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Monday, June 13, 2011

Album Review: Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction

With Deconstruction and Ghost being released simultaneously, ’s self-defining tetralogy of albums is now complete. He’s been pushing boundaries so far and Deconstruction is no exception. We’ve had the dynamic soft touches of Ki and the heavy, yet commercial pomp of Addicted, but here he’s back to show off just how easily he can rip our faces off.

Having said that, whatever you do, don’t try too hard to analyse the concept behind the album. Yes, the skullet may be gone, the mind may be clear but the lunatic on his shoulder is still present and he’s still calling the shots. The lyrics, on the surface, are completely bonkers. I’ve attempted to decipher it for you and it’s basically about the fact that we’ve been taking ourselves too seriously to the point where you can look at a subject (in this case, a cheeseburger) so deeply that you’ll lose track of what it is and why you’re doing it – “like trying to document infinity.” So, naturally, this review will dispense with the bullshit and give it to you straight up. Deconstruction will, most likely, be your album of the year. Go and buy it.

What… you want more? Okay, okay. Well, I’m not sure I have enough words in my vocabulary to actually describe just how vast this is, but here goes. Devin has hauled in yet more special guests (eleven, count ‘em) for this one but, unlike on so much of Addicted, their presence (vocal, or otherwise) is required to mark the tone of each track and their integration is a thing of beauty. Take Mikael Åkerfeldt’s () turn on the stunningly effective “Stand” – following Devin’s soft completion of the dark build, he pops up to breath black death over the chorus. Also check out Tommy Rogers’ () cohesive touches with Devin on the math-to-prog monster “Planet Of The Apes”. Incidentally, the drums on this track are nothing short of legendary – it’s no wonder the man needed two skin-beaters (Ryan van Poederooyen and ’s Dirk Verbeuren). I smell burning drumsticks.

There are inspired orchestral movements that explode into great chants that begin in the loins and end as goose-pimples on your arms. There are fiery blasts birthed out of the belly of the beast and then sudden side-swipes of these catchy, insanely poppy, sections featuring the most virginal of vocals. The music constantly keeps you alert and on your toes – it honestly feels like the denizens of heaven and hell are playing catch and you’re the ball.

Dig in far enough and you’ll reach the disgustingly-titled “The Mighty Masturbator”. It’s over sixteen minutes long but every second is worth it. It’s absolutely riddled with twists and turns that take you on a voyage through symphonic, folk, prog, electro, power, black, tech and death metal. There are choirs oohing and aahing, acoustic guitar spots, a large dose of string battery, scat singing and a countdown that explodes into Pi. Devin shifts from a gentile storybook vocal style so reminiscent of (who, incidentally, features on the pumping fists of “Juular”) to clambering all over Bruce Dickinson’s operatic vibrato, before finally getting out the oratory ringmaster within to shout out his edicts. There’s even a spot for the scathing vocal of ’s Greg Puciato. It’s utterly immense.

There is almost too much to take in as it furtively tips its hat to about a gazillion bands – you name them, this album features an echo of them in either a brief moment or a lingering passage, all effortlessly knitted in amongst the complex folds of this rich, rock opera backdrop. It’s one of the busiest, longest (at 70+ minutes) and, consequently, most challenging albums I’ve ever heard. All the same, no album has ever compelled me to press that repeat button like this one has.

Naturally, the production is absolutely through the roof. The textures are layered on generously with each one allowed enough space for the next, yet everything remains honest, crisp where it needs to be and distorted where it doesn’t. There is so much going on it boggles the mind and every single note is completely there, flying around like a bee in the background or driving into your body like its sting – “Sumeria”, for one, should come with a damn health warning: attempting to listen to every note may cause permanent damage. You can hear everything at once and it all feels 100% relevant (yes, even the shitty farts, burps and “cheeseburger” chants on the title-track – he’s making a very valid point very well, with his tongue firmly placed in his cheek of course – why else would he have asked ’s Oderus Urungus to get involved). I’m completely sold. So settle down, clamp on some high-quality cans and brace yourself for ’s finest hour – Deconstruction is an absolute fucking masterpiece.

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