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Devin Townsend - Devin Townsend Project: Ki CD (album) cover


Devin Townsend

Experimental/Post Metal

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4 stars In 2007 (shortly after the release of Ziltoid the Omniscient) Devin Townsend decided to take a break (of indeterminate length) from the music biz. Now, less than 2 years later, we find that no less than 4 Devin Townsend albums are on the way with the possibility of all 4 seeing a release in 2009. If you've taken a shine to any of Dev's earlier releases, be it Terria or Ziltoid or Infinity or whatever, it'll certainly seem appealing that his "hiatus" output exceeds that of most other artists and that the quality is not lacking in any of these releases. In a way, Devin is the Zappa of our times.

Ki is a mixed bag of different styles of music, helped in a large part by the new crew of session musicians accompanying him on this release. Most noticeable was the conversion to a more rock/jazz-oriented drum sound/style. Gene Hoglan had become such a mainstay in the Devy sound that any deviation from his precise kick-drum style (or synthesised copies of) seemed unusual at first. Duris Maxwell's restrained performance added much to this album. He didn't hit the skins a lot, but had a good feel for the rhythm that would bring the most out of the song.

On first listen it would seem that this is a lower-content album than Devin's earlier efforts. Yet for any given song there is the undercurrent of post-production goodness that will reward the careful listener. You'll agree if you have experienced the joy of noticing a new element in an Ocean Machine or Terria song that had, heretofore, gone unnoticed. Ki found an understanding of the power of space and restraint that reminded me at times of Talk Talk's album The Spirit of Eden.

3 or 4 of the tracks feature the female vocals of Ché Dorval. On my first listen I was damn opposed. Damn, damn opposed. But she quickly warmed to my ears and I found myself enjoying her contribution very much (unlike the unwelcome intrusion of Anna Livingstone on Anathema's album A Natural Disaster). Her vocal style is not that far removed from Devin's and adds texture to an already more substantial effort.

There are interludes on Ki that would not seem out of place on the Devlab album although maybe not reaching the uneasy heights of oddity achieved by that album. There is an undeniable climax on this album during the song 'Ki' which will have even the most casual listener staring into space with awe. Think you can listen to this album as background music? Think again, mwaah ha ha ha!!!

In short, if you found some joy in some of Devin's earlier work be sure to vote with your wallet when Ki is released on 25th of May.

Report this review (#211524)
Posted Friday, April 17, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Although I first heard this album a while before it was released, I decided to hold fire on reviewing it until I had heard it at decent quality through a good audio system; after all, if anyone's recordings reward those with decent audio hardware, Townsend's do. I am glad that I did so.

Ki is quite an unusual album, especially for the artist behind SYL, but I would hardly say it has come out of the blue. The way in which Townsend has constantly moved forwards and sought out new things in his career is highly commendable, and shows how much talent this man has. So the fact that Ki is different from any other Townsend album is pretty much to be expected, and I expect the same thing from the next three albums this year.

The first thing you notice when you listen to Ki is that it is very quiet, very subdued. The second thing you notice is how melodic it is. There are a lot of songs here that remind of moments like Mental Tan on Synchestra or Down and Under on Terria that were beautiful because they were isolated. Here, the beauty is created because the mood is sustained. Ki never really lets it all go, never goes fully forte, although it threatens to do so for a great deal of the time. Songs like Disruptr and Heaven send are as heavy as it gets; there is nothing to compare to Color Your World here.

Contrary to what I had heard from some quarters prior to listening to it properly, Ki is not less subtle or less deep than previous work by Townsend. Yes there is far less compression, and yes the production is far more open, but it is still very much present. There are a lot of aural goodies tucked away here for the patient listener that are only really revealed when Ki is played on competant equipment; and that's been true of every Townsend album from Ocean Machine onwards.

In terms of the actual quality of songwriting on offer here, I think this is more or less as good as Townsend has ever been. Yes, there might not be quite the bombast of Terria or Ziltoid, but there is still drama here; it is just that the drama is more gently put across.

Report this review (#218321)
Posted Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Brilliant New Direction for a Modern Genius

Ki is the first of a four album set from the newly sober Devin Townsend. This actually made me nervous, for though I am happy that a hero is pursuing a healthier life, other artists have sometimes floundered trying to explore their creativity clean.

I shouldn't have worried. Ki is the most innovative album Devy has made in awhile. Its sound, though recognizable as Devin Townsend owing to his voice and guitar tuning, is otherwise very different from anything he's done before. First of all, the mix is wide open, more spare and open than probably any DT album ever. The guitars are often clean for the majority of the song, and even distorted section lacks the huge wall of sound that had become a Devy trademark. Ironically, one of the descriptors that has come to my mind in describing the new album is "Chris Isaak on acid."

Others have criticized this album for being too mellow, but there is actually a very wide range of emotions on this disc. Early tracks like "Disruptr" and "Gato" are extremely intense with the latter being among Devy's scariest. At the other end of the spectrum, we have spacey ambient tracks like "Terminal" and "Winter." There are plenty of bluesy sections (which frequently start sounding very run-of-the-mill and then morph into something insane) and a female vocalist who actually ups the intensity and compliments Devin's voice quite well. There is also a nice dose of Devy's fun-loving humor, with the train-boogie riff and Elvis impersonation of "Trainfire" leading the charge. The title track is perhaps the closest to vintage Devy with a slowly building stack of musical layers climaxing in the ocean of sonic bombardment we've come to love.

On first listen, there are multiple times I found myself thinking "What the hades is he doing?" Every time, the song would evolve or turn into something strange and beautiful in a way that only Devin could have done. On repeated listens, my regard for the album has steadily grown and grown. I definitely advise giving the album some time with an open mind, for the rewards are great. I don't think it reaches masterpiece level (some of the ambient bits are overlong), but overall it is a brilliant CD and highly recommended.

Report this review (#219690)
Posted Wednesday, June 3, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars The new Devin Townsend album, Ki, from the newly formed Devin Townsend Project has been in heavy rotation over the past weeks and I have to say that I'm very happy with it. I recommend it to anyone who likes a bit of experimentation with their metal although I hardly consider this a metal album. Ki has many elements that make it so genuine and fresh.

Townsend of course makes his signature Walls of sound that start feint but end up enveloping the listener in powerful emotions. His voice is exceptional here using many techniques and styles to carve the air with real expertise. His guitar playing also brings a lot of personality and style to the record with one of his most interesting and entrancing guitar solos to date.

One word to describe Ki would be mellow. Though the common mood is somber it has it's fun moments (he does an Elvis Presley impersonation in one song). It has it's intense moments (screaming even) but always finds it's way back down. It's more down than up which is a little unusual for Devin Townsend though it definitely fits with the rest of his catalog.

I recommend this album to anyone who wants ambition, emotions, musicality and grace with a tinge of metal in their musical diet.

One of Townsend's best in my humble opinion.

Report this review (#219994)
Posted Saturday, June 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars When I first heard Devin Townsend singing on the Vai project "Sex and Religion" way back in 1993, I knew there was something special about him. And this was based on his singing alone (little did I realise at the time that he'd go on to become a wonderful guitar player in his own right, not to mention an amazing producer and arranger with seemingly boundless musical creativity).

His singing was so unique and I was eager to see how his career would progress from that point. Given the style of music on the Vai record, I was completely surprised by the direction he then took with his first solo outing, which came two years later. This was, of course, under the Strapping Young Lad moniker, and it was the sonic equivalent of giving someone the middle finger. And them some! Later, SYL would become a fully fledged band that was about as musically chaotic and extreme as you could get (without resorting to making just pure noise).

For those that have followed Devin's career, as I have, you would know why SYL was formed and why the curtain came down on that band a few years ago. It represented the red or chaotic side of Devin's personality and he no longer found it possible to maintain that rage or be in a headspace where creating such ferocious music was possible, without being forced. Sure, SYL wasn't Devin's only musical outlet, with several other projects coming out over the years including Ocean Machine, Infinity, Terria, Devlab, The Hummer, Eko and The Devin Townsend Band, all of which were markedly less "red" than SYL. Actually, these projects were all different colours entirely.

With the exception of Devlab, The Hummer and Eko, which were more spacey, ambient, non-organic instrument projects, Devin has always injected a decent amount of heavy (or "Hevy") sounds into his music. It was just never as intense as SYL. What these projects all represented though was the range of musical moods he was capable of creating. He just happened to do the heavy stuff very well.

