E.M.I. Music Australia

One of the most highly anticipated album releases for 2011 has to be Devin Townsend’s ‘Deconstruction’.
Following on from the dark and acoustic based ‘Ki’ (2009) and the beats oriented rocker ‘Addicted’ (2009), ‘Deconstruction’ is the third release in Townsend’s mammoth four album project, and the album that Townsend himself has described as the kind of album he always wanted to achieve with his former outfit Strapping Young Lad, but held himself back from making.
With a statement like that, expectations are that ‘Deconstruction’ will be heavy, chaotic and over the top in a typically Townsend like manner. And sure enough, that’s exactly what the album sounds like.
The album gets off with a deceptively mellow start, with the industrialised beats of ‘Praise The Lowered’ gently easing the listener into the album, and Townsend keeping his vocals melodic and clean for the most part. It isn’t until around the halfway mark that the gentle build up of aggressive guitars and the vocals start to take over and the song takes on a more brutal stance (Aided in part by Novembers Doom vocalist Paul Kuhr’s screamed efforts alongside Townsend), and its here that the densely layered production really hammers the listener and the speakers with a sound that’s absolutely crushing and heavy. Although interesting, ‘Praise The Lowered’ isn’t one of the album’s strongest efforts, with the song overstaying its welcome at more than six minutes.
As the final strains of the opener fade away, ‘Stand’ gently fades in, in a similar fashion. But while ‘Praise The Lowered’ took its time getting to the point, ‘Stand’ is quick to reach its more intense moments, with Opeth/Bloodbath Mikael Ã…kerfeldt helping to emphasis the aggression with his death metal vocals in the choruses. Although the extremities between the heavier moments and the atmospheric interludes aren’t that far removed from the structure shown on the opener, musically ‘Stand’ has far more going on in the background, with the choir vocals, the addition of guitar solos, the orchestral arrangements throughout and the various sound effects adding a whole different dimension to Townsend’s chaotic musical vision of heavy music.
The shorter ‘Juular’ is definitely one of the album’s truly inspired efforts with Soilwork drummer Dirk Verbeuren providing a steady blast beat throughout the song to counterbalance the almost carnival-like feel that lies underneath the surface, while former Emperor vocalist Ihsahn adds a distinctly black metal vibe to some of the songs more bombastic and extreme passages.
‘Planet Of The Apes’ boasts an interesting mix of keyboard dominated sounds, Meshuggah-like heavy riffing and insane dominant drumming from Ryan Van Poederooyen, and yet remains strangely catchy and captivating throughout its eleven minutes with its variety of overlaid vocal melodies from Townsend and guest vocalist Tommy Giles Rogers (Between The Buried And Me front man) and its continual shift in rhythmic structures and tempos, while the densely orchestrated ‘Sumeria’ is an intense piece of work that brings to mind a mix of Gojira and ‘The New Black’ (2006) era Strapping Young Lad with its strong militaristic sounding riff structures and subtle thrash underpinning groove. Not surprisingly, both Joe Duplantier (Ex-Cavalera Conspiracy/Gojira) and Paul Masvidal (Ex-Death/Cynic) feature predominately on the vocal front with their guest contributions.
‘The Mighty Masturbator’ is hands down the most over the top and bizarre track on the album, with the sixteen and a half minute epic featuring everything Townsend himself could think of in the musical sense, and then some. While it’s near impossible to list the many different musical facets presented through the song (Along with Townsend’s wacky character voices), highlights do include The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato’s guest vocals around the beats heavy middle section, the metallic latter half and the unexpected reprisal of the waltz themed theatrics of ‘Wild Colonial Boy’ (From 1998’s ‘Infinity’) towards the tail end.
‘Pandemic’ is easily one of the most intense and heaviest sounding tracks on the album with its relentless pace, blast beats and ferocious vocals from Townsend. But it’s the addition of Floor Jansen (Ex-After Forever/ReVamp) and her operatic vocals and Townsend’s chopped up guitar solo that really shine as the songs biggest highlights, while the title track ‘Deconstruction’ is an exercise in extremities from Townsend, with the musical side things exploring everything Townsend can throw in (Alongside Meshuggah guitarist Fredrik Thordendal as well with his contributions on guitar), making it impossible to pin down to any one particular genre or sound. The song is also fleshed throughout with Townsend’s off-beat humour (Aided by none other than Gwar’s Dave ‘Oderus Urungus’ Brockie), with the songs lyrical premise based on all things hamburger related, which overall gives the song a very ‘Ziltoid The Omniscient’ (2007) meets Zimmers Hole-like feel.
Finishing up the album is ‘Poltergeist’, which is reminiscent of Strapping Young Lad’s latter day terrain with its huge drums, huge heavy riffs and Townsend’s screamed vocals. Again, perhaps not one of the album’s strongest tracks, but a solid effort nonetheless.
‘Deconstruction’, like most of Townsend’s work, can be a little hit and miss at times, but unmistakably metal through and through. This album is every bit as over the top and metallic as Townsend promised, and then some.
Needless to say, fans of Townsend’s work will be more than pleased with ‘Deconstruction’, even if the album does take a few listens to fully take in and appreciate the songs that hide beneath Townsend’s wall of sheer audio violence.

For more information on Devin Townsend Project, check out -

© Justin Donnelly