Throw whatever you expected from Strapping Young Lad mastermind Devin Townsend out the window for this record. It’s different right from the beginning. Ki is the first of four albums that Townsend plans on releasing under the Devin Townsend Project. This album certainly does feel like it’s a precursor to a much larger concept, setting up a brilliant stage for things to come.
The album starts off peacefully with “A Monday”, which is a short ambient guitar track that sets the mood for the album so the listener knows what to expect. This track leads into “Coast” which starts out peacefully and melodically and builds itself up into the much heavier track “Disruptr“, which hits a climax and falls back down to a calmer ambiance before building us back up yet again through “Gato“, which sports a catchy chorus featuring a female vocalist. The way the songs flow with the rise and fall of the first couple of tracks lets the listener know right off the bat what this album is all about: restraint. This album definitely captures Devin’s bipolarity perfectly, but differently than his other albums. Devin starts out at peace, giving us beautiful ambiance, atmosphere, and melodic music. Over time, his peace gets disrupted somehow, and he starts to lose his shit. But somehow, unlike his last works, he takes a step back before taking it too far. Instead of going into a pissed off rampage as he did with SYL, he screams into his pillow and goes about business.
So after “Gato”, things take another turn and we’re back with “Terminal” (below), the most beautiful song on the album. It’s like Devin’s apologizing for all being tough on us earlier. This is a song that could move you to tears if you’re in the right frame of mind. Devin picks up the pace for 9 minute “Heaven Send”. This song features a strange guitar solo that sounds like something Buckethead would play.
The next song “Aint Never Gonna Win” is a live jam session. Funk and blues influence shows it’s head very prominently. Dev even does some scat vocals to match the guitar line. This track flows right on into “Winter”. More beautiful ambient music. This song is different though, as it doesn’t build up into something angry this time around. I think Devin’s letting all the annoyances roll off his back for this song. He’s learning to say “no” and he’s not letting things get to him anymore. At least for right now.
This next song, “Trainfire” comes out of nowhere at all. This song is straight up rockabilly music. Devin’s vocals even take on that Elvis sound. The song twists around for a while and turns into a Townsend song again as he resists that “sexy seventeen year old moving up and down the pole”. The song takes an outro from the female vocalist from earlier singing. “Lady Helen” is another one of the more beautiful songs on the album. The music here consists of acoustic and clean tone guitars and piano. This song takes on the form of a ballad.
Which brings us on to “Ki”, the title track. Is the great build up to the album’s climax. The chorus vocals in the end of the song build up into Devin’s operatic vocal style. The energy builds and builds…
Then we reach a breakthrough with “Quiet Riot”. This song is very melodic, bright, and and very memorable. This song features more acoustic guitar strumming. What bugs me about this song is that it simply just doesn’t last long enough. There’s certainly more to be desired here. The song cuts out to silence for a while and we are pushed into the final track “Demon League”, which fits the mold of the other songs with Devin singing over a atmospheric guitar melody. Although, the mood to this song is darker than the others. Surely, this song acts as a kind of bridge to the next Devin Townsend Project album, Addicted. The album ends with Devin getting up and leaving, hearing the door swing shut. Overall, Ki is Devin’s way of telling everyone that he isn’t an evil man that he comes across as in Strapping Young Lad. With Ki, he’s sober and serious, and getting older and wiser.
I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us with the next records in the project. Ki is due in stores in the US June 19th, with Addicted and Deconstruction due out by the end of 2009. This album is a must buy.
4.5 / 5