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DEVIN TOWNSEND

Experimental/Post Metal • Canada


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Devin Townsend biography
DEVIN TOWNSEND, possibly more widely known as the frontman for the extreme metal act STRAPPING YOUNG LAD, began creating solo albums in 1997.

Sometimes referred to as the 'Mad Scientist of Metal', TOWNSEND produces a wide variety of music. This ranges from soft ambience designed, as he has stated, to put the listener to sleep, to high levels of thrash and extreme metal reminiscent of SYL.
His works often feature a 'wall of sound', built by adding many layers of guitars and keyboards that are playing in unison or harmony. The end result is a number of carefully produced and mixed albums that favor high-end sound systems.

His first solo album, 'Ocean Machine: Biomech' (1997), was actually originally simply titled 'Biomech' and the band project labeled OCEAN MACHINE. However, on subsequent releases in most countries, the one-shot band name was incorporated into the title, and TOWNSEND's name was affixed to the record. Next came his first solo album proper, 1998's 'Infinity'. However, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and suffering with severe depression, TOWNSEND left the album only partly finished, filling in the song gaps with other demos. Rebounding from this struggle, he wrote 'Physicist' in 2000, creating a sort of pop-metal release featuring the members of his band STRAPPING YOUNG LAD. His 2001 project, 'Terria', features some of his most complicated and deep production, incorporating many sounds from nature into the recording, and stands as one of his most well-known and most critically acclaimed albums.

His next solo project, THE DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND, began in 2003 with the release of 'Accelerated Evolution'. Adding drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen, guitarist Brian Waddell, bassist Mike Young, and keyboardist Dave Young, TOWNSEND decided to start releasing albums once more with a full-time band rather than merely studio musicians. Taking a dramatic turn from the style of 'Terria', TOWNSEND adopted a much more band-oriented feel, reducing the amount of atmosphere and increasing the level of accessibility of the music.

As a side project during this time, TOWNSEND stitched together the fierce ambient 'Devlab' album in 2004. The line-up of THE DEVIN TOWNSEND BAND continued for several years as a functional touring outfit. The collaboration concluded with the 2006 album 'Synchestra' - though this release marked the first time the same lineup had been present for two albums in a row. That same year, he released 'The Hummer', another ...
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DeconstructionDeconstruction
Inside Out U.S. 2011
Audio CD$8.95
$8.32 (used)
InfinityInfinity
Extra tracks
Inside Out U.S. 2003
Audio CD$9.99
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Presents: Ziltoid the OmniscientPresents: Ziltoid the Omniscient
Inside Out 2007
Audio CD$11.49
$80.14 (used)
SynchestraSynchestra
Inside Out U.S. 2006
Audio CD$8.78
$3.95 (used)
TerriaTerria
Extra tracks
Inside Out Music 2003
Audio CD$15.00
$15.86 (used)
PhysicistPhysicist
Inside Out U.S. 2003
Audio CD$11.79
$12.95 (used)
KiKi
Inside Out Music 2009
Audio CD$11.52
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DEVIN TOWNSEND shows & tickets


  • Devin Townsend Project presents: The Return of Ziltoid on 13 Apr 2015

DEVIN TOWNSEND discography


Ordered by release date | Showing ratings (top albums) | Help Progarchives.com to complete the discography and add albums

DEVIN TOWNSEND top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

4.06 | 225 ratings
Ocean Machine: Biomech
1997
3.67 | 159 ratings
Infinity
1998
3.01 | 117 ratings
Physicist
2000
4.23 | 528 ratings
Terria
2001
3.91 | 179 ratings
Accelerated Evolution (The Devin Townsend Band)
2003
2.23 | 65 ratings
Devlab
2004
4.06 | 289 ratings
Synchestra (The Devin Townsend Band)
2006
2.61 | 61 ratings
Hummer
2006
4.20 | 460 ratings
Ziltoid the Omniscient
2007
3.83 | 260 ratings
Ki (Devin Townsend Project)
2009
3.90 | 268 ratings
Addicted (Devin Townsend Project)
2009
3.90 | 348 ratings
Deconstruction (Devin Townsend Project)
2011
3.83 | 288 ratings
Ghost (Devin Townsend Project)
2011
4.00 | 244 ratings
Epicloud (Devin Townsend Project)
2012
3.79 | 114 ratings
Casualties of Cool
2014
3.62 | 69 ratings
Z
2014