With the demise of SYL, Devin then created "Ziltoid the Omniscient", a most amusing but incredibly enjoyable concept record. It was almost too ridiculous to be taken seriously, at least conceptually, but musically it contained some beautiful moments such as the emotion-laden final track "The Greys". Devin played virtually all the instruments on the record too but there was never a tour in support of the album. That wasn't surprising though, as Devin had other priorities, namely raising a child and the responsibilities associated with such a life-changing event.

So we went without any new music from Devin for a couple of years, almost as if he'd gone into hiding. In some ways, this is exactly what he did, which I understand was necessary for him to rediscover music and learn to love it again. He'd simply become burnt out by the "process" of making music and being a character of sorts within the metal community...

A couple of months ago, Devin emerged from his own personal wilderness to give us the first taste of his latest creation, "Ki". The word "mellow" immediately came to mind after listening to the 60 seconds of music on offer, but that wasn't to say it was bad. It was just....mellow! Having become so used to Devin making heavy music, it seemed to lack that power. I would wait for the album proper before passing my final verdict though.

Having played the album a number of times now in different settings and environments, the word "mellow" continues to come to mind. However, the beauty of the record has also begun to shine through and it's really unlike anything Devin's ever done. Gone are the regular heavy sounds and "wall of noise" sonic architecture (mostly). Instead we have clean guitars and some of the most restrained vocals he's ever exhibited in his entire career. It almost sounds like a different person here at times.

On a couple of tracks, "Gato", "Heaven Send" and "Trainfire", there is a different person featured actually, by the name of Che Dorval, and her voice is simply stunning! She provides a really soulful voice that compliments Devin's own singing and arrangements perfectly. I believe she's only in her mid-twenties, but you'd think she's much older based on her very mature singing. It's actually one of the highlights of this album.

The album opens fairly sedately with a nice laid back guitar track, "A Monday", which has a dreamy quality about it, as the notes echo with each strum. Unlike the DTB album "Synchestra" which started off mellow before launching into some pretty heavy sounds, this one stays fairly restrained. As Devin has pointed out in recent interviews though, restraint is the whole point of this record. And this is exemplified perfectly in the tracks, "Coast", "Disruptr", "Gato" and "Heaven Send."

These tracks commence calmly enough, with a mellow groove and easy-going pace. However, they all exhibit a couple of Devin's trademark sounds, with either layers of voices in the background (including the chaotic, angry voices he does so well) or instrumentation gradually building up and building up... before suddenly ending. You get drawn into the magnetic pull, only to be let go of just as you were becoming comfortable with it. It's one giant musical tease, and if Ki was a woman, she'd drive any heterosexual male crazy.

Devin's new band is a rather curious collection of players of various ages, none of whom he's worked with before except for the keyboardist, Dave Young (who was part of the Devin Townsend Band). Devin found the bass player, Jean, in the local music store where he's a department manager and the two connected on a personal level. For drums, Devin utilised the seasoned talents of Duris Maxwell, a 62 year old who has played with Heart, Jefferson Starship, Tommy Chong...and he's even jammed with Hendrix! I admit to stealing this info almost directly from Devin's Myspace page, so if it's incorrect, it's not my fault! Hahaha

Anyway, the four musicians combine beautifully to create a tight and controlled record that is also sonically lush, warm and just a pleasure to listen to.

"Terminal" is a beautiful track, evoking memories of "Sister" from Ocean Machine, although it is about four minutes longer and feels a little warmer. It's very easy to get lost with this track and just drift away.

"Lady Helen" is another simply gorgeous track...I'm just lost for words trying to explain how sumptuous and sweet this is. Here is a sample of some of the lyrics, which are extremely moving and sung with heartfelt emotion:

Save the work till the afternoon

It's true...

I'll be there for the baby.

It's true...

It's you.

I'll always side with you.

Some of Devin's typically manic and evil sounding vocals are demonstrated perfectly on "Heaven Send", juxtaposed beautifully against Che's vocal parts. While she sings...

How could Heaven be so frenetic

Oh you've got it, without fanatic hold to body

How your Semitic hold to God it seems so funny...

...Devin is singing the following with nothing but venom:




It's absolutely stunning to listen to and is one of the reasons I love Devin's work so much. His ability to create such evil or sinister sounds in the most unassuming's frankly remarkable. And then he follows this up with another laid back groove with funky bass and guitar, some keyboard swirls, and Duris's solid beat keeping it tight.

The title track contains some typical Devin sounds, most akin to his other non-SYL material, but only after about five minutes of guitar, vocals and keyboard ambience. After this, the song sounds like something from Ziltoid with the artificial drums and vocal layers building up gradually...creating an emotional tension that stirs within. Devin starts to sing over the top like he's Pavarotti and it's all very exciting and tense. You know you've danced this dance before though, but this time you're sure you're going to score at the end. There's no way Ki will leave you hanging again, right? Oh crap, she's done it again.

Once "Ki" ends, the acoustic guitar of "Quiet Riot" begins immediately, and with the vocals and faint keyboard strokes, it sounds like the perfect finale to an Indie film. This could be the end of the album, but we wait in silence for a few moments before "Demon League" begins. It's another guitar driven track, but it's a clean electric sound that echoes amidst the synth layers and Devin's hushed vocals. And then it's over.

With so much unresolved tension, and a decidedly mellow "climax", you'd think that the listener would feel somewhat let down by this record. In truth, this is actually part of its endearing personality and charm. And having listened to Devin explain the reasoning behind the "teasing", it all makes perfect sense to me. He's ably demonstrated the art of musical control and restraint, which is really incredible in a musical world where showing-off has become popular fare, at least in the heavy domain (case in point: Dream Theater on their last few albums).

It's not just the technical chops that he's held himself back from, he's also resisted the temptation to make another record with only heavy music. This is a brave move when you consider that this is really his bread and butter style. It's where he got his name from and it's what he'll forever be associated with. So to be courageous enough to turn away from that and create a record that is a true reflection of where he's at emotionally in his life is totally admirable.

"Ki" also seems to possess a timeless quality as it wasn't conceived to fit in with any popular style or genre. As such, I'm sure it will continue to surprise me and provide me with a lot of pleasure and satisfaction in years to come. Thankyou Devin Townsend for continuing to enrich my life with your beautiful music.

A very commendable 4.5 stars!

Report this review (#220095)
Posted Sunday, June 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Occasionally an album and artist deserves rare praise. Anyone who has heard Devin Townsend knows he is a talented person. If I left it there he would be grouped in with a myriad of other talented musicians but there are musicians who are very good musicians and there are musicians who are excellent 'artists'. Devin Townsend is the later. He has soul and on K1 all the planets align for Devin Townsend. He hasn't just written a good progressive concept album or dazzled us with his guitar; at a certain point he takes us to another place we have never been before. Sometimes less is better. Devin Townsend's minimalist approach on K1 offers a smorgasbord of his prodigious talents and does he deliver. While there are probably elements on this album that will not appeal to everyone, everyone should hear K1 because there is something on here that anyone with a musical ear can appreciate. For the Hevydevy fans, Disruptr and Heaven send should suffice but for those with an ear for Devin's more subtle talents, there is the mellow atmosphere of Terminal and Lady Helen. This work requires understanding but it doesn't work against you, trying to be too clever. The quality of this album is indisputable, however, what has lifted it above the realms of merely a very good work IMO, is the soul of the music overall and the sublime Magnum Opus, K1. There is a chill factor with songs that have that certain 'je ne sais quoi' and K1 has this in spades. When all has been done and dusted, K1 will stand as a classic of this and future generations.
Report this review (#227479)
Posted Saturday, July 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
Eclectic Prog Team
2 stars Devin Townsend's 2009 album ranges from soft rock to grunge (and even rockabilly), with dashes of bizarre elements from time to time, but I don't get that this is even considered much of a progressive album. For the most part, the instrumentation is plain, with nothing really complex about it; in fact, some of it sounds like an aspiring teenager got a guitar for Christmas, and wrote a few songs by April. While there's a lot to like about this album, there's nothing particularly great about it, and honestly gets boring about halfway through.

"A Monday" Low-tuned guitar makes for a delicate and melancholic introduction.

"Coast" Soft vocals and an excellent groove over simple drums is what this second song is about. The rhythm guitar riff is excellent, and one of my favorite parts of the album.

"Disruptr" Funky rhythms and whispered vocals get this seemingly misspelled track going. The nasty, growling vocals don't appeal to me in the least, but at least are not overpowering, and the lyrics do say "master of the universe!"

"Gato" With a clean, almost amateurish guitar tone, stark drums, and repetitive bass line, this song sounds like it came fresh from a garage in 1990's suburbia. While the distorted guitar riff (which follows the bass) sounds a lot like "Godsmack" from Alice in Chains, the growling and incoherent vocals are present, giving this an edge, but of course an edge I don't care for.

