Devin Townsend Project
01. Praise the Lowered
04. Planet of the Apes
06. The Mighty Masturbator
[Inside Out Music]
Operatic, triumphant, and out of its fucking mind. That’s the perfect short description of the highly anticipated “heavy” installment of Devin Townsend’s four-part album series released under the Devin Townsend Project name. This is an amalgamation of what we’ve come to expect from Devin over the years. Deconstruction is an adventurous look inside of Devin’s mind that is quirky, honest, and his best work since Ziltoid the Omniscient, if not the best work he’s ever done period.
As expected, Deconstruction is huge in every sense of the word. There’s so much going on in the mix at times that it’s dizzying. Devin spared no expense in making this record sound the best that it possibly can, hiring a full choir and orchestra that pushes the album into the realm of epic symphonic metal. The quirky symphonic overtones makes Deconstruction feel grandiose throughout, sounding like a pissed off Danny Elfman score. We normally shy away from lengthy track-by-track reviews here on Heavy Blog Is Heavy, but honestly, this album demands it.
Deconstruction begins unassumingly enough, with a hypnotic beat and industrial bleeps. Eventually, a sparse guitar line segues to the soothing (and at times angelic) voice of the man of the hour, leading one to believe that they’ve just played Ghost by mistake. “Praise The Lowered”‘s dark ambient tone eventually collapses into a furious Strapping Young Lad worthy look into human indulgence and succumbing to drugs, accentuated by the deep growl of November’s Doom‘s Paul Kuhr. Ah yes, this is the record I wanted to hear after all.
As “Stand” opens, it becomes clear that Devin intends to ease us into the chaotic record he promised us over the last few years. Taking a tone similar to Ki’s “Gato,” the track eventually marches on and grows in intensity, where the actual tone for the record to come is set with huge anthemic and symphonic nuances. Opeth‘s Mikael Akerfeldt has a small role in this track, who roars behind Devin. Unfortunately, if you don’t have headphones, you might just miss him entirely. “Juular” makes greater use of choir and layered vocal melodies, with an almost omnipresent choir accents throughout the entirety of the track. Ihsahn (ex-Emperor) delivers the song’s ferocious chorus, and the subtle black metal influence and blasts that pop up around the song suit him quite well.
Deconstruction begins to get more interesting in its lengthy compositions, where Devin has space to explore certain themes and ideas. Anyone familiar with Devin at this point will know that if given ten minutes to talk about philosophy, two things are going to happen; 1) interesting and elaborate songs, 2) dick and fart jokes. This side of Devin really kicks in towards the center of the album and begins in a modest fashion during the prog-metal masterpiece “Planet of the Apes,” which features Between the Buried and Me‘s Tommy Rogers, who does the most prominent and lengthy guest spot on the record. Devin makes a critical assessment of extreme metal, chanting, “Why do we all have lots of bands who influence, still we all rip off Meshuggah?” As the song progresses, we reach a mid-point where the song breaks down to a cleaner and blissful section where Devin sings, “Oh, everybody will know I am so happy now. I’ve got a little boner!” I have a strange feeling that no serious artist other than Devin Townsend can utter such a line in a metal album and be heralded by critics the world over.
The album’s centerpiece “Sumeria” is the catchiest and most memorable (non-comedic) track on Deconstruction. The song’s haunting orchestration and epic chorus is the apex of the album’s musical direction. This track features Gojira‘s Joe Duplantier providing a visceral guest vocal spot, with Devin performing at a musical intensity that equates to a symphonic Gojira track. The song’s outro sees a music box and an acoustic guitar, featuring the dulcet tones of Cynic frontman Paul Masvidal. It’s as if Devin wrote the parts with his guests in mind well before hand, which is certainly a nice touch. No one sounds out of their element on this record.
“The Mighty Masturbator” is the longest track on the album, clocking in at over 16 minutes in length. The song is essentially a series three movements, each one hell bent on out-weirding the last. Opening in a low key and solemn tone, Devin builds up the anticipation for one of the more operatic moments where his vocal abilities truly shine. Devin’s climbing voice exclaims, “I’ve finally found a way to save the world!” The music drops out to one of many one-liners that this album has to offer, with Devin donning an accent and saying, “Oh you don’t even know. I’m real good at that savin’ the world thing dere, oh yeah. I got my special savin’ the world boots on.” The music continues with Devin’s soaring vocals, backed by “shoo-bop” scat backing vocals. The song eventually turns into a psychedelic electronic movement featuring… Ziltoid? You know it. The music turns into something like you’d hear in an episode of Invader Zim. Devin chants “Give it up, your world!” while trading off with Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato viciously screaming along about humanity’s relationship with religion. Greg doesn’t sound forced at all, despite being added in the last minute thanks to a suggestion from everyone’s favorite metal blog. The song eventually sees Ziltoid curating a carnival freak show, with comedic classical orchestrations and choir bouncing along as Ziltoid discovers his life’s purpose.
“Pandemic” is not only the shortest song on the record (at 3:29), but it is also the heaviest, fastest, and most chaotic. “Pandemic” gives Strapping Young Lad a run for its money. Floor Jansen provides an operatic female voice, which makes the song that much more maddening and dark. The guitar solo on this track is mindblowing, but it’s only a small taste of things to come on the album’s title track, “Deconstruction.”
“Deconstruction” opens with a quirky skit, with Devin’s character (possibly Ziltoid?) discussing the brain in what sounds like a men’s restroom. Our hero claims that any object, a cheeseburger for example, can be deconstructed to it’s source. Enter: the craziest fucking song I’ve ever heard. An incredibly rockin’ guitar lead kicks in and the music enters at full force. A choir sings “I want to eat myself as the flesh of ancient gods!” and Devin shouts “PENIS!” Many comedic moments happen throughout the track’s nine minutes, including a monologue by GWAR‘s Oderus Urungus, and a choir singing the ingredients of a cheeseburger, which holds the secrets of the universe. Alas, the song’s character is a “vegimatarian,” and thus a mind-blowing tech metal freakout occurs, featuring guitar work by Meshuggah‘s Frederik Thordendal. The first time I heard this song, I literally yelled “what?!” In the best way possible, of course. This song elicits a reaction, and it’s bound to get one.
The album’s final song, “Poltergeist”, features no guest spots—just Devin bringing the album to a close with a more serious tone. With a title alluding to the followup Ghost, it’s surprisingly one of the heavier songs, with Devin rarely stopping to sing until the song’s climactic moments. The song is at a disadvantage for having to follow a song like “Deconstruction,” but hearing just Devin screaming in the mix for the first time in over an hour for a period of a few minutes is nice, and serves as a great closer.
Deconstruction is easily the most ambitious album Devin Townsend has ever written. Not only did it live up to the insane hype and anticipation, in my opinion, it completely shattered it. Everything about this album is a feat for the genre of metal—the technical ability, the real choir and orchestration, the numerous big-name guest spots, the mixing of it all into this great of a quality without losing clarity, and the ability to write such silly lyrics and songs that can be taken as serious musical accomplishments—everything about this album was pulled off wonderfully. This is going to be the album of the year. I’m calling it now. I hate to build up an album THIS much, but Deconstruction will be talked about for years to come. Be prepared for the repeating of all of those one liners. I hope you like cheeseburgers, because you’ll be hearing about them for a long time.