DEVIN TOWNSEND Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.41 | 17 ratings
Official Bootleg
1999
3.48 | 22 ratings
Unplugged
2011
4.54 | 37 ratings
By A Thread - Live In London 2011
2012
4.76 | 30 ratings
The Retinal Circus
2013

DEVIN TOWNSEND Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

4.57 | 23 ratings
The Retinal Circus
2013

DEVIN TOWNSEND Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.38 | 16 ratings
Ass Sordid Demos I
1999
3.33 | 12 ratings
Ass Sordid Demos II
2004
4.59 | 17 ratings
Contain Us
2011

DEVIN TOWNSEND Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

3.57 | 34 ratings
Christeen + 4 Demos
1999

DEVIN TOWNSEND Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Casualties of Cool by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2014
3.79 | 114 ratings

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Casualties of Cool
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Welcome all. Welcome to a story about a traveller who becomes trapped on a barren moon that feeds off his fear. A traveller who discovers and old radio with which he can hear old songs played. He becomes enamoured by the voices and from them he gains the strength to overcome his fears. He becomes aware of a woman's spirit here, too, and with his strength, he frees both her and himself. Yes, a bit weird, I know.

What began as the next installation in the Devin Townsend Project became a project of its own. Casualties of Cool, featuring Devin Townsend and Ch Aimee Dorval sharing lead vocals, is in the words of Devin himself, 'like haunted Johnny Cash music.' Indeed the first few songs will surprise anyone acquainted with Devin's usual brand of work, even if 'Ghost' is the only album you've ever heard. Devin has recreated that lonely but rugged soul feeling of old Johnny Cash so well that it often feels as though the guitar and drum parts (supplied beautifully by Morgan Agren) were lifted directly off old albums and neatly slotted in with Devin's soft, low whispering vocal and Ch's sultry and dusky voice. Add some eerie space effects and haunting wind sounds, a bit of saxophone and some wooden flute courtesy of Kat Epple off of 'Ghost', and not to forget the background radio voices, and you've got nearly all of the album summed up.

As with 'Ghost', there's no hint of heavy metal on here at all. The songs are this gentle quick-paced shuffle of drums and reverb-steeped, 50's clean electric guitar and sometimes spacey effects style, or slow and gentle and moody. One of the highlights for me is the third track, 'Flight', which is simply a wonderful example of her vocal prowess, which is saying a lot as she really shines in many songs. Her performance is beautiful, and listening to it I feel like I would want to see and hear her perform this live and I would be transfixed to her. If I could compare her vocals to anyone it would be Dusty Springfield. Ch Aimee has that same allure. At times I can see her on stage in a small club, a tight-fitting dress that goes from her neck to her ankles, her hair tied back in a neat bun, her eyes closed before the old Sinatra-style mic, and her arms at her sides, her body swaying gently to the music with a motion that goes from the subtle motion of her knees, and not her hips. Ch Aimee appeared on Devin's album 'Ki' but she was not nearly well-enough used for her talent as she is here. Though small club jazz is not my usual preference, if she were singing I would want to hear it.

This is a fairly mellow album even when it is upbeat, and there are plenty of ambient music moments, particularly on 'Pier' and the latter half of 'Deathscope'. 'Hejda' and 'Pure' give us more of Kat Epple's wooden flute and are the closest moments on this album to 'Ghost'. I find that tracks 1 to 9 keep that spacey country rock sound throughout most of the songs, but from track 10 the atmosphere changes to more acoustic guitar mostly. 'The Bridge' is another standout moment with over 8 minutes of incredible music that is quite different from the rest of the album. It has Devin and a choir singing along with acoustic guitar and strings. The music ventures into a 'Kashmir'-type of eastern sound at times and the voices of the choir sometimes rise and build and then ease back again. As I was walking home listening to this yet again the other night, I felt as though a strong invisible hand had pressed supportively against my back, lifted me slowly off the ground a few centimetres, and gingerly set me down again. When the voices and music reach their most powerful moments, it almost sounds like this was intended for 'Ziltoid: Dark Matters', but the swell of energy subsides once again.

