Devin Townsend Project
Deconstruction

Canada’s gift to the metal omniverse, Devin Townsend, is back to finish off what he started back in 2008 when he shaved off his trademark skullet, threw out his dope pipe and formed yet another new band, namely the Devin Townsend Project.

Feeling disconnected and dissatisfied with the role of being known as the madman behind Strapping Young Lad and Devin Townsend Band, Devin Townsend Project―that’s a lot of Devin―was to be a new vessel that would map out his current musical identity in all of its grand complexity. In his efforts to bring back the missing honesty that is a big part of his music, Devin came up with a plan that would be carried throughout multiple studio albums. Now, with the release of Deconstruction and Ghost, the last two chapters of his four records long odyssey, this journey has finally been completed – for the time being, anyway.

After the first two records, the subtle Ki and “Ih-Ah”-so-pop Addicted, Devin closes the book on DTP with a bang (Deconstruction) that is followed by a quiet breeze (Ghost). Simultaneously released, the two albums present the Canuck’s yin-and-yang-like inner workings, the polar opposites of his being. Ghost was built to be the quiet relaxing, “heady” album while Deconstruction is the collapse that lets his inner demons run amok. For this being a metal site of sorts, let’s concentrate on the latter one.

Before the release, a lot of Strapping Young Lad fans marched out from the trenches as Devin was heard stating how this would be his heaviest effort yet. A return to form! People were ecstatic! Devin was quick to dismiss the second coming of SYL. This storm would include rain. Rather than relive the extreme emotions that his former band represented, Deconstruction was constructed to obliterate such old, exhausted notions once and for all.

To help him do just that, the Canadian sought out few extra hired guns, lungs and even the Philharmonic Orchestra of the City of Prague, even if its impact on the final album is questionable. It’s there, it shows but it doesn’t have that wow-holy-shit effect. Oh, and did I say few? More like a horde!

Paul Kuhr (Novembers Doom) grunts and growls on the loud opener “Praise the Lowered” and Mikael Åkerfeld (Opeth) appears on “Stand” doing something, as his presence has to be dug out with mine detector. “Juular” sees Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork) bring his blistering drumming to support Ryan Van Poederooyen on drums. Not only that, but Insahn lends a shriek or two to what is quite possibly the best track on the album, but that’s what you get when you combine ghostly choirs to a bulldozing song before you burn it out with a set of growls. Tommy Rogers (Between Buried and Me) bringing his metalcore-machismo for the 11-minute epic “Planet of the Apes” that borrows from Meshuggah. Mr. Thordendal is not credited for the track, but in the middle of the lyrics, the booklet reads “while we all have lots of bands who influence, still we all rip off Meshuggah!!!” – interesting, considering Mr.T appears later on! The song has its hot and cold moments, but maybe it’s still a tad too long. Joe Duplantier (Gojira) and Paul Masvidal (Cynic) bring cooperating contrast to the batshit insane and all over the place “Sumeria”.

We’re not even finished yet, but to give you a breather, here’s a new paragraph.

On ”The Mighty Masturbator” Devin gets his crazy swagger going big time. Actually, everything’s on overdrive here! The song is like a Friday night that gets out of hand. From acoustic like simplicity, to booming theatrics, to a going with the flow interlude, to a bombastic ballroom, to get launched into electronic space, to take part in a techno rave with Devin’s megalomaniac alter ego Ziltoid and his carnie circus of freaks, including The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato. The song is like a rollercoaster inside a bigger rollercoaster ride. A 16-minute gate into absurdity, the track shows Devin’s versatility and his wide spectrum of musical repertoire and inspiration, without forgetting his humorous side. Quite a few have tried to pull something of this magnitude off, and failed miserably but here it works and I like it. Metalheads who want their shit dead serious need not apply.

After Forever’s Floor Jansen mates her classical soprano with Devin’s not-so-clean vocals on the theatrical whirlpool that is “Pandemic”. It might offer some consolation to all those old Strapping Young Lad fans as it’s extremely fast and heavy ― a vortex of aggression.

Getting back to the funny stuff, the title track “Deconstruction” starts off with a fart that causes a revolution: The manic, frantic track is all about the human ego…and cheeseburgers. Meshuggah’s Frederick Thordendal finally appears in the credits, serving a technical guitar clinic throughout the track. Some three and half minutes in Devin vomits GWAR’s Oderus Urungus into the plate to spread joy and happiness to us all. The track goes up and down, constantly evolving and revolving between light and heavy and something in between…and something completely different. “Oh glorious cheeseburger, we bow to thee!” and I think I do too, even if it has me questioning Devin’s sanity.