"Terminal" This track sounds like a trip back to the 1980s, with soft clean guitar and gentle vocals; thankfully there are no cheesy electronic drums, but even the effects on the singing make me think of that awful decade for music.

"Heaven Send" Again, there's a simple drum beat and basic bass riff, making this song sound like typical rock of the 90s. The growling here is also annoying and doesn't help me enjoy the music.

"Ain't Never Gonna Win" This is a jazzy song with a slight funk and scat edge.

"Winter" A spacey outing with subdued guitar and more elementary drumming, the vocals are quiet and laid back. It's a drowsy track, but at least there's no outlandish growling.

"Trainfire" Now Townsend gets into a bit of old-timey rockabilly here, complete with an Elvis Presley impersonation. It soon becomes loud and irritating in the middle, but returns to the hokey, perhaps humorous boogie. The final moment, having no relation to what came prior, is simply beautiful, with a gorgeous feminine voice leading the way.

"Lady Helen" Unadorned guitar and piano are the main aspects of this quietly attractive song. While lovely, it nearly sends me to sleep.

"Ki" This is more like it. While the title track still has me nodding off, there's a lot of character here, with bright acoustic and electric guitar and handsome vocals. The instrumentation builds, layering heavier guitars, keyboard, and vocals. The machine gun percussion sounds unnatural and mars the track for me, but otherwise, it's an outstanding piece.

"Quiet Riot" This is very similar to acoustic Pink Floyd; it has a simple chord progression on acoustic guitar and a very straightforward melody.

"Demon League" A single electric guitar, pumping out one note at a time and a spacey pad in the background are all that accompany the somnolent vocal.

Report this review (#227994)
Posted Thursday, July 23, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars 3- (minus) A cool off album from Devin Townsend. Some Ying after years and years of Yang, some sort of return to nature (which I think will be short). After the extreme Ziltoïd, Devie brings us down to the basics. The main words here could be "simple" and "natural". Nothing too fancy, no complexe progressions, no violent guitars, no (or very few) growls. Ki is Devin after Yoga, zen and in touch with nature. The sound is still of top quality as usual, but I wasn't completely convinced with the material. I was expecting something that would sound like the opener to Synchestra... but Ki is harder to get into, especially the first tracks that are a bit too repetetitive and lacking ambience (who would have imagined this guy lacking ambiance...). Maybe a more detail orchestral work would have done better here, because the simplicity doesn't fit Devin's voice and music too well. Still, this is an enjoyable album with nice tunes, and I really like the clean guitar sounds Devin can pull off.
Report this review (#231088)
Posted Tuesday, August 11, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars Different? Yes. Good? Yes.

So this is Devin Townsend's new album, the first of four, you know the story. Anyways, the first time I heard Coast I knew it was something different, but continuing with the other tracks I was fooled into thinking that this was nothing but an over-hyped and slightly repetitive rock album. I was wrong, this is different. And I know two things for sure. First, I like this album a lot. And second, Devin Townsend is an honest dude.

This is on the whole a relaxed album. The relentlessness and anger that's characterized much of his music in the past is basically absent, in other words, Devin doesn't seem to be pissed off anymore. Yeah you still get some screaming and bludgeoning metal sections, but the way they suddenly disappear into thin air only heightens the feeling that it's all under control. Pay attention to these metalish songs, for they're probably the most original aspect of this record. Nowadays the trend in metal is to produce albums so that they sound as loud, and therefore, supposedly as " heavy" as possible. Devin reverse the trend and not only produces the metal as if it were laid-back rock, but also plays theoretically metal riffs in a kind of grungy, relaxed way that's extremely captivating and fun. Like I said, I like it.

Other tracks range from slightly trippy at times to mellow and introspective. Not all songs are as strong as others. "Terminal", for example, is enjoyable, but I really feel like the melodies aren't very original, and a few of them remind me of the Wasteland part of Dream Theater's "Trial of Tears". A nice song, but it could be stronger. "Trainfire" and "Ki" are two songs that are noteworthy. Why? Listen to the record and you'll find out. "Entre broma y broma, la verdad se asoma".

Like I said, what I like about this album is that you can feel it's an honest one, and that the creator is doing what he wants to do. One thing I deeply admire are people, especially musicians, who do their own thing, and don't give a [&*!#] about the definitions. In the end this isn't stereotypical music, and it's not just another rock album. It may not be the most amazing record on earth or in Devin Townsend's catalogue either, but it's a highly enjoyable and honest one, with more depth and detail than is apparent at first listen.

When a musician you thought you knew surprises you in this way, then it's a good thing, unless what they surprise you with is a piece of crap, which this isn't; it's a good album, and it's a good surprise.


Report this review (#235297)
Posted Wednesday, August 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
The T
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars DEVIN TOWNSEND has always surprised me with his music. From his industrial experiments with STRAPPING YOUNG LAD to his own more eclectic DEVIN TOWNSEND'S PROJECT to the bizarre stories of Ziltoid the Omniscient, the man's musical output has been changing constantly while retaining some familiar elements, like the industrial sound and that "wall of sound" that Negoba mentions in his review. This time around, Townsend surprises me again, but, curiously, by not surprising me.

Yes, the music in Ki is rather... normal, for lack of a better word. The typical psychotic outbursts of the past, the anxiety-driven sounds of previous albums, are all but forgotten in this new release. It's like the musician has calmed down, cooled down a little bit, and decided to write a record of songs that are much more easier to digest by any casual listener. The result is a quite melodic, but rather uninspired effort that has moments of brilliance but never reaches the heights that just the last two albums reached.

The music, more melodic, is also more acoustic, with less industrial elements, and a much bigger emphasis on the singing and the atmosphere. While I usually prefer melody and atmosphere, I'm missing that uniqueness that Townsend's records always had. Some songs in Ki sound mundane, going from light metal to grunge to blues without shining in any of these styles nor creating some truly original mix.

That's not to say there's nothing to like on Ki. The album, actually, it's quite enjoyable and entertaning, maybe more friendly than Ziltoid The Omnisicient. And Townsend still manages to introduce his little jokes here and there, like the song "Trainfire", a mix of pop and old style rock n' roll complete with Elvis impersonation (and a very decent one, I must say).

This is the strength that the album is missing: that constant change of moods and ideas in the course of one single record is less evident in Ki. It's like Devin Townsend has reached a more sane mental state, but his music is missing the erratic factor.

A good album nevertheless, worthy of three stars.

Report this review (#239410)
Posted Tuesday, September 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
Marty McFly
Errors and Omissions Team
4 stars From what I heard, this is Devin Townsend's calmer album. I suppose and agree that this can some long-time fans irritate. Some may even feel cheated and you know what, it's their right. But unfortunately (paradox is that in this case, fortunately), I don't know DT's music so much. So I can appreciate this quite a lot. I believe that more than if I knew the old ones.

Even in song Gato, where we can hear death metal vocals, even here it seems controlled and quite harmless. Nothing brutal, still it's perfectly directed and under influence of Peace. During last days, I've heard a lot of strange music. Not usual ones, but these unique in something. Let's face it, this is not conventional album. Word that can describe it would be ambient death metal (with calm death metal parts and ambient parts), which is very weird combination. I heard Opeth's Watershed, where it's also more quiet DM to some extent, but not so much. It was like ambient and death metal, but here even the supposed DM parts seems like ironic take, like if they're using growling and heavy instruments, but they don't mean it like that. Like jamming song Ain't Never Gonna Win is right after heavy Heaven Send. It's new combination, but welcomed. I found myself quite enjoying it to be honest (I always am).

4(+) for Ecclesiarchy (I mean eclecticity)

Report this review (#240414)
Posted Sunday, September 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
4 stars This moody, atmospheric release treads new territory for Devin Townsend, emphasizing a mellow-- almost stripped down feel to many of the songs concealing his trademark depth as a producer. This alone makes it a unique entry into his already excellent catalogue of albums.

Things start with a melancholic guitar strumming, transitioning into first softly driving "Coast". Although there is a dynamic build near the song's bridge, this one will come as a satisfying surprise to many DT fans; it shows an interesting level of Devin's minimalism (which, it should be noted, is not minimalist at all, since this guy crams a ton of sounds into his albums). "Coast", the elegant "Terminal", spacy "Winter", lush "Lady Helen", and dynamic "Ki" all place emphasis on melodic singing and mood, and will appeal to most listeners immediately. They stand out to me as the best part of this album, and show a new level of artistry on Devin's part.