I bought the double album disc which features a second disc of alternate versions, outtakes, and material intended for 'Ghost 2'. I have actually only listened to that CD once through. It was simply too much music along with several other Devin Townsend and Strapping Young Lad albums that were piling into my mailbox at that time. So, I can't comment honestly on that. But the digipak is very artistic. The CD booklet is mostly several double-spread pages illustrating the landscape of the barren moon, which is only rocks, bone, and dust. We also see the feet and hands of our traveller as he sits looking at photos he found in a wooden box. I found the bones and dust interesting because at the end of 'Ziltoid: Dark Matters' narrator Bill Courage mentions a lone moon of bones and dust.

It is incredible to think that Devin released three albums in 2014: 'Casualties of Cool' and the double album of 'Zed Squared' with 'Ziltoid: Dark Matters' and the Devin Townsend Project's 'Sky Blue'. Add the Casualties bonus disc along with 'Epicloud' and the bonus disc 'Epiclouder' and 'Ghost' and 'Deconstruction' plus the two discs of bonus material on the 'Contain Us' boxset and you can see that Devin has been exceedingly prolific in the studio between 2011 and 2014. His latest post on his website mentions a few other projects he wants to do if he can arrange the time, including, 'a bass-driven apocalypse record, a meditative record, a symphony, more Casualties, more DTP and a kind of big band thing.' I also read something about an Icelandic choir somewhere, too. Whatever it is he gets around to doing, I'm sure it's going to be a well-crafted piece of work. As for 'Casualties of Cool', if you are in the mood for this it is really out there.

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 Unplugged by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Live, 2011
3.48 | 22 ratings

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Unplugged
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by HunterD

3 stars Devin Townsend is an interesting beast when doing acoustic interpretations of his songs, he's never been afraid to tackle his heavier material without an electric guitar, even when it doesn't really work. For this record, you won't be hearing him bust out "Juular" or "Love?," but he does make some gutsy choices, such as "Funeral" off of "Ocean Machine." For the most part, though, he sticks to material that lends itself to acoustic interpretations, consisting mostly of material from "Ki" and "Ghost," so this release appeals mostly to fans of the new age side of Devin. For the crowd-pleaser, he finishes it off with his "More Than Words-esque" ballad, "Ih-Ah!" A soft treat for the fanatical DevHead.

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 Physicist by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.01 | 117 ratings

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Physicist
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by HunterD

2 stars Like "Ocean Machine," Devin Townsend's "Physicist" was an album that originally began as a separate project, but ended up as another solo record. Originally envisioned as a band called "Fizzicist," the record was going to be a collaboration between Townsend and Jason Newsted, however Metallica's notorious "no side projects" policy of the era prevented the partnership from happening. Never one to let a music-making opportunity go to waste, Townsend assembled his Strapping Young Lad bandmates in the studio to make "Physicist," an album that is to Strapping what Steve Hackett's "Voyage of the Acolyte" is to Genesis.

The thing that jumps out about "Physicist" is that it's probably Devin's worst-sounding record. His talent as a producer has never been in question, however, by his own admission, the production is completely botched here, with many otherwise good songs marred by murky, muddy sound. Townsend would later rectify this error somewhat, by saving the album's most beautiful and memorable song, "Kingdom," from the slop, giving it a polish for Devin Townsend Project's "Epicloud."

"Physicist" is also a torn album. It wants to be an extreme Strapping Young Lad record, but it also desires that spiritual tone of the final act of "Infinity." Songs like "Namaste," "Victim," and "Material" sound like Strapping Young Lad love songs, while "Death," "Devoid," and "The Complex" seem more comfortable with in their heavy shoes. The big, prog finish comes in the form of "Planet Rain," but it's disappointingly tedious.

Ultimately this is an odd duck in Townsend's solo career, there's plenty here to like, but it feels like rushed and confused as to what it wants to be. It's the one album I that comes to mind in Townsend's output that begs for a remaster to fix the dull production and give some of these songs the spit-shine they need.

What did come to mind when revisiting "Physicist," was that it served to highlight that despite Townsend's neglect toward Strapping Young Lad, the specter of his popular extreme metal project would always haunt him, even long after its death.

