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Townsend, Devin: Deconstruction

Deconstruction is a fantastic album to listen to. On many levels, it sounds like Ki unleashed. Everything was restrained on Ki, though songs like "Distruptr" and the title track were actually a foreshadowing of the material on this album. However, whereas the heaviness was more on the mental side on Ki, Deconstruction takes this factor to another level -- both musically and compositionally.

That said, whether Deconstruction is Devin Townsend's heaviest album ever is questionable. Ardent fans of Strapping Young Lad may still favour City and Alien for obvious reasons. Where Strapping Young Lad's music was all-hell-loose metal in most cases (and great at that), this disc has lots of breakdowns, calmer sections, and well crafted melodies. Still, parts of this album bear subtle similarities to SYL material. The ending part of "Planet of the Apes" where it gets extremely heavy in both vocals and the guitars could be an excerpt from the intro of SYL's "Last Minute" actually.

However, this being the third album of a total of four, it draws more heavily from its own predecessors, mostly the aforementioned Ki. The totally chaotic, off-the-wall arrangements of "Planet of the Apes" actually share a similar melody to that of "A Monday" from the first album. The progression is almost identical too. Another reference to Ki can be heard on "The Mighty Masturbator" -- the intro recalls the track "Numbered" in more than one way. Other than that, from its skull-crushing guitars to the onslaught of drum and bass parts to Devin's hilarious lyrics ("While we all have lots of bands who influence still...we all rip off Meshuggah!"), "The Planet of the Apes" is one of the most immediate standout tracks on the album.

That being said, Devin Townsend's wildly humourous side is entirely prominent throughout the whole disc, and it recalls Ziltoid in this aspect more so than any other Townsend creation. Often times, the songs take on a circus music quality where polar opposites are brought together without trying to fully meld them. Some pieces are simply not meant to blend as organically as on his prior work, which creates the chaotic dimension of this disc. Listening to "The Mighty Masturbator" is like listening to a crazy Mike Patton. At nearly 17 minutes, it is a culmination of soft acoustic interludes, huge (and I mean HUGE) soundscapes that are so layered they may gush out like a mesh through bad PC speakers. With headphones, however, you will discover how every single frequency is densely layered and textured.

The lineup on the album is stellar, though I doubt any Devin Townsend fan will pick this up for the lineup only. The guests are not there to steal the show. Some of them have been given very little space actually, from single spoken parts to a few riffs or vocalizations. From Opeth's Mikael Akerfeldt providing a brief yet instantly recognizable death growl on the album's highpoint "Stand" (the ending of this song is too good to be true); to Gojira's Joe Duplantier adding his tortured voice to "Sumeria," a track with a weirdly European sound in the vocal arrangements; and to former Emperor vocalist Ihsahn gracing "Juular" and turning it into a lost Arcturus track with its creepy symphonic overtones.

There are others of course: Tommy Rogers from Between the Buried and Me, Paul Kuhr from Novembers Doom, Floor Jansen from Star One/After Forever, Paul Masvidal from Cynic, and Fredrik Thordendahl from Meshuggah, amongst others. Thordendahl and Devin Townsend go way back, since he also helped him with drum programming on Ziltoid. He is the only one with substantial playing time. He plays a long, mind-twisting solo on the title track which is both head-spinningly agile and an obvious satire at the unnecessary guitar parts on many an album these days. Remember, this album is Devin's humourous side, so do not be surprised when you hear the very beginning and the final second of this one (you'll know what I mean when you listen to it).

The two drummers, longtime friend Ryan Van Poederooyen and Soilwork's Dirk Verbeuren share the duties. The duo constantly explore the parameters of groove on the songs implanting an original dynamic in the sound. Even though I'm no Soilwork fan, I have been an avid follower of Verbeuren ever since he played on Warrel Dane's solo album, Praises to the War Machine. The man is a god of complex yet grooving rhythms.

All throughout, there is a real (I said REAL) orchestra in the mix. Recorded with a huge lineup in the Czech Republic, you will be overwhelmed with amazement how subtly each element is interwoven into the threads of sound without taking away from the intensity of the guitars or the elaborate interplay between the central instruments. The mixing job by Jens Bogren is glorious for such dense music, and the production is marvellous. Then again, we all know Devin Townsend is the master of sound.

And guess what? The final album of the set, Ghost, is even better. It is indescribably beautiful, so I urge you to seek it out. If you've only heard Deconstruction and would like to have an idea of what Ghost is like, try to envision the intro of the first track without the electronic effects, a bigger acoustic tone, lusher arrangements, and some of the most affective melodies you will ever hear.

Tracklisting

  1. Praise the Lowered
  2. Stand
  3. Juular
  4. Planet of the Apes
  5. Sumeria
  6. The Mighty Masturbator
  7. Pandemic
  8. Deconstruction
  9. Poltergeist

Added: August 29th 2011
Reviewer: Murat Batmaz
Score:
Related Link: Official Devin Townsend website
Hits: 2549
Language: english

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Townsend, Devin: Deconstruction
Posted by Brian Block, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-08-29 12:10:17
My Score:

As weird as this may sound, Deconstruction was my introduction into the wacky and wonderful world of Devin Townsend. Though, I guess nothing is as weird as Deconstruction itself. Being new to this type of metal, I had no idea what to expect from the album itself, so I was definitely flustered the first time I listened to the album. But eventually it all came together, and I saw what a fantastic album this really was. Unlike most new music that you can either say you like or dislike right away, or after a few listens, Deconstruction took me a long time to actually appreciate it. After I finally started to enjoy the album, I found out what it was about; a man who receives a cheeseburger from the Devil, but can't eat it because he is a vegetarian. If you're like me and you immediately said, "What?", you're as equally as confused as I was. With all these weird topics, strange noises, and soaring guitars Devin Townsend almost reminds me of a metal version of Frank Zappa, with equal amounts of genius and craziness

Deconstruction was released along with a much softer, un-crazy Ghost, which is no where near as creative as the former. I'm glad that Devin Townsend put all his craziness into this one album because it makes it all the better. Also he put all the heavy stuff on this album while leaving the lighter stuff for Ghost. This I think is a brilliant idea because it provides two totally different albums from one person. Deconstruction, besides being very out there, has an almost avant-garde feel to it in spots to go along with its main genre, prog metal. Of the two epics on the album, "Planet of the Apes" and "The Mighty Masturbator", "Planet of the Apes" is probably my favorite. "Planet of the Apes" has some great soaring guitar parts, especially some of the solos, and the vocals by both Townsend and Tommy Giles Rogers, of Between the Buried and Me, are absolutely amazing. "The Mighty Masturbator", which you can probably guess the topic of the song, is another great track with more awesome vocals and colorful vocals. The only thing about "The Mighty Masturbator" is that, to me, it seems a little drawn out, but in the end it is still a fantastic song. My favorite track, though, is probably the title track. This is the song where our main character finds himself confronted by the Devil and offered the cheeseburger. This song is perhaps the craziest of them all, filled with great lines, complex guitar riffs, and fart noises. Yes, fart noises. At first I was skeptical about them, but they fit into the song just fine, and add to the overall weirdness level. All the other songs are just as good, and there truly are no weak spots on this album at all.

What surprised me the most about this album where the guest vocalists. I just assumed Devin Townsend worked on his own with a few studio musicians, but I was wrong. And these aren't your run of the mill guests either. There's the above mentioned Tommy Giles Rogers, Ihsahn of Emperor, Floor Jansen, who also works with Arjen Lucassen, and most notably Mikael Åkerfeldt of Opeth. All these vocalists are superb, and when mixed with the great compositions on this album, a great record is made.

After putting aside my skepticisms about this album to start off I discovered the genius that is Devin Townsend. This album is full of craziness, but there is control on this album too that keeps it grounded and easy to listen to. It might take some time to get into this album, but once you do you'll enjoy it just as much as I have. This is yet another great release of 2011 and easily deserves 4.5 stars.