Although the first thing one will remember about "Ki" is its excellent mellow sections, there is still quite a range of intensity. "Disruptr" and "Gato", for example, menace the listener with slow-paced and savage vocals; there is still Townsend's metal sound throughout, but it won't knock you off your feet here. It takes its time to appear, building and exploding at a slow tempo.

The downside of "Ki" is that-- even when compared to other DT albums-- it is a tough listen to explore. There are few truly memorable moments: no big choruses or guitar solos to catch one's attention. I am sure that's the point, since it helps give the album its moody feel, but it forces many listens to appreciate the depth going on through the multiple layers of production.

Although not as immediately gratifying or entertaining as most of his other albums, the artistry and variety in "Ki" make it a must buy for Townsend fans (who are probably in to artistry and variety in the first place). "Ki" has enough mood and subtle class to please newcomers as well, perhaps even those who were turned off by Devin's noisier albums. If you're a fan of metal music and haven't already investigated him-- do yourself a favor and explore "Ki" and his stellar catalogue.

Songwriting: 4 Instrumental Performances: 3 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

Report this review (#242163)
Posted Wednesday, September 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ki represents a lot of great ideas from Townsend, and a wonderful reinvention of his heavy sound, but at the same time it definitely feels like an incomplete album.

First, let it be known that Ki is not really necessarily supposed to stand entirely on its own. Being the first part of a four album set, it serves as the quiet (okay, let's just leave it as "quieter") introduction to a look at Townsend's process of sorting out his issues. A lot of Devin's fans may find themselves pretty turned off by this release. For starters, Ki is very skimpy on the metal. The music is heavy, yes, but it is slow and churning rather than chaotic and intense like his usual, and at very few points during its run time is there any distortion or double bass drum used. His lineup, with the exception of returning Devin Townsend Band keyboardist Dave Young, is a much more jazz-oriented group. Duris Maxwell has been recording on the drums since the 60s, and Jean Savoie reportedly is a bassist in a Beatles tribute band. Certainly not the usual Townsend lineup. This creates the interesting distinction between Ki and the rest of the man's solo output: room to breathe. There is space and quiet all over Ki, whereas even in his more introspective pieces otherwise (think Terria or Ocean Machine), there were always walls of wild noise to back up his gentle tunes. I think a comparison with Terria is in order, as both albums have a higher percentage of milder tunes, both albums are a bit less pushing for metal sounds throughout, and both albums have lots of beautiful solo guitar interludes.

The album opens with filler. Unfortunate, but such is the way it goes. Thankfully, A Monday is fairly short and in rapid course turns into Coast, the primary "single" from the album. This track introduces the laid-back, mellow nature of most of Ki, and it does so with a particularly well-written and recorded series of vocal melodies. This is followed by the often maligned Disruptr, a bizarre track that in my personal opinion may very well be the heaviest one he's ever recorded. Slow, deep chugging guitars (not distorted though, mind you) rest along a jazzy rhythm and Townsend's half-growled but mild vocals. Of course, moments of distinctly un-mild vocals happen, and the music does step forward from the methodical rhythmic crunching a couple of times--most notably in the song's finale, with a searing bit of vocals and a perfectly placed rhythm that makes the head seriously want to bang. Gato is perhaps a fair bit weaker, as the layout of the music and the placement of the intensity is fairly awkward (strange that Townsend mentions it as probably his favorite from Ki). It does grow on you a bit, but it's somewhat less than average to his usual standards, and the female vocals, though wonderful in other songs, seem a bit forced and unnecessary.

But don't worry. After two more intense pieces (again, relative to the record, not his usual), Townsend finally backs things down for Terminal. I can see how some listeners, especially those seriously into metal, might find this boring, but to me it's the perfect example of a spacey, lush song with absolutely perfect understated vocals. The melody is haunting and at the same time quite catchy. Think of this, perhaps, as a somewhat truncated Death of Music. Prog heads no doubt look towards Heaven Send with hunger, as it is almost nine minutes long, and that makes it great, right? Well, a word of warning: it's more or less a seven minute song where at the end they talk in the studio for a second and then play the finale prechorus and chorus a third time. That's not to say that it isn't a good song. Che's vocals fit perfectly here, and choirs of yelling Townsends should naturally pique the curiosity of many fans of his music. A fantastically weird Vai-esque solo happens during this tune as well, definitely bordering on the bizarre, especially for Devin, who never seems to solo anyways. Ain't Never Gonna Win... sounds like pure filler to my ears. It's a light bit of jazzy jamming, and that I don't mind, but it just sounds like a fragment of studio goofing rather than an actual song.

Winter is another soft song in the vein of Terminal, though all the stops and starts kind of kill the vibe of this track for me. Another slightly average one. Trainfire, however, is not at all average. Another one of the major highlights of this release, Trainfire showcases Townsend in an Elvis sort of fashion, singing goofily over something like a Johnny Cash locomotive riff. Naturally, he drops this every now and then (for a couple of choruses, a piece in the middle where he starts getting avant and bizarre, and the last few minutes). After a short run, the song begins to slow down, dropping off instruments until only female vocals and a bit of musical background remain. Absolutely beautiful section, but unfortunately short. Don't fear, however, as Lady Helen is making its debut next, and the gentle beauty of the conclusion of Trainfire and of Terminal find themselves pretty fairly matched with this softly atmospheric track.

Of course, then wanders in the title track. Anyone who is a fan of Townsend should hear this song, even if they aren't enjoying the rest of Ki. Because this track is not only the highlight of its respective context, but of the last three or so albums he's released. The first half is quite mild, not really building but still layering sweet vocals together into delicate harmonies. The second half is really one motif repeated over and over again, building and being added to until the absolutely explosive ending, complete with massive Drumkit from Hell double bass and choirs of Townsend and arpeggios. Quiet Riot is a cool acoustic piece, almost more folky and straightforward, especially following the song it does. And lastly, the album ends on a bit of skippable filler.

In the end, there are some really fantastic songs on Ki, but the presence of a few duds and a few minutes of filler really clog up the thing and keep it from getting rated any higher. Fans of Devin Townsend already should certainly check Ki out, but newcomers to the scene might want to look towards one of his more consistently enjoyed, such as Terria or Ocean Machine: Biomech.

Report this review (#243491)
Posted Wednesday, October 7, 2009 | Review Permalink
4 stars Ki is great! It is also one of Devin's latest albums. This is perhaps the most relaxing he's ever been, musically.

A Monday - A monday is the soft and mellow introduction. It sets the tone for the entire album, even in its relatively meager length. This has delicately layered Pink Floyd overtone.

Coast - Coast is flowing and free, breezy and cool. A wonderfully mellow song with some very pretty vocals by Devin.

Disruptr - This song is more layered and thick. It has a warm and brooding buildup leading into an almost overwhelming sense of hot and hateful coziness.

Gato - is a bit more rock oriented than the prior atmospheric selections. It is also the first introduction of Devin's female singing counterpart. The song is taut and slightly intensified, colliding deftly with the album as a whole.

Terminal has such a soothing and nonchalant cry of pale emotion. So warm and caressing.

Heaven Send - Heaven Send is the second duet. Its sustained build up is perennial with an inexplicable air of gospel. Variance is key, and each song has led with a quenched open palm of fervor. A Ain't Never Gonna Win - This one hasa more smoke filled haze of funky blues to salve the savage ears. With those quite electric guitars sliding along passionately and unerringly. Sliding along at almost the rate to slip on the buttered banks, however.

Winter - Colder, but still with an autumnal vestment of cozy clothed warmth. The song is withdrawn, restrained, and quaint. Not stark, but a smooth and windy ride.

Trainfire - With a locomotive drum roll, Trainfire commences and Devin portrays his best...Elvis impersonation? Another solidly smooth rocker, with Devin's key recording abilities to make even the quaintest of melodies artificially more appealing.

Lady Helen - Darker and more reverent in approach. This song has a solid main structure, but betrays the preliminary signs of unnecessary repetition for the album. Still, this is finely original and pleasing to the ears.

Ki seems to be a luring underture to the album in close. It features a mostly soft and accosted rain of wet blue pouring smoothly downward. It fittingly pulls the album into its final stretch before allowing itself to become needlessly repetitious and bland.

Quiet Riot - This is a fun little upbeat ditty. It has the most accented guitars lined against Devin's sweet singing. This also seems to be an unusual nod to the band of the same name, lyrically. Although I'd say it is quite musically estranged. The minimalistic piano motifs are chilling and the guitar rolls, breathtaking. A little simplistic for standards, but fine all the same.

Demon League - This wraps up the album with the same notes it started, soft and honey accents drenched in metamorphic clarity, and musically atmospheric drifting.