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 Infinity by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.67 | 159 ratings

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Infinity
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by HunterD

4 stars The first time I saw Devin Townsend live, I had no idea who he was, I think I'd heard of Strapping Young Lad, but that was about it. When he took the stage, he busted out "Truth" with his band, commanding the audience with his powerful charisma, and I suddenly heard everything that was missing from my life in metal and progressive music at that point in my life. "Truth" was like taking a trip through space, launching me out of the solar system and around the Milky Way. It served as the perfect introduction to Devin Townsend, and it also served as a perfect opener to his first great solo release, "Infinity."

"Infinity" was the first of Townsend's solo albums with Gene Hoglan on the drums, whose presence provides a solid anchor to the proceedings, as a strong drummer with a personality to match Devin's was what "Ocean Machine" needed, but lacked. "Infinity" is also more daring and varied than its predecessor, taking influences from Broadway musicals on "Bad Devil" and "Wild Colonial Boy," and delving into vocal experimentation in the vein of Mike Patton with "Ants." But most importantly, most of the songs feel ironed and pressed, better written and better realized here than before. "Truth" starts us off with an explosive instrumental, before the pop-hooks of "Christeen," into the goofy dance number of "Bad Devil," then finally into the spacey head-banger, "War." Ear-worm after ear-worm.

It's seemingly relentless until "Soul Driven Cadillac" and "Ants" take more experimental asides, before the operatics of "Wild Colonial Boy" and the beauty of "Life is all Dynamics" and "Unity." "Noisy Pink Bubbles" is a coda that recalls Frank Zappa, but "Unity" is such a perfect finisher, you don't need something so strange as a chaser.

Apparently the version of "Infinity" that's out there was put out before it was "finished" due to time constraints, and what the album could have been can be glimpsed on the "Infinity EP." The album that was made is, however, the one that was made, and the power of the songs therein is evident in how they've managed to consistently stick around Townsend's live set. I'd say the songs are perhaps greater than the whole record as a unit, portions of the album seem to go together beautifully ("Life is all Dynamics" and "Unity" could be one song), while songs like "Christeen" and "Bad Devil" feel like independent singles. If there's one thing missing in "Infinity" that "Ocean Machine" had, it's a sense of cohesion, but I suppose that's a problem that comes with releasing a version of the album that isn't the whole you had envisioned.

"Infinity," in its present form, is still a great album, and one of Devin Townsend's signature works that defines this period in his career.

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 Ocean Machine: Biomech by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 1997
4.06 | 225 ratings

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Ocean Machine: Biomech
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by HunterD

3 stars Devin Townsend's own counterpoint to his ferocious, metal-burlesque "City" record with Strapping Young Lad, "Ocean Machine," originally conceived as a band called Ocean Machines, morphed into what became Townsend's first definitive solo effort. It's true that Strapping Young Lad's "Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing" was largely written and recorded by Townsend himself as a solo project, however the album felt like an angry diuresis of ideas following his short stint with Steve Vai, rather than a proper record. His "Cooked on Phonics" album under the moniker "Punky Bruster" is usually credited as the first DT solo album, but it was merely a booger, mockingly flicked at the burgeoning pop punk movement. "Ocean Machine," however, was the first exploration of the musical ideas that would come to define Townsend's varied and prolific solo career.

"Ocean Machine" comes at you with a wave of spiritual electric guitars and Devin's god-like layered vocals that run the gamut of emotions. "Regulator" is a standout heavy track that still manages to stun as an live opener to this day, while "Life" fills the space of the cheesy power ballad (Devin often jokes when he plays this song live that it has lamest guitar solo ever written). But it's the heartache at the heart of "Ocean Machine" that sticks with you, "Night" feels like a lonely car ride in a vibrant, neon cityscape, "Funeral" is filled with spiritual longing, and "The Death of Music," a suspect title if there ever was one, surprises with its air of regret. The final track, "Things Beyond Things," labeled a "bonus track," may actually be the most well realized tune on the album, and sonically reminded me somewhat of his obscure cover of Rush's "Natural Science."

