Devin Townsend – Deconstruction (2011)
Continuing my unofficial ‘coverage’ of 2011’s metal albums is the third of Devin Townsend’s project output, starring most of the better known metal vocalists, and almost as many symphony orchestra/choir members as Septic Flesh’s “The Great Mass” did. It’s a little bit overblown, contains a good deal of humor, some farting, and was supposed to be “heavier than Strapping Young Lad”. Then again, so was Physicist in 2000, and that didn’t really come close.
You see, Devin Townsend’s influences have changed over the years. In the mid ’90s, he must’ve been listening to a lot of Fear Factory, Godflesh, other industrial, thrash, death metal bands. Maybe he still does so today, but the main spice that separates the solo work from the strapping work is musical theater. Granted, it doesn’t show up on all of his work – it’s most prevalent on Infinity and Ziltoid the Omniscient, and less so on other albums, but Deconstruction is so laden with it as to be a whole 70 minute mini-musical, going through the whole range of emotions and intensity. Listening to it in one go is quite the experience, with dizzying highs, placid lows, creamy centers, and so forth.
The album’s songs alternate (with the exception of the opener) between fast, intense, ripping songs, and more varied, extended compositions. For instance, track #4, “Planet of the Apes”, is essentially the album in miniature, alternating sections of tense, aggressive instrumentation with poppy, catchy melodies. It contains some vocal contributions from Tommy Rogers of Between the Buried and Me, but they mesh in to the point that someone who wasn’t familiar with the guests might think Devin’s still singing. Such is one of the key points of the album – the vocalists on the shorter tracks come to the forefront more than those on the longer tracks, who tend to be more subtle. Despite having so many guest vocalists and a full choir, this isn’t nearly as much of a vocal-driven album as you’d expect.
In fact, all of the various instrumentation is quite balanced – most of the ‘heaviness’ actually comes from the drums, which play a great variety of beats at a variety of speeds – one should note that Dirk Verbeuren (who plays mostly on the second half of the album) generally does a better job than the other drummer (Ryan Van Poederooyen). There is a gigantic keyboard/symphonic presence on this album, possibly exceeding the other symphonic ‘extreme’ metal works of the year (By bands like Septic Flesh, Mayan, and Fleshgod Apocalypse), and this is where of the melodies come from. Said melodies alternate between extreme metal riffing, of the type you’d hear in SYL, and the pop/musical theater ones that you don’t hear much outside of Devin Townsend… or in actual pop music and musical theater, but whatever.
As to whether you’ll like it – it’s theatrical, gigantic, has an immature sense of humor, and is physically exhausting to listen to in its entirety. Fans of Townsend already have this album, especially if they liked his more recent works, like Ziltoid the Omniscient (who makes a ‘cameo’ in “The Mighty Masturbator). Fans of the other symphonic extreme metal would probably enjoy it, as well, as long as they didn’t get offended by the silliness. The rest of you, on the other hand, probably shouldn’t start here, or for that matter, with any of the 4 “project” albums. They really aren’t representative of Devy’s overall style, as they seemingly intend to explore different styles of music. Moreover, the Project strikes me is a reboot of Townsend’s first “quadrilogy” (Biomech, Infinity, Physicist, Terria). One of those albums is probably a good place to start; while they differ significantly in style, those four explore similar concepts to their corresponding Project albums while being significantly more accessible. Ziltoid the Omniscient and Strapping Young Lad’s 1997 album, City also make good starting points. But if you’re not into following advice, by all means start here. Just don’t come complaining to me when you find it’s too real for you.
Highlights: “Juular”, “Planet of the Apes”, “The Mighty Masturbator”, “Pandemic”