In all - Ki is a strange, yet oddly familiar move for Devin Townsend, and an excellent image for projection. The songs sluice together as a milky washing river. Nothing is poor or un-nurtured. Taken as a whole, Ki works like a more emotionally lifting Pink Floyd album, and Devin can sing. He proves much of his variability here. The album does become mildly repetitive near the end, but is a satisfying cup of musical honey.

Best Song - Hard to say

Worst Song -Demon League, maybe

**** Stars.

Report this review (#251498)
Posted Wednesday, November 18, 2009 | Review Permalink
The Crow
4 stars "Ki" was one of the biggest surprises of my musical life...

This change of direction of one of my most admired and respected musicians, shooked me strongly... Could this album really had been made by the same man who did masterpieces like "Terria" or "Synchestra", and the same who rocked me out to hell with the powerful Strapping Yound Land releases? I could not believe it...

But after a pair of listenings, I realised that the style of the man was still fully noticeable, but just a bit diminished between the minimalistic and incredibly beautiful guitar solos, behind the new acoustic directions of songs like the fantastic Lady Helen and Terminal, and of course, in the stronger acts like the odd Disrupter, the curious and dark Gato, the rythmic and hypnotic Heaven Send... And the title track, with some guitars and choirs wich brings Ziltoid back to my mind!

Like almost every Townsend effort, we also have new experiments never heard before in his discography, but still completely coherent with his style... If Bad Devil was his reinterpretation of cabaret music, Trainfire is his tribute to the rockabilly style, where he makes a incredible Elvis imitation, building of the most funny and surprising tracks of "Ki", specially its peaceful and dreamy ending... Other experiments like the poppy Quiet Riot don't work so well, while others, like the jazz interlude "Ain't Never Gonna Win..." make us feel that this man has played this kind of music his whole life.

So this bunch of new, old, and unexpected elements make "Ki" the most surprising and diverse Devin Townsend album... And talking about a career so variated and variated, saying this is really much.

Best tracks: except some dull moments like Winter and Quiet Riot, this album has a incredible quality... I specially enjoy Heaven Send, wich is maybe the most catchy Dein Townsend tracks since Earth Day, the precious guitars of Lady Helen, the obscurity of Disrupter and Gato, the funny Trainfire, and Ki, the track wich has the most classic Devin Townsend sound.

Conclusion: different, original, beaufitul, and authentic... "Ki" is another step further of the most incredible prog-metal mind in actual music. An album wich sounds more organic that anything that Townsend did before, having also his best guitar work to date, great vocals, and a lot of memorable tracks. It's a pity that some sections of the albums don't work so well like the rest. This is the fact because I'm not giving this album five stars... Nevertheless, I strongly recommend "Ki" to every prog-lover. Even if you can't hear the previous Devin Townsend albums, or if you don't like metal... Because "Ki" is just different of anything you've heard before.

My rating: ****1/2

Report this review (#252203)
Posted Sunday, November 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars This album is a shrinker.

The first time through it, I was pretty impressed with it. I don't usually appreciate most of the 'cliched' metal-isms that a lot of metal music has, but what I've heard of Devin Townsend has usually sounded great to my ears (although I'm still just scratching the surface of his releases), so I figured I'd give his new project a try.

I found myself really digging a lot of the songs on the first listen, including Gato, Heaven Send, and Ki. But upon repeated listens, I find this album growing old quicker than I had expected. As well, certain songs seem to follow similar formulas, but in a really obvious way that reduces their value. An example would be Gato and Heaven Send. Each feature a strong chorus that works well because of the interesting dynamics between female vocals and Devin's death-metally growls. Yet, each song sounds almost the exact same. Perhaps I am just too used to complex songs for simpler songs to grab me the same as they used to, but I almost can't tell these songs apart other than the chorus.

A friend of mine recommended listening to this album with Disruptr, Gato, Heaven Send, and Trainfire removed. I gave it a shot, and found that it did change the album a lot. He described it as "a much cooler, chill out album with less 'heavy-because-this-is-devin-townsend' songs", and I have to agree with his prognosis.

Overall, this is a fun album, if it does get old a bit fast for my liking. The strongest track, in my eyes, is 'Ki', which for some reason reminds me of "The Circle of Life" off of the Lion King. (Everyone I've mentioned that too thinks I'm crazy, but I still like the song). Overall, though, I'd give this album two stars - it just doesn't have enough to warrant many repeated listens, or enough songs that will remain valuable outside of the album context.

Report this review (#252720)
Posted Wednesday, November 25, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars The first notes of this albums opener Coast(after a track of some guitar plucking and strumming) really appealed to me instantly. Unlike most Devin Townsend productions there weren't a hundred guitars and layers upon layers of sound, a very clean sound with tons of space in the mix had taken its place. This alone made me initially very positive to "Ki", I thought it might be a major turning point in Townsend's already remarkably widespread career.

I have never cared much for the music of Townsend which to me either seemed to full of it self, too preachy or downright overworked. But with "Ki" he is taking a step away from all of this and starts moving towards something that might even attract people who've previously overlooked(even disliked) Townsend.

The sound is somewhere in between grunge, stoner-metal and of course Devin Townsend. His sound is something well worth mentioning, and a reason for people unfamiliar with his work to at least grab one of his records for a taste of. It is very unique and unmistakable, even with all the clones crawling around. In my book this is what makes a band great and in that sense Devin Townsend deserves all the praise and respect he has in the industry.

The problem for me with this album is in the complete lack of diversity. "Ki" follows a very slim line all the way through, never straying too far from its inherent sound, this makes it either repetitive or meditative, depending on who you are and how you feel about Townsend and his sound. In my case I thought it became repetitive and ultimately boring after a few listens, and I rarely listen to it now just a few months after release.

A good album for fans of the Devin Townsend sound.


Report this review (#252792)
Posted Thursday, November 26, 2009 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Canadian artist Devin Townsend is a productive guy, with more albums to his name than the number of years he's been recording music. "Ki" is one of two releases from him in 2009.

And for a guy mostly associated with metal, this album is a rather surprising venture. Most of the songs are rather mellow and laid-back, with acoustic guitar just as if not more prominent than the electric. Distorted riffs are few and far bteween as well. In fact, in terms of style many of the songs here to a lesser or greater extent made me think of Chris Isaak.

Many of the songs do contain a brooding darkness though, often provided by some rather nifty synths, but also slightly distorted echoing bass and guitar sounds are used to good effect to create slightly disturbing atmospheres. And on a few select occasions, these moods evolve into brief, highly effective brutal-sounding metal parts invading the almost pastoral landscapes created.

It's a well made album, and while a progressive metal audience might havbe a hard time with this one those who appreciate sophisticated pop/rock and art pop might be a surprising, new audience for this artist. At least as far as this particular album goes.

Report this review (#254613)
Posted Sunday, December 6, 2009 | Review Permalink
3 stars I´m gonna go thru this return of the giant D track by track.

Ki, as stated in the review before, is the the first part in a four album series.

1.A Monday. Nice, short, mellow opener. This intro song always puts me on a good mood.

2. Coast. Still very mellow and laidback. I really enjoy Duris maxwells drumming on this song. Devin sings maybe more beautifully here than ever. Very good track.

3. Disruptr. This one sounds a little funny to me. The kinda Hetfield-esque main riff (although distortionless) and the rather quiet growled vocals certainly give this song a rather weird identity. Heavy metal in disguise...

4. Gato. This song provides us with more disguised heavy metal. Here we get to hear the guest vocalist Ché Dorval whose voice I find to be quite enjoyable. Really can´t say a bad thing about this song. Everything is good here, vocals, guitars, drumming and bass.

5. Terminal. Things get slowed down on this song. Devin provides us with beautiful restrained vocals and they are backed up with a good guitar riff?/line... perhaps my favourit song on the album.

6.Heaven Send. As Maxwells drumming opens this track and we can here that the tempo has been lifted again, not much but still... Again the guitar playing is very simplistic, but still very nice. First I had some trouble with the end of the chorus, but with further listening I´ve started to like it. This one is still among the better ones of the album.

7. Ain´t never gonna win. This is a short jam. Rather pointless, if you as me. Perhaps my least favorit track of the album.

8. Winter. Quite similar with Terminal. I don´t really know why, but I don´t like this quite as much as Terminal. There are days when I can skip this song without hesitation, but then there are days that are made for these type of songs.

9. Trainfire. Here we get Devin infamous Elvis impersonation. This one is among the weaker songs of the album for me. This just doesn´t do anything for me. Well except for Ches singing at the end, but I hardly find it worth my while to bore myself for almost five minutes to hear couple of seconds of good singing.