Yet "Ocean Machine" has an unfortunate tendency to ramble with its songs, and the album lacks the cohesion that Gene Hoglan brought to Devin's subsequent solo records, prior to the demise of Strapping Young Lad. Drummers like Hoglan and Ryan Van Poederooyen enjoyed long, fruitful relationships with Townsend because they make magic together. Marty Chapman's drumming on "Ocean Machine," along with everyone else on the record, are swallowed up by Devin's mammoth production. "Seventh Wave" is an opener that shoots for cyclopean awe, but falls short, and the lenghty "Bastard" disappears from memory once it's gone.

Townsend wasn't pleased with how this personal effort was met with a shrug, while Strapping's "City," an over-the- top metal goof, was met with adulation and praise. This seemed to drive Townsend to refine his game, creating more sophisticated records with Hoglan as his muse from the "Ocean Machine" blueprint, which still informs his music to this day on albums like "Sky Blue." It also began his trend of actively fleeing in the face of success, ignoring Strapping Young Lad, his most successful project, until 2003, before pulling the plug on SYL entirely in 2007.

While it has some classic Devin cuts, "Ocean Machine" is an album for people who are digging deep into his sizable catalog to see where some of his best ideas came from. It's not a starting place for the new, and it will not interest the casual fan, but it is a worthy entry that shows an artist shedding the shields of humor and anger in an effort to find himself and his potential, in order to create something genuine and sincere.

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 The Retinal Circus by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover DVD/Video, 2013
4.57 | 23 ratings

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The Retinal Circus
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by HunterD

4 stars "The Retinal Circus" is the sort of in-depth, live retrospective that a fan of any artist dreams of, and Devin Townsend does it only as he can, in a silly, surrealist manner. Steve Vai narrates a loose narrative about a dreamer named Harold, tied together by selections from Devin's considerable body of work, and the proceedings are acted out by a Cirque du Soliel slew of acrobats, choir members, and dancers.

When Devin dives into one of his crazy concepts, be it the coffee-obsessed Ziltoid, or the boney landscapes of Casualties of Cool, the proceedings always manage to garner a commitment from his fan base. This is why he can announce something as off-kilter as Casualties, and his fans are more than happy to fork over five times the asking price.

This is why Devin needs to learn not to blink.

"The Retinal Circus" offers a perfect live audio and video experience for the fans. You get the sunny stuff from albums like "Epicloud" and "Ocean Machine," some dark stuff from records such as "Deconstruction," and the goofy stuff from "Ziltoid the Omnicient." God bless him, he even does a couple of Strapping Young Lad songs for headbangers who miss that stuff, and we know he probably didn't want to do that, but thank the good Lord, he grinned and screamed a couple of those old favorites for us anyway. There's nothing from great records like "Terria," but you can't cram 'em all in there.

Yet Devin doesn't seem sure if the whole concept of the show is working or not, and retreats into self-depreciation in that skittish manner he tends to do in interviews. No one's asking him to show Kanye West-levels of confidence in his work, but Devin seems like a guy who has difficulty taking a compliment. He doesn't need to slag off his live concept to appease those who may not think it's cool, it's icing on the music, but he does anyway as an unnecessary defense mechanism. It's the one thing that mars an otherwise brilliant showcase for his unique career.

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 Ziltoid the Omniscient by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.20 | 460 ratings

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Ziltoid the Omniscient
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by TCat
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Mr. Townsend, with the birth of a child, had decided to lay off the heavy touring schedules for a while, which meant that he was going to do some solo work and put "Strapping Young Lad" on hiatus for a while. So, he makes this album, all by himself. It made a lot of his fans hesitant, especially when they started to find out that it was comedic concept album. What in the world is this?

Well, anyone else would have probably ended up with a cheesy sounding album trying to mix comedy and loud and heavy progressive tech metal together. But not DT. Even though this is full of humor, DT gives it all the emotion, orchestration and heart that he has given all of his albums.

One thing I noticed on this album, right off the bat, is that he has mixed the vocals closer to the front on most of the songs. The reason for this, I would assume, is to bring the importance of the story to the foreground. Truly funny lyrics, serious heavy metal with some quieter passages throughout, and so much heart that this is still an album to take seriously. As per usual, with DT's music, you get the rest of the instruments mixed at pretty much the same level, unless there is something that needs to stand out. This always gives me the feeling of listening not so much to a rock band as listening to a rock orchestra. His music is very symphonic most times, and it certainly is here on this album, and he can do this without using any traditional symphonic instruments. The sound is full, and even on the softer and slower passages, there is a lot going on. This time around, it is all being done by one man, DT himself.

