Friday, June 3, 2011

Devin Townsend Project - Ghost

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

Following on from the acoustic emotional rollercoaster that was ‘Ki’ (2009), the beat oriented rocker ‘Addicted’ (2009) and the twisted metal extravaganza ‘Deconstruction’ (2011), Devin Townsend is finally bringing his mammoth four album concept to a close with the concluding chapter ‘Ghost’.
Like his three previous efforts, ‘Ghost’ represents a completely different side of Townsend’s vast musical vision, and in a lot of ways is the complete polar opposite to the over the top metallic theatrics that was presented on ‘Deconstruction’, with ‘Ghost’ best described as a mellow, easy listening, new-age sounding album. While the description of the music contained without hardly sounds appealing to those who have a preference for Townsend’s heavier sounding former projects (Such as Strapping Young Lad and The Devin Townsend Band), fans who preferred the most experimental ‘heavy metal ambience’ work of Townsend (Such as 2003’s ‘EKO’, 2004’s ‘Devlab’ and ‘Hummer’) will certainly find plenty to chill out within ‘Ghost’.
‘Fly’ starts the album off with a fairly mellow manner, with Townsend keeping the mood soothing and light, with his clean vocals blending in seamlessly with the lush mix of acoustic guitars, keyboards (Dave Young), the barely audible female backing vocals (Courtesy of Katrina), flute (Provided by Kat Epple) and the brushed drums (Mike St. Jean). The song itself is really quite straight forward and simple, but the way it’s produced and presented, it kind of has a hypnotic mantra feel about it, which really does have a soothing effect. ‘Heart Baby’ follows along a similar line of the opener, but with Townsend’s vocals taking a backseat over the flourishes of keyboards, flute and acoustic guitars taking on the role as the main focus.
It isn’t until the lengthy ‘Feather’ that Townsend himself steps into the spotlight (Both in terms of a structured song and with a greater vocal presence), and what a song he offers up. Again, without sounding too out of place, ‘Feather’ is a beautifully layered epic that ebbs and flows throughout its eleven minutes, but all the while returning to a chorus that stands out as one of the album’s truly outstanding moments.
The short ballad-like ‘Kawaii’ is a personal favourite, and is another prime example of Townsend’s song writing stripped back to its purest form with only a guitar and some subtle keyboard work accompanying his breezy vocals, while the spirited/up-tempo feel of the title track ‘Ghost’ and the country-tinged ‘Blackberry’ (Which is enhanced with some great banjo playing from Townsend) represent some of the album’s more livelier and rockier sounding efforts.
From here, the album takes on an instrumental path with the flute and acoustics taking the lead through the atmospheric ‘Monsoon’, and Ayreon like progressive keyboards within the spaced out ‘Dark Matters’, before Townsend and Katrina take the lead on the ever-building, multi-layered progressive based piece ‘Texada’. Again, while the song itself is rather simple, it’s the production, the depth of instrumentation and the captivating vocal harmonies that really take this song to a completely different realm.
Towards the tail end of the album, the rather short and dreamy ‘Seams’ seamlessly bleeds into the length instrumental ‘Infinite Ocean’, before finishing up with the climatic (And somewhat latter day Anathema-like) ‘As You Were’.
‘Ghost’ is an unusual album, and one that some fans will dismiss as meandering and directionless. But for those familiar with Townsend’s previous ambient related releases, ‘Ghost’ isn’t the sort of album that can be fully appreciated with a single listen. No, this is the sort of album that is best listened to many times to fully comprehend, and to fully discover the various flowing textures, the densely layered themes and the subtle melodies that emerge from the songs themselves.
Overall, ‘Ghost’ is exactly the sort of work you would expect from Townsend and a fitting conclusion to the ambitious four piece body of work he’s presented listeners to in recent times.

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© Justin Donnelly