“Let’s finish this!” yells Devin and unleashes the final track “Poltergeist”, where Devin shreds out an exorcism that ends the album on a chaotic note in somewhat fast and aggressive manner. In a way, the track sees Devin regain control as the guests, aside from Verbeuren who bangs his set like a possessed, coked-up pazuzu. Yet, this is a one man show and despite it all, has always been. To further prove a point, I thought most—not all—of the visitors were mismanaged and misplaced, and in the end, unnecessary; drowned in the midst of all the chaos. Why waste so much talent if you really want what they are bringing? Curiosities, I say. You don’t need all of the Ninja Turtles pissing into the same paint bucket to paint a masterpiece. Especially when Devin’s own vocal talents are taken into consideration. A shame.

So is this a really heavy record? The one that was promised? It sounds heavy and deals with heavy subject matters with a tongue-in-cheek attitude. Is it the heaviest album in the man’s discography? Kinda. It’s definitely heavy, but it’s not as obviously visceral and openly confrontational or serious sounding as some of the Strapping Young Lad stuff. SYL was more like a brutal and honestly straightforward “Fuck you!” whereas Deconstruction is a bit like a “Fuck me” that wraps a straightjacket around you, stuffs your mouth full of pills and leaves you to watch how the world dissolves before your very own eyes.

Deconstruction takes the heaviness a step further conceptually. To my ears, this record is clearly about substance abuse and through this subject, Devin spirals into other anxieties such as family values and being a responsible adult, citizen and most of all, a human ― even if the official premise is about a man going to hell, meeting the devil who in turn offers the vegetarian a cheeseburger with the universe’s secrets.  The heaviness, the whole thing, it’s an abstract; a composed depiction of an existential meltdown that bombards the listener with constant ups and downs, pushing us all into the middle of an inner maelstrom; Deconstruction is not just heavy ― it is beyond heavy in every direction. Be it for better or for worse.

In its all, Deconstruction is the most actively thought-out concept record of the series, but it isn’t the best record. It’s extremely hard to penetrate it by listening to it in bits and pieces. There are no standout tracks that instantly pop out to scream how you should add them to a compilation album or a random iTunes playlist. To a random listener, the whole thing makes little sense but to a fan, this is the definition of Devin Townsend. It’s not an album that you’ll casually put on. The bar to revisit and take it all in is much higher than on say, Ocean Machine or Terria and it’s not a quick, clear fix that spurs primal urges to destroy like Strapping Young Lad does. This album is quite something. It’s a grower but it requires a lot of patience and stamina. It’s not a bad record, definitely not, but the rapid bombardment, the overly dynamic sonar assaults, wreak havoc. It’s like a controversial postmodern art piece that divides people in half, so to conclude, as a composer and as an artist, Devin just lets it all hang out there. Like two big hairy balls, hanging in the air. Just so you can (in his words) “Wrap around them and fucking suck ‘em!”

Talking about sucking a nut or as I like to call it, eating. During the act of deconstruction what has Devin really built? A cheeseburger? This record isn’t a cheeseburger. Anything but a cheeseburger. It’s definitely not something you can get from any sloppy fast food joint. It’s not something you can devour in a hurry without putting any deeper thought on what you’re getting. It’s the same as any Devin Townsend record. It’s a can of Dr. Pepper.

Dr.Pepper is a drink that will never be as popular as some of the bigger soft drinks, but for those that like it, they don’t just like it, they fucking love it. And I love Dr. Pepper. I love that shit. I drink Dr. Pepper rarely because drinking it too much makes tummy ache and drinking it too often would make me feel like a piece of shit. Yet, there’s a definite place and need for Dr. Pepper, even if it’s an acquired taste. The majority might prefer another brand, another taste. I don’t. I like Dr.Pepper. If you don’t, that’s okay but you might as well pass it over to someone who does. If you don’t know that you like it, give it a try and see how it tastes. You like it? There’s no point in denying it. Take another sip and enjoy.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Matti Manner
July 4th, 2011

Comments

  1. Commented by: Lance Bogen

    Ehhhh,I thought this album fell wayside along with the new Morbid Angel (although THAT monstrosity is an entirely different car wreck of it’s own). I think all the youtube videos, facebook postings from Devin,etc. got people really excited for what is essentially something that fell short of expectations. Thank God the new Pagan’s Mind is killer.


  2. Commented by: xbenx

    Fucking great review! I’m salivating at the thought of getting hold of this! Welcome aboard!


  3. Commented by: Nick Taxidermy

    I’ll fight anyone that says anything bad about Dr. Pepper. You listening, Axl?


  4. Commented by: Storm King

    I can boil down my thoughts about this CD, which admittedly I do like, to three words:

    “Tries too hard.”


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