Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction Review

Jordan Campbell’s take:

The Devin Townsend Project’s first two excursions, by most accounts, were resounding successes. Ki stands as one of the most adventurous and unique albums of Townsend’s career, and Addicted’s boisterousness is still threatening to burst from its seams, even after a full two years on the shelf. Thus, anticipation for the third installment in the Project series, Deconstruction, was incredibly high. Not just because of the quality that preