Throughout the course of a prospective four album series going by the name of the Devin Townsend Project, musical mastermind Devin Townsend has traversed virtually every corner of his musical vision, from folky ambiance to atmospheric rock, to extreme metal, be it of a poppy, or progressive variety. Long awaited since the first pair of Devin Townsend Project albums dropped in 2009, ‘Deconstruction’ has been hailed as Townsend representing ‘what he was trying to achieve with Strapping Young Lad’, his former flagship band, which was well-known for their antics, crushing heaviness and over-the-top nature. Suffice to say, the Devin Townsend Project has seen some mixed success since its inception, but as far as ‘Deconstruction’ goes, this is the closest thing of the Project to the sort of music that Townsend is best known for; tongue in cheek, bombastic progressive metal. In no shortage of ambition or complexity, ‘Deconstruction’ is Devin Townsend’s crowning achievement in terms of this particular series, but much like the other three albums, it does not compare to the sort of perfection Townsend achieved earlier in his career.
If ‘Ki’ represented Devin’s ability to restrain himself and use moderation, then ‘Deconstruction’ is its direct antithesis; a work that can be considered over-the-top in just about every conceivable way imaginable. Besides being about as long as a single disc will permit, ‘Deconstruction’ shows an almost unrelenting bout into complex arrangements, orchestrations, and- not to mention- a load of guest appearances from some of modern metal’s most recognizable figures. Of these are Paul Masvidal of Cynic, Ihsahn formerly of Emperor, Joe Duplantier of Gojira, Tommy Rogers of Between The Buried And Me and- certainly of note- Oderus Urungus of GWAR, with whom Devin Townsend has had a lasting working relationship with. All of the elements that can be associated with Devin Townsend’s heavier material are here in greater definition than they have ever been; operatic vocals, (bad) humour, incredibly heavy riffs and some rhythmic experimentation. The entire thing is certainly a spectacle, and sounds about as theatrical as I have ever heard Devin’s work. Of another particular mention is the use of a full orchestra and choir here, which got me excited even months before hearing the actual record.
Of course, the album is brimming with promise, even if it was only still on the drawing board. Where the faults in the formula start showing up are not the ingredients themselves, but rather the way Devin Townsend uses them, or in this case, fails to use them. For instance, the full orchestra that Devin employs here can be heard on some of the more dramatic moments of the album, but are almost always drowned out behind the metal instruments, which seemingly never slink out of the spotlight once they are there. The guest cast of vocalists was another major selling point for ‘Deconstruction’, but hearing some of metal’s most recognizable and greatest vocalists only being alloted a single verse or two feels incredibly underwhelming. Of course, Devin Townsend’s vocals here are in top form; his clean operatic vocals are some of the best he has ever recorded.
The biggest joy here is the cheer over-the-top theatrics of it all, as well as the overbearing complexity that never seems to abate. The complexity comes at a fair price though; none of the songs on ‘Deconstruction’ ever feel like they will become classic tracks in Devin’s repertoire. Unlike songs on ‘Terria’ which were able to marry intensity with incredible melodies and memorable moments, it almost always feels as if the intensity is at 100% throughout ‘Deconstruction’, and this can make even the most sweeping passages sound hazy in the context of the album. Even so, ‘Deconstruction’ is certainly an entertaining effort, despite it’s intentional lack of discipline and lack of focus. Of course, this is only an album that will grow with each listen, and while some of Townsend’s lackluster humour here will turn some listeners off from the start, there is a wealth of nooks in ‘Deconstruction’ that should keep an adventurous listener exploring worth many listens.
1. Praise the Lowered (6:02)
2. Stand (9:36)
3. Juular (3:46)
4. Planet of the Apes (10:59)
5. Sumeria (6:37)
6. The Mighty Masturbator (16:28)
7. Pandemic (3:29)
8. Deconstruction (9:27)
9. Poltergeist (4:25)
* Devin Townsend – vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, programming
* Ryan Van Poederooyen – drums
* Dirk Verbeuren – drums
* Mikael Åkerfeldt – vocals (Stand)
* Ihsahn – vocals (Juular)
* Tommy Giles Rogers – vocals (Planet of the Apes)
* Joe Duplantier – vocals (Sumeria)
* Paul Masvidal – vocals (Sumeria)
* Greg Puciato – vocals (The Mighty Masturbator)
* Floor Jansen – vocals (Pandemic)
* Oderus Urungus – vocals (Deconstruction)
* Fredrik Thordendal – guitar (Deconstruction)