Friday, June 3, 2011

Weekly Dose of Prog: The Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction/Ghost

A couple of months ago I featured The Devin Townsend Project's latest (at the time) releases, Ki and Addicted, with an article, now I continue (and finish) the cycle, with the upcoming pair of releases from the madman that is Devin Townsend, with Deconstruction and Ghost. The first two releases were a clever mix of ambient and heavy/extreme metal, with Ki being more on the ambient side of things while Addicted brought elements of industrial music. That first pair was plenty for any other band, but Townsend seems fixated on going above and beyond (Deconstruction and Ghost haven't even been released yet and he's already announced the name of his next record). I'm covering them as a pair because they are being released in that fashion; while they aren't directly linked, the project seems to follow a sweeping style-arc which flows together rather well. If he (Townsend) had released all four at one I'd probably put the entire project into a 'Weekly Dose of Prog.'

While Ki and Addicted seemed more stylistically split, Deconstruction is a more even mix of the metal and ambient music that The Devin Townsend Project is known for. It's also far more eclectic, with the album opening with "Praise The Lowered," a very ambient song, then "Stand," a ten-minute progressive song, light on the ambient but heavy in pretty much everything else, followed immediately by "Juular" which sounds something more like Strapping Young Lad (Townsend's previous band/project) would release, coming across borderline thrash/NWOAHM with bits of lighter vocals (but still heavy instruments, especially the percussion) thrown here or there for effect. Although it sounds weird, it actually works really great, bringing Deconstruction a much more memorable feel then the previous pair of releases. My one complaint of the album, however, are the longer tracks. It seems that the songs that cross the ten-minute marker just can't pull it together well enough to warrant that amount of time. "Planet of The Apes," "The Mighty Masturbator," and  "Deconstruction" are the main examples of this ("Stand" keeps it together pretty well, plus it's just under ten), with certain parts that work very well - namely the beginnings - but they just lose focus, or change styles too much, or have to much out there stuff (spoken word and whatnot - "Deconstruction" anyone?) to be as enjoyable as the rest of the album. Other then that, the album is almost priceless.

Where Deconstruction was all fire and fury, Ghost is a return of the ambient style of The Devin Townsend Project, with almost none of the previous aggression making the jump across discs. Because of this drastic shift of style and vision it is very difficult for me to review this album. I don't listen to much 'light' music, nor anything ambient, so I have nothing to really go off of, nothing to base my views from. The music here is plenty enjoyable, but there is nothing that I see that differentiates a good song from a bad one. They all sound pretty much the same to me overall. I kept expecting the songs and/or album to take a drastic shift into the metal category (as nothing on Ghost I would call metal per se), but it never came. It was just another ambient song after song, again not a true complaint, but I just don't know what to do with this release. If I rate one song high, I fell I'd have to rank them all likewise, there just isn't enough to go off, for someone like me - with my musical history - to fully formulate a view. While Ki and Addicted had a bit of a difference of style, that was nothing when compared to Deconstruction and Ghost, no two albums could be further apart. Again not a bad thing, just very, very surprising, given what I know and my history with Devin Townsend.

All in all I prefer the heavier feel of Deconstruction over the rest of The Devin Townsend Project's releases. While most of them hold some type of metal within their covers, Deconstruction is by far the fattest, gorged on the blast beats of a few of the tracks. Ghost is just too far away from the rest of the releases for me to really take seriously - although it does live up to its name rather well - at least from a metal standpoint.

The project as a whole has been very interesting, four albums crossing over a dozen genres and styles, all under the same moniker; very interesting. I gave Ki and Addicted another spin in preparation for Deconstruction and Ghost, and I feel that doing the same for all four in a month or two would be very beneficial. These releases just cement the notion that I really, really need to hear more from Devin Townsend, his various persona, projects, and Strapping Young Lad. The man is either a genius or insane, or somewhere treading back and forth over that line.

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