The highlights in the story to me are when Ziltoid is pondering things and, even with his comic sounding deep voice, the delivery gives the character so much believability. Sure it's silly, but if this creature existed, it wouldn't be silly in his heart, it is serious business. Of course, another highlight throughout the album is the symphonic feeling that you get from DT's music, like I mentioned before. The harmonies are spot on again, they are created by layering of course since DT is the only participant on this album. I've always loved DT's sense of harmonics. I also love the use of dynamics, and DT knows how to make dynamics work to create power in his music, even when the music is at it's most beautiful.

The one minor problem I have with this album is the lack of variety that DT's best albums have. I really expected heaviness from this album because of the story line. I know that extreme metal is DT's intention for this album, so that's how it is. I still love the album, but I don't consider it as good as "Terria" for example. It's not that I don't love heavy music, because I do, but I do also expect more frequent use of dynamics because I feel it makes the music more powerful. DT usually takes care of this issue quite well in the albums I like more in his discography, and when it happens in this album, it is most welcome, but I would have liked to hear more dynamism. That's it and I know that is a personal preference, so if you don't mind all of the loudness, then you will love this album, as long as you don't mind the comedic factor.

So, overall, this is an excellent effort by DT. It has the traits you've come to expect from him. I think it's great that he still keeps his high expectations even on a not-so-serious concept. I still give this a strong 4 star rating, because I still can't help but love DT's music and I have always been attracted to it ever since I first heard of him (thanks to the co-worker in Greeley, CO that pushed me to listen to more of his music back in 2008). No lack of emotion in this album and no lack of progressive metal here either.

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 Ziltoid the Omniscient by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2007
4.20 | 460 ratings

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Ziltoid the Omniscient
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by Pastmaster

5 stars Devin Townsend-Ziltoid the Omniscient

I started listening to Devin Townsend about 5 months ago, and boy was I missing out!

Ziltoid the Omniscient is a concept album about an alien named Ziltoid who wants to travel to earth in order to find 'Their ultimate cup of coffee'. They then give him a cup of coffee, but he declares it as foul-tasting. So he gives the order to attack earth.

What a concept, I never thought I would see such a comedic concept coming from a progressive metal artist. Even though the story is sure to bring some laughter, it isn't just the story that makes this a masterpiece.

The music ranges from many different styles, from progressive metal, to ambient, to power metal, to space rock influences, to even death metal. With the short intro 'ZTO', the combination of death screams and operatic vocals fits very well. 'By Your Command', one of my favorites, has more combinations of death metal vocals and clean vocals with the drums pounding throughout. Surprisingly the more space-infused passages contrast very well with the powerful riffing and angry vocals. The bridge has great powerful riffing and space-infused keyboards. The end of the song is a among one of the best headbanger moments I've ever heard. It then flows smoothly into the song 'Ziltoidia Attaxx!' which shows Townsend using mostly death screams. Probably my favorite song is 'Hyperdrive', where Townsend shows his powerful soft vocals. The way his vocals flow perfectly with the driving guitar riffs. The thrash-death track 'Planet Smasher' is another song that stands out.

One thing that really amazes me, is that he plays every instrument himself. That is quite an amazing feat with such a complex album.

Overall, this album should appeal to most metalheads. If you don't enjoy a sense of humor when you're listening to music, it may not be for you but I still find this an essential album for many a metal collection. Certainly one of my favorite progressive metal albums of all time.

(Originally written for www.MetalMusicArchives.com 5 months ago.)

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 Deconstruction (Devin Townsend Project) by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.90 | 348 ratings

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Deconstruction (Devin Townsend Project)
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars So, this is the intense and chaotic progressive metal album that comprises one fourth of the original concept of the Devin Townsend Project (which has since progressed into six albums with "Epicloud" and also "Sky Blue" from the "Zed Squared" double disc). Having four of Strapping Young Lad's albums (Devin's other band from 1995 to 2006), I was expecting something really similar because the reviews I had read suggested so. Devin said in an interview that this is where he wanted to take Strapping Young Lad, and in another interview he said in response to a question about reforming SYL that "This is the kind of metal I want to do now".