Townsend, Devin: Deconstruction
Posted by Jeff B, SoT Staff Writer on 2011-08-26 19:34:27
My Score:

If not one of the most impressive albums you'll hear this year, Deconstruction will surely be one of the most entertaining. Devin Townsend has always been known as a musician willing to experiment with the wacky side of music, and the third album in the Devin Townsend Project series is among his craziest thus far. Although not outdoing Ziltoid the Omniscient in terms of over-the-top wackiness, Deconstruction is certainly among the more insane albums in Devin Townsend's catalog. This concept album revolves around a man who meets the devil, receives a cheeseburger (which he cannot eat, for he is a vegetarian), and other topics like farting and masturbation. Although possibly a bit too lyrically "juvenile" for your average prog metal listener, the unique and intriguing compositions keep Deconstruction from ever feeling like a boring vehicle for middle-school humor. And, for what it's worth, I personally find the crazy lyrical concept to be extremely interesting and well-done. With Deconstruction, Devin Townsend has convinced me that he is "the Frank Zappa of metal", and a genius visionary for 21st century music. People who enjoy progressive metal on the more unique, experimental, and creative side should find plenty to love with this effort from the Devin Townsend Project.

The music on Deconstruction is every bit as crazy as its lyrical counterpart. From a songwriting standpoint, expect plenty of technicality and odd song structures, but also a few melodic (and even beautiful) sections are contained within the CD. This album covers damn near every emotion in existence, yet never feels incoherent or poorly written. The instrumentation is also quite varied; lots of different vocal styles, keyboard tones, and guitar techniques are used on Deconstruction, and it's even complete with a full orchestra. A symphonic feeling is present throughout most of the album, even if it's in combination with about five hundred different stylistic traits. Deconstruction is a busy album with very little breathing room, and this is a wacky journey from the first note of "Praise the Lowered" until the very end of "Poltergeist". Remarkably enough, the album never loses any steam in spite of its 71 minute playing time. Arguably the highlight of Deconstruction is the sixteen-and-a-half minute epic, "The Mighty Masturbator". Although every bit as lyrically insane as the song title implies, this is a truly remarkable piece of music that is filled to the brim with memorable hooks, technical nuances, and entertaining antics. Deconstruction is virtually free of weak moments, though, and I'd have a tough time picking out my least favorite track here. Devin Townsend is a truly gifted songwriter, and there are enough jaw-dropping moments on Deconstruction to satisfy me over and over again.

One thing that will immediately jump out about this album is the prominence of guest musicians - something very rare on Devin Townsend's other works. Deconstruction hosts plenty of metal legends, including Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth), Ihsahn (Emperor), Tommy Giles Rogers (Between the Buried and Me), Paul Masvidal (Cynic), Oderus Urungus (Gwar), and many others. Although it may be a slight disappointment to hear some of these guys only contribute a few lines to the album, Devin Townsend makes sure that the guest vocalists never get in the way of the music itself, and in that sense, I'd say it's a good thing.

On Deconstruction, Devin handles all of the instruments except for drums; truly a remarkable feat considering the complexity of the music here. Blistering guitar work mixed with amazing vocals and complex keyboard sections are always present, and the fact that Devin can handle all of them is admirable, to say the least. Mr. Townsend is also responsible for Deconstruction's sleek and powerful production - the polished sound suits the music perfectly, and I can't think of a production that would've sounded better for this album.

Deconstruction took a while for me to fully appreciate, but I can safely say that giving it the attention it demands was worth it. Devin Townsend is one of the most important musicians in modern metal, and with this album he's proven his genius once again. Deconstruction is unquestionably among my favorites from 2011, and will probably remain one of Devin Townsend's strongest efforts until he ceases to make music. People who enjoyed the over-the-top antics of Ziltoid the Omniscient should love this one, and anyone with a craving for truly original progressive metal should get Deconstruction in their collection as soon as possible. I'd say a big 4.5 stars are deserved for this terrific album. This is one of 2011's highlights for sure.



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