10. Lady Helen. Very very lush. I think this is the prettiest song Devin has ever crafted. This one would make cry if I still knew how to...

11. Ki. The longest song on the album with almost 10 minutes of length. Is it also the best. Well at least for me it´s not. This one opens with some very nice guitar playing and soon enough a choir of Devins joins in on the fun. The build up towards the end certainly among the highlights of the album for me. Devins guitar playing is really nice thru out the song and so is his singing. Even if this isn´t the best song of the album it´s not far from it.

12. Quiet Riot. While slightly fillerish this song ain´t a total and complete waste of time. And it lasts only 3 minutes so at least one can´t waste too much time listening to this one.

13. Demon League. And so we have reached the final song. The opening riff is a nice and quite haunting. Then we get some more of the great restrained vocals from Devin that he has served us thru out the album. Nice end to a nice album.

If it wasn´t for the few bad apples this would have been a four star album. People who have enjoyed Devins previous offering are likely to find something good on here too, even if this is very different from Devys previous efforts. As to who else I would recommend this one, I would maybe say... Pink Floyd fans maybe? Well Devin is such a highly regarded artist here in the prog circles that I personally feel like, almost every progger should check out some of his stuff. I would advice to start with Terria.

Report this review (#268092)
Posted Thursday, February 25, 2010 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'Ki' - Devin Townsend (7/10)

After relentless touring with bands and tiring of his personal demons, Devin Townsend pulled out of the public eye, and for a while, there were fears that his career- for the most part, would be over? Then, in a true fashion of Devin Townsend, he surprised us all by announcing one of his most ambitious projects yet, his self-titled 'Devin Townsend Project.'

Adopting a totally different style for each of the four albums along with a unique set of musicians for each, the Project's first album 'Ki' comes as a bit of a surprise to anyone who was expecting the extremity of Strapping Young Lad or the experimentation of his solo work. What you get here is a protest against convention, through some of the most chilled out music I've ever listened to.

The music can easily be described as atmospheric, laid-back and some times even psychedelic rock. Due to the fact that the majority of his fanbase was either attracted to him for his metal, or progressive aspects, there will be a lot of people alienated by this release. While there are certainly 'weird' moments of music to behold on 'Ki,' there won't be a whole lot that will leave you scratching your head on first listen.

'Ki' feels like a slingshot that won't be released. There are times when its almost certain that Devin will finally explode in a Strapping sort of way, but at the last moment; the anger is pulled away for total calm. While this can be frustrating at times from the listener's point of view, it is a real commentary on the artist, and his newfound lifestyle of moderation and er, self-preservation. However, while the 'heavy' moments on this album are few and far between; when they come, they sound more brutal than ever in contrast.

In any case, it's great to see Townsend exploring new facets of what he can do. It does not have the longevity of some of his earlier works, nor does it have as many 'mind-blowing' moments, but what does very well is show that Devin Townsend is far from extinguishing his creative abilities, and that there is a lot of great music to be heard from him in the years to come.

Report this review (#269731)
Posted Friday, March 5, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars This is the first part in a series of 4 albums that Devin is making under the name' The Devin Townsend Project' and how does it fare up to his other work? well its very mellow (saying as he is now recently drink and drugs free) and his writing is a lot more stright forward than before, dont get me wrong, this is a beast of an album, what it doesnt have in the way of heavy guitars and blastbeats, anger does rear its head quite a lot on here, like a wave crashing up against a pile of rocks again and again it rises in anger and falls with melodic beauty, just as you think hes about to breat Devy seems to find a sence of calm in a wall of beautiful clean electric guitars and keyboard soundscapes. Another thing thats cool about these albums is he is gonna have different musicians on each release (theres this one, and so far there is Addicted a more poppy dancy album, and he has still to make a heavy beast entitled Deconstruction and a New Age album called Ghost) so it should be fun to hear those albums as well. In terms of standout tracks its really one of these albums you need to listen to fully and although not all Devin Townsend fans will get this release it is a gradual grower and of course i grew to love it;

A Monday -8/10 Coast - 8/10 Disruptr - 7/10 Gato - 7/10 Terminal - 8/10 Heaven Send - 8/10 Ain't Never Gonna Win - 9/10 Winter - 9/10 Trainfire -9/10 Lady Helen - 9/10 Ki - 10/10 Quiet Riot - 7/10 Demon League - 7/10

My Conclusion? this is quite a hard album to really crack, but stick with it and there's plenty to explore and supprises to be found, a great way to start off the project.

Report this review (#284067)
Posted Saturday, May 29, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars Well,maybe this is my favorite album from Devin Townsend.There are some screams but generally Ki is very calm,peaceful and mainly purgative.Ki expresses the serenity of the mind.Also you can listen to Ki when you want to be in nirvana situation.My favorite tracks are:a monday(nice introduction),coast(makes you want to think),terminal(the 1st best track),winter(simple but very good),lady helen(the 2nd best track),quiet riot(the happy country/folk song)and demon league(strange).Sometimes with this album will feel tears running on your cheeks.Ι think that Devin Townsend does the best clear vocals in Ki(I mean the type of vocals that he uses in terminal that also there is in other tracks).Really,Ki is for music lovers!My grade:9,5/10
Report this review (#309785)
Posted Tuesday, November 9, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars 8.5/10

New Directions

Devy knows how to surprise me. After the excesses and follies of Ziltoid he shows elegantly restrained and steeped in new influences on Ki, an album that is a sort of "preview" of your Devin Townsend Project, and while part of it. With the support of musicians with little or no experience with metal, it offers a work at once challenging and innovative, one of his best yet.

What you hear here? A pleasant and eclectic mix of heavy metal, post-rock, ambient music and even a little blues-rock (or tell me that the first moments of Trainfire not sound like Devy wonderfully emulating the king Elvis Presley?). This album is proof that this wonderful artist is not classified in the category of Experimental / Post-Metal aimlessly. There are moments here where he gives his famous growls (Disruptr, Cat, Heaven Send, Trainfire), but fortunately they are far fewer than in their previous productions. Only your ambient music's albums, Devlab and Hummer, have less growls than Ki.

So, I must say that this album was a surprise. After being somewhat disappointed with the overrated Ziltoid this was a refreshing surprise. Five great stars to this masterpiece. Bring on more than Devy!

Report this review (#848853)
Posted Thursday, November 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
5 stars I remember the day Devin said he was quiting Strapping Young Lad. I was watching a very old British TV station called Rock something or other (it was very good but it didn't meet viewers needs and kind of fell into the ground). Devin was performing a puppet show as Ziltoid and made me laugh like the hyenas from The Lion King.

Then Devin comes out and says "I'm done!"

I was saddened. I had just gotten into Devin's work and hearing him say he was retiring from music pretty much was sad. But...luckily enough he was pretty much stating he was leaving Strapping Young Lad.

So a year or two passed and Devin emerged again. He was looking healthier, he had shaved his head and he said he was going to release a 4 album series that was going to be like a 4 course dinner. And that the first album Ki, would be like an appetizer. And in many ways this is pretty much a great appetizer.

This album did receive some slight confusion whenever it was originally released, mainly due to it's vast difference to anything Devin has done before. In many ways it does harken back to some of Devin's earlier material and touches of his original sound, but it very much is a very different and rather different type of album.

The opener "Coast" has to be one of my personal favourites from Devin. A very beautiful song with some rather interesting guitar lines. The ambient sounding backgrounds are also very beautiful as well. A great vocal performance from Devin as well, showing a lot of diversity in his softer and operatic tones.

"Disruptr" is one of the more heavier moments on the album with some brilliant build ups throughout. This song and the next track are rather similar in nature, with Disruptr having a slightly more calmer effect. The next track has "Gato" has to be one of my personal favourites on the album and is definitely one of the more heavier songs. Also, any lyrics about cat people will always interest me. Devin's vocals in this track are pretty insane at times.

The ballads on the album "Terminal" and "Lady Helen" are also very interesting. With very minimal and quiet music behind them, it harkens back to some of the more prettier moments found on an album like "Terria." Terminal in particular is done brilliantly live in "By A Thread."

My favourite track on the album would have to be the longest composition "Heaven Send." A rather relaxing start with a rather bluesy groove, it builds up with some brilliant distorted guitar grooves and an almost gang like chorus. The guitar solo in the song is also one of Devin's most interesting guitar solo, with great use of a whammy peddle.

One of the prettiest tracks on the album has to be "Winter." A very beautiful song with a very large instrumental base, with the vocals being very simple. A beautiful and relaxing song.