Considering all this, I found my expectations were not met. Instead, I was faced with a mountain of creative music that I realized was going to take some time to explore and become familiar with. There is only one track here that I feel is similar to SYL's music, "Poltergeist" (an interesting title as the simultaneously released sister album is entitled "Ghost"). The rest of the album covers a surprising range of music, though still in the metal mould, from "Praise the Lowered" with lots of mellow and dark electronica to the 16-minute plus "The Mighty Masturbator" with various metal shades as well as a club music section, to the wild theatrical ride of the title track.

Fans of Devin will know that he has often worked with female vocalists (at least five that I can think of) because he writes music with a certain vocal quality or sound in mind that only woman can provide. He once said that he doesn't need to work with male vocalists because he can do most of what he needs himself. On this album, however, he wanted to make a real metal statement and called in quite a host of male guest vocalists. At first, I find the guests are not so easy to pick out. Devin is an accomplished screamer, growler, shouter, and sneerer, as well as singer, howler, whisperer, and crooner. After several listens now, I can better identify the guest vocal performances, particularly Oderus Urungus on the title track, Ihsahn on "Juular", and Paul Masvidal and Joe Duplantier on "Sumeria". Some have complained that the guest vocalists weren't used to their full capacity; however, I only feel the Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth has taken the most time to pick out considering his vocal talents.

The album alternates between shorter songs ranging between 3:29 and 6:37, and longer ones ranging between 9:27 and 16:38. My general impression of the album is that it is a precursor to the "Zed Squared" disc, "Ziltoid Dark Matters" because it includes an orchestra and choir and in parts sounds like a metal musical. It is loosely a story about a man seeking the secrets of the universe and finds himself in Hell before the Devil who offers him a cheeseburger which contains all he seeks to know. But he can't eat the burger as he's a "vege-ma- tarian" and so his quest ends in vain. I believe the message here is that we can't expect to solve life's mysteries as long as we cling to a single ideal. The limitations we impose upon ourselves will forever blind us to the truth.

The music is generally dark, brooding at times, full of rage at others, and very intense. At other times though, there are some slower moments, some of which are rather beautiful. The height of the theatrics lie in three songs: "Juular", "The Mighty Masturbator" and "Deconstruction". "Juular" features a choir singing back up and if you've seen the video with the train riding through a hellish landscape, you'll understand how the choir's vocal contribution suits the image of a train. When Ihsahn sings the chorus, the choir and music may inspire images of a very dark scene in a Tim Burton movie. "The Mighty Masturbator", in spite of its humorous title, is mostly quite serious, though the part about saving the world features some goofy spoken dialogue. Ziltoid himself makes a guest appearance here, first in voice only and later announcing that he is indeed Ziltoid the Omniscient. There's this crazy club music section where Greg Puciato sings "We praise God. He lives inside of us," and later "We praise ourselves," and finally, "We praise Satan". I find this part really cool to listen to and the meaning of the three statements together could be interpreted rather deeply and philosophically. The song concludes with a carnival atmosphere and Ziltoid introducing some freak show characters like the four-face boy, the man with seventeen testicles, and the Mankee Brothers who provide flatulence free of charge.

The wackiest, zaniest song on the album is the title track. Beginning with two scientists discussing the brain in a toilet (Devin's toilet humour fetish in full force here), the song seems to jump from theme to theme, mostly including wild, over-the-top guitar soloing, machinegun fire drumming, a choir (who sing "All beef patties, pickles onions on a sesame seed bun" in one part), and some crazy dialogue provided by Devin and Oderus (and I'm sure a third party). Fredrik Thordendal of Messhuga contributes a crazy guitar solo, too. This song really allows Devin to indulge in his elementary school boy humour with plenty of farts, toilet sounds, misplaced emphasis in the word happiness (hapPENIS), and some nose clearing and bizarre vocal sounds. It is the craziest song I have ever heard that still pretends to be serious.

I can't say there's anything I don't like about this album. True it will not impress everyone. People who don't like heavy metal will best keep away, and people who prefer their metal a bit simpler or more technical or more serious can also spend their money elsewhere. But this is one very imaginative album and one that is slowly growing on me. Recommended for the adventurous.

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 Ghost (Devin Townsend Project) by TOWNSEND, DEVIN album cover Studio Album, 2011
3.83 | 288 ratings

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Ghost (Devin Townsend Project)
Devin Townsend Experimental/Post Metal

Review by FragileKings
Prog Reviewer

4 stars If you were one who followed Devin Townsend's career from early on then no doubt the first instalment of the Devin Townsend Project series, 'Ki', was a surprise. Known for his various approaches to heavy metal, this album took a fairly big step away from what he was known for writing and recording. Yet the next two albums were heavy and loud, 'Addicted' having a strong pop flair but still being intense and 'Deconstruction' being a flagrant and shameless display of progressive metal. However, there was little that could have prepared the listener and fan for 'Ghost'.

Right from the beginning, you know that this is different. Flute! Clean electric guitar. A slow and easy, pretty melody and a song that makes you think of dreamily floating through soft summer clouds or soaking in a light meditative mood in a hot bath. 'Fly' sets the mood of the album but in no way defines it. From 'Heart Baby' and 'Feather' we only begin a journey through various shades and tones of light, beautiful, peaceful music with Devin's soft and lower register vocals, clean electric guitar, Kat Epple's flute and woodwinds, Katrina Natale's beautiful additional vocals, Mike St-Jean's light and subtle drumming, and even some banjo by Devin himself. Dave Young and Devin also provide plenty of synthesizer, sometimes soft and atmospheric, sometimes more like electronic relaxation music. Though iTunes has this album listed as metal, it is only by association with the Devin Townsend name. 'Ki' had its heavy moments. 'Ghost' is light years away from anything heavy or metal.

As with just about any Devin Townsend album, the music journeys through different moods and styles. 'Kawaii' and 'Ghost' give us acoustic guitar and strumming and are a little more upbeat, with 'Ghost' being that kind of song where you know the refrain and can sing it over and over and think it's beautiful and soul stirring without ever considering the rest of the song. 'Ghost' is a refrain of a melody with only subtle variations in the lyrics, a very light, warm spring day on the green grass in the park with the sun above kind of pretty song for wearing a hippy headband and going barefoot. The upbeat feel to the album here gets a bit more boost with 'Blackberry' which has some great folk banjo and guitar and reaches possibly the loudest point of the entire album just at the climax.

The next three tracks move away from the acoustic strumming and turn toward atmospheric electronic synthesizer sounds accompanied by more woodwinds. 'Monsoon', 'Dark Matters' and 'Texada' focus more on the electronic and keyboard side in what could be considered part three of this album's musical journey. 'Texada' is of particular interest to me because it is the name of an island between the British Columbia mainland and Vancouver Island, my hometown being just outside of Vancouver. Though it was not inhabited by the Coast Salish peoples, it was frequently visited by them for hunting and fishing. The tracks begins with what I will presume is a Coast Salish man saying something in his native tongue and he later returns as the track winds down, speaking about something which I wish I could understand. The synthesizer in this song at times almost comes across as forceful and strong compared to the rest of the album, almost approaching a pop sound.

'Seams' is a return to the acoustic strumming, even more gentle and a bit melancholy, and then the last two tracks are long, slowly developing pieces with further emphasis on calmness, relaxing and meditative atmosphere, and ambience, including seagulls and waves.

Some people have said that the album seems a little too long, especially some of the tracks over 9 minutes that repeat the same musical theme with little variation. It's true that the flute solo in 'Feather' seems to meander for a while, the keyboard themed passage in 'Texada' seems to go on with little variation for a bit, and the repeated lyrics of 'As You Were' (Money, honey, bloody mary, money, honey, might as well marry the ghost) are iterated once or twice too many for my taste. These are the points that I would say are the only detrimental features of the music on the album, and they are for the most part inconsequential as there are times I don't notice them.

The album is very well done. Devin never comes across as someone who is attempting to do a different style. He just does it and does it well. This is truly a stand out album in his career, though for certain he has a few. But nothing compares to this (I admit I haven't heard 'The Hummer' but I suspect there's not all this flute and acoustic guitar). Wikipedia describes this as New Age, progressive rock, experimental, and ambient. I detect only the faintest hints of any rock and very light rock at that. I would call it progressive music. The above labels tell you pretty much what you can expect to hear. I very much enjoy this album.

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