When we asked our contributors to tell us their albums of the year, we also offered them the opportunity to retrospectively review any of their Top 10 list that we hadn’t reviewed already. Ruth Booth took us up on that offer.
The Devin Townsend Project
20 June 2011
by Ruth Booth
If Addicted wasn’t heavy enough, then bloody hell, you can’t say you haven’t got what you’ve asked or here. Depth of sound has always been a trademark of Townsend’s work, but even by those standards, Deconstruction is a tremendously dense record, one that’s way too heavy to be just metal; stuffed with (deep breath) opera, death metal, lullabies, space olympics raves, Al Jolson on ice; Meshuggah, Melechesh and Stephen Sondheim; metal luminaries in double figures, the Prague Philharmonic and PA’DAM choir; sex, death, religion, evolution, giant fast food, aliens… I’m not sure about the kitchen sink, but I’m pretty sure I heard a cat on there at one point.
However, Deconstruction is nowhere near as messy and distracted as the kitchen sink metaphor suggests. Every moment, and every fleeting reference has a reason to be there, even if you don’t discover it until your tenth listen. And each is carried out with the versatility that comes not just from the multitude of collaborators, but Townsend’s new state of mind. His focus allows him not only to shift from gut wrenching roar to soft smooth operatics, and from tension-ridden guitar work to fractious guitarwork, but more impressively, capture all the streams of musical consciousness flying about here. Even the mellower moments on Deconstruction serve to highlight the intensity of light and dark. Take the softer moment at the end of the Hollywood Bible epic of ‘Sumeria’. Cynic’s Paul Masvidal drops in a lovely little melody – only to be joined, as the twinkling music drops away, by Joe Duplantier of Gojira’s growl for a sinister “pray for where our hearts lead us now”. Like Where The Wild Things Are, albeit done by Peter Jackson and Danny Elfman.
While the execution is serious, that doesn’t mean no room for Townsend’s quirkier moments – whether it’s the toilet bowl noises on the title track, worshipping a cheeseburger, getting a choir of middle-aged women to sing “I farted“, or Ziltoid’s “vagina-faced lady“. Yes, indeed, even Ziltoid is back, chiefly as MC for the end of ‘The Mighty Masturbator’. As for other “special guests”,Townsend might had balked at the suggestion that Deconstrustion might end up being more about the big names on the “Featuring…” sticky label on the album cover than the music itself, but from the choral roar of Mikael Åkerfeldt on ‘Stand’, to Greg Puciato’s hunger-filled screams on ‘The Mighty Masturbator’, it’s clear this was more than just bringing buddies into the studio. Besides, the Special Guests sticker would have to be the size of the entire CD case for that to work out.
With this in mind, it’s easy to see why so many have branded Deconstruction as the album Devin Townsend has been trying to make his entire career. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Perhaps it’s more accurate to look at this as a fusion of Townsend’s “heavier” influences with everything he’s ever attempted in that direction, which goes a ways to explaining the sheer weight of this album. We’ve not even got into the lyrical journey yet, and for one very good reason.
Deconstruction is so dense, it can be overwhelming, but in trying to dissect this album, hell, you might as well be a vegetarian staring at a cheeseburger. Funnily enough, ‘Deconstruction of a Cheeseburger’ was the original name of the title track. And Townsend has reacted the way you’d expect of most vegetarians who’ve just eaten a cheeseburger. He’s sent the whole lot spewing out his system, until all that’s left is the Ghost.
Sounds Like: Meshuggah, Stephen Sondheim, Aphex Twin, Strapping Young Lad.
Top Tracks: The Mighty Masturbator, Praise The Lowered, Stand.