One of the most oddest tracks has to be "Trainfire." A song inspired by 50 and 60's rock and roll, it really gives off a rock a billy train feel to it. The ending is also very different with the song taking on a rather different and more interesting form with some beautiful guitar playing.

The title track is one of the more interesting tracks on the album. Again, another song that wouldn't go amiss on "Terria". A very quiet start slowly building up to a multi layered contrapuntal musical masterpiece. Great production on this track with some spellbinding guitar playing from Devin.

The album closer, or the should be album closer "Quiet Riot" is a rather beautiful acoustic ending, taking melodies and lyrics from Slade's (or Quiet Riot's) "Cum On Feel The Noize." A very beautiful ending to the album, along with the other close "Demon League."

In conclusion, this album does get a lot of mixed opinions from people, but I personally I really like it. I do admit that it does have a lot of styles and is a lot less cohesive than most of his albums, but personally I find the album to go through a whole range of emotions due to Devin going through a whole load of emotions at the time. This is a mixed bag, but there is some really beautiful and powerful moments on this album. Something very different, but something very interesting.


Report this review (#1035547)
Posted Sunday, September 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars This might just be the Devin Townsend album for people who otherwise don't like his style. Known for very loud music that ranges from extreme metal to hyper-infused heavy screamo-pop, Heavy Devy is not to everyone's taste. However, Ki puts aside much of what Devin fans like or love and takes a very different approach for the most part.

Ki was the first album of an initially four-album project that attempted to explore the four sides to Devin's music. Other albums were to feature heavy pop rock, intense metal, and meditative, relaxing music. I like that idea of a four-album project, but the project has since turned more into a heavy pop project as two follow-ups, "Epicloud" and "Sky Blue" (one of the two discs in the "Zed Squared" release) have delved further into the wall-of-sound, ultra-heavy, catchy-melody-driven, bombastic pop.

What makes Ki unique in Devin's catalogue is that it avoids the heavy compression and multi-layering that Devin typically employs, earning him the titles of the new Frank Zappa and the new Phil Spector. At it's base, this album consists of a clean guitar with a warm and rich sound, bass, some keyboards including piano, and drums. A few tracks bring on the distortion but the sound is more like a single overdrive pedal rather than full on metal mayhem. Devin's vocals are mostly clean and often soft and non-aggressive. Guest vocalist Ché Dorval adds some country/bluesy vocals on three tracks. Come to think of it, I haven't heard "Casualties of Cool" yet but Ché sings on that one too and the music is said to be more country/blues styled. As for Ki, probably one of the best comparisons to make is the Canadian band Cowboy Junkies. I know Devin likes them so it's no surprise to find their style emulated in some tracks here.

The album begins with a simple mellow clean electric guitar instrumental. "Coast", the second track, is a very un-Devy-like song with a rolling bass line that sounds like Pink Floyd sped up. Soft, low vocals that border on operatic at times carry the lyrics. The mood darkens slightly at times and near the end things seem like they are building up to a chaotic release. But then it's all over.

"Disruptr" is one song where the music intensity climaxes. Brooding and heavy, Devin lets things get heavy but without sounding like modern metal. This would be more like some doom metal from the early seventies almost, save for the roaring vocals. "Gato" and "Heaven's End" also feature some more intense music, but the rest of the album stays pretty mellow and moody most of the time. "Terminal" and "Lady Helen" are really soft and beautiful songs in the Cowboy Junkies vein. "Ain't Never Gonna Win..." is a studio jam with soft seventies guitar, a bit of a funky grove to it, and some spacey keyboard effects. Sometimes on the album you can hear between songs a bit of studio banter. I imagine many songs had very few overdubs except to add extra heavy guitar or extra vocal layers. At times I think Devin is almost going for a male counterpart to Enya.

The title track is one of the interesting highlights of the album. There's such a beautiful and rich guitar part near the beginning, which sadly never returns. The middle part is so slow and mellow. Then the final stretch of the song begins with a rising-falling arpeggio of clean guitar notes onto which layers of Enyan vocals are laid and extreme metal guitar/bass/drum music builds behind it all without ever allowing the music to become metal. Then Devin comes in like an opera singer. Perhaps this is one of his more "progressive" songs that I have heard so far.

I find the first half of the album includes more heavy music than the second half, which features more slower- paced, mellow and pretty songs. The sound is really beautiful. Certainly if you have been turned off by Devin Townsend because of his heavily layered, very loud, metal/hard rock/pop then this album might at least win over your ears. As for fans of Devin's heavy side, this might be an album to broaden your perspective.

Report this review (#1316842)
Posted Saturday, November 29, 2014 | Review Permalink
Eclectic / Prog Metal / Heavy Prog Team
4 stars For this album, DT's wall of sound comes down. This is a departure from Devin's usual sound. Previously, even on his slower songs, Devin's music has had that thick sound, a mix where every instrument is heard, but mixed evenly, it actually gives it a thick sound that doesn't quite seem in focus, but that is what made it so great and different. There was just something a little off kilter.

So now, on this album, that wall comes down, yet there is still that feeling that something is bubbling underneath the surface. Most of the songs on here are mellow, but there is still a lot of power and loudness too. It's just that now, things are more sparse. There is still no doubt that this is Devin though. There is a lot of excellent music on here, I mean real masterpiece material, but there is also some that just drifts on too long.

The album starts off strong and continues that way for the first 7 tracks. The main feeling that Devin was looking for here, other than the sparse mixing, was a lot of tension and release. This really gets utilized quite well for the first part of the album. Dynamics are used quite brilliantly, as is always the case with Townsend, whether that wall of sound is up or down. "Coast" is a great opener and it is obvious that there is a different sound here. "Disruptr" ups the ante even more and is a bit more heavy, but again, without the thickness. This one is more progressive than the first also, and you hear the genius of Townsend's compositional skills. "Gato" is a masterpiece also, and relies more on a hook, but what it does as it builds tension around that hook is amazing. Che Dorval is a guest vocalist on this album for 3 songs, and this one is the first. This one is a real tension builder and this is what Townsend is the best at. It will get your heart racing. I love how he uses Che to build the tension even thicker before he erupts with his angry vocals, by the time he gets there, you are ready to explode as he builds your emotions to this point. "Terminal" is the cool down, or release song that comes next. This one is a beauty.

Next is probably my favorite of the album, "Heaven Send". This one works off the same formula as "Gato" but even more effectively. It starts off much quieter and builds to a much higher climax, again using Che's vocals to build the tension which results in Devin's angry vocals again. This is such an amazing song, I love it. Again, following this is a tension release in the track "Ain't Never Gonna Win..." which is a shorter instrumental, and this works well as a cooling down period. This problem that happens here is that the same atmosphere continues into the song "Winter", which has vocals, but this tends to wander into a flatter performance which lacks in the emotion that we have come so accustomed to. The album tends to suffer at this point, but it seems there is a return to the fun when "Trainfire" starts. This time, Devin is going off in rockabilly territory with a song that was inspired by Elvis' "Mystery Train". Okay, so this sounds fun and the album picks up again. I love the way this starts, it actually has echoes of that wall of sound music that we are used to, but after the verses, which is about the halfway point of the song, the cooling down section starts prematurely. Hmmm....I appreciate that Devin wanted to not become predictable, and I admire him for that, but suddenly, almost all of the spirit is drained out of the song as it becomes minimalistic, almost sounding like Mark Knoppfler playing without any other instruments supporting him. Well, this meanders on for a while, then you get a slight build as Che sings again, and you start to think, here it comes again, that crazy emotion from Devin should start anytime, but doesn't. Che's vocals are excellent, but it is a let down all the same when nothing comes after it. What starts out as a perfect song just kind of dies.

Following this, there are no more peaks of angry emotion as before, but it's okay, because Devin is being Devin. The tracks "Lady Helen" and "Ki" are still beautiful masterpieces though. Very well written and with interesting melodic hooks, vocals and instrumentals. It is interesting, even without the wall of noise supporting Devin's vocals, that his voice is still just off kilter and out of focus, but strangely enough, we all love that about Devin, don't we? That's what makes his music so intriguing, it's like nothing else and it keeps us guessing, wondering when he will go off the edge. After this, the album ends a little weakly though, with just some okay tracks that don't offer a whole lot, but they are short at least.

All in all, this is a definite excellent addition to anyone's collection, even with it's weaknesses, there are some tracks that are masterpieces. Those songs by themselves are some of the best work that Townsend has done, and that makes me want to give the album 5 stars, but I can't because of the weaker tracks here. But you can't pass this up because the highs on this album are just amazing. Devin does his best work when he shows his anger and bares his emotions. It would be a shame to ignore this album though because of those few weaknesses, the high points of the album are not to be ignored. So, I have to give this 4 stars, but let it be known that some of my favorite tracks are also on this album. Get this one for the masterpieces scattered throughout the album. Is it a good entry point for those wanting to try out Townsend's music? Well in a way it is, just remember that it isn't typical of his usual heavy and thick sound, though you will get a little taste of it here.

Report this review (#1438993)
Posted Friday, July 10, 2015 | Review Permalink
4 stars The first release of under the "Devin Townsend Project" is also the most unique of Townsend's entire catalog. There's a heavy side that's familiar, but yet it's also a different approach.

"A Monday", the intro, is a perfect example of it. It's just a little guitar ballad, almost sounding Buckethead-like texture-wise, and although it's not much to go by, "Coast", the track it segues into confirms this fact. This album is much more down-tempo, genuinely a much softer album. Much of the song has Devin whispering across gentle plucks of the guitar, a pretty standard drum beat and gentle bell tones here and there. It almost boarders on the shoegaze / post-rock realm. When you listen to it, it even sounds minimalist, as if the song sounds much longer than it actually is, even though it isn't devoid of material or action like minimalist music traditionally is. However, the increasing tension towards the end before it fades out into a neo-classical guitar spot shows a hidden, darker side to this album.

The first of which is evident in "Disruptr". Now we get a much darker, grungier tone, the beat continues to hang back, as Devin's whispers turn raspier, much more serious, more violent. And once again, as the tension builds in the song, the chords get heavier, the screams more prominent, and halfway into the song, the distorted chords make their presence known as Devin is full on screaming, but only for a short while, as the arpeggiated plucks return underneath more of Devin's croons before settling back in the rhythmic dissonant plucking that has accompanied the entire song.

"Gato" essentially continues where "Disruptr' leaves off, except the former is actually a bit catchy, with hints of Nirvana as Che Dorval sings through the chorus, but then Devin turns it up to 11 and essentially repeats the process except with distorted chords at a maximum and screams up and beyond. It's an unusually haunting and yet still captivating track, while easily being one of the heaviest on the album.

"Terminal" then brings it back down to Earth, soft, down-tempo music, almost rivaling the ambiance and simplicity of "Ghost", with the rare beautiful chorus bisecting soundscapes of ambiance, echoing guitars and electronics. Then "Heaven Send" once again ushers in echos of grunge, particularly Soundgarden this time around (with whiffs of Pearl Jam soloing here and there). And with that grungy sound returns the sinister-isms, the growls and whispers underneath consistent but crunching guitar plucks. But it's also much more elaborate than that, with unusual Buckethead-styled guitar solos, and the occasional tension almost building to the top (a la "Deconstruction"). Although just when you expect it to end, Devin (or rather, one of the other musicians) decides to just redo the end, and the whole take and retake is included in the song. Unusual decision from the production standpoint, but I find it interesting, and it gives you another opportunity in the same playthrough to appreciate that punishing ending.

"Ain't Never Gonna Win" is a good break from that punishing track, with a bluesy groove essentially influenced by the previous track and essentially isolated into a jam band track. "Winter" then continues that jam band beat, and then tunes it down a bit to incorporate more of Townsend' subtle singing from "Coast" and "Terminal". Continuing onward, "Trainfire" still retains a bit of that grungy plucking, but instead incorporates a bit of down home, country-fresh cooking, complete with bits of ragtime-y piano and Elvis-esque vocals, and mixes them into his own twisted, heavy metal concoction.

Once again, without making each song sound the same, Devin has created an identity for this album that tweaks the recipe here and there. In general, down-tempo music is the name of the game. The occasional grunge-tastic tracks like "Disruptr", "Gato" and "Heaven Send" keep some meat on the bones, but the rest of the album falls to ambiance and beautiful melodies on songs like "Coast", "Terminal", "Lady Helen", "Ki". It really then feels like a mix between "Deconstruction" and "Ghost", from an album that preceded both of them. Rather unusual, but then again, we ARE talking about Devin Townsend, here. Unusual or not, the sound he concocts with this amazing band on this album is one not to be missed, showcasing both heavier and lighter sides of music that should appeal to all fandoms of prog.

Report this review (#1454563)
Posted Tuesday, August 18, 2015 | Review Permalink
Prog Metal Team
4 stars The 'Devin Townsend Project' was originally planned to be a set of 4 albums each tapping into a different element of Devin's songwriting, each with a completely different lineup. The albums were to be a soft album, a pop album, the heaviest album that Devin had written, and then a wildcard album. 'Ki' is the first of this series, being the apparently soft album of the lot, although I personally find the term restrained to be one better suited to this, as there are a number of moments in which I definitely cannot call this album light or soft. Despite this, the album is also remarkably cleaner and simpler sounding than basically anything else Devin has written, not utilising the massive wall of sound production used on most of his works prior to this.

The album builds itself around a constantly increasing energy that every time it feels as if there's going to be an extremely heavy climax, it is avoided in a variety of ways, up until 'Heaven Send'. I personally find this structure combined with songwriting to make the first half of the album to be near perfection, balancing between slow building songs and utterly beautiful ones. Both 'Coast' and 'Terminal' are great songs, both being quite simple, focusing much more on displaying how amazing Devin's voice is, along with layering the various aspects of the instrumentation, as is the norm for him, albeit to a much lesser extent. 'Terminal' in particular is interesting, as it feels very much like a precursor to the ambient nature of his album 'Ghost'. The songs that interest me the most on this portion of the album are definitely 'Disruptr', 'Gato' and 'Heaven Send', each having extremely similar structures and rhythmic patterns. 'Disruptr' starts off slow and foreboding, with the vocals almost being whispered, but with the feeling that the song will become something much more. As the first crescendo begins, the vocals become increasingly rough, and the instrumentation becomes louder. I love how once Devin breaks out his growls, rather than being a major focus of the song, the rhythm instead continues, making the moment intense, but nothing particularly powerful, showing off the restraint that the album is built around. I also love how as the second buildup occurs, this time, the vocals hit the final note in an operatic way to once again tone down the energy. 'Gato' is a much more intense song, starting off the same general way, with quiet strums of the guitar and a generally minimalistic sound. Once again, the same technique is used here of continuing the same rhythm even once the harsh vocals make an appearance in order to still have a sense of restraint. I also find Che Dorval to do an excellent job here, being a large reason why this song ends up being so intense. The moment where the album takes a significant turn is on 'Heaven Send', starting off slightly faster paced and with more focus on the percussion. The song sounds quite similar to 'Gato' especially with Che's vocal line being very similar to it, but I do like this more, especially with the constant addition of other elements in the background, building up in a much more intense way. All the energy and anger building up over the past few songs gets released in the last minute and a half, which what is the biggest climax on the album, with layers upon layers of aural bombardment.

Past this point, the album ends up being much more what I originally expected when told that this was to be a light album, with less distinct structure and the music being much more pleasant and smooth, without any sort of intensity to be found. Both 'Ain't Never Gonna Win' and 'Winter' nicely blend into each other, and while nothing particularly stunning, it's still quite pleasant. 'Trainfire' takes a more interesting approach, experimenting with rockabilly, all complete with a pretty great Elvis impression. This song is just brimming with personality and fun, and is definitely one of the higher points on the album. 'Lady Helen' is another pleasant song, but nothing that I'd consider to be great. The same can be said about both 'Quiet Riot' and 'Deamon League', which are really nice to listen to, but nothing all that special. The title track is much more of a standard affair for Devin, having some semblance of his usual wall of sound present, with layers of vocalisations, along with a really nice buildup, all while still sticking to the core concept of the album, all around making it a truly excellent song.

In general, I find this album to be a really interesting one with some clear issues. The biggest one is that while both sides are excellent, they do feel quite different and disjointed, and I find that it leaves the album with a bit of an identity problem, as it tries accomplishing 2 different things. That said, both halves are filled with memorable, great songs, and the album is stunning at multiple points. Overall, while not the best work that Devin has put out, nor one that I recommend anyone start with, I do find this to be a worthwhile listen.

Best songs: Heaven Send, Trainfire, Ki

Weakest songs: Winter, Quiet Riot

Verdict: Each half of the album has a different approach to it, with the first half being this constantly building intensity, while the second half is much quieter and prettier. While both sides are exceptional, this also makes the album slightly disjointed. Despite this, i highly recommend it for those who enjoy Devin Townsend and enjoy some lighter music, as there is quite a bit of it spread throughout.

Report this review (#2133635)
Posted Saturday, February 2, 2019 | Review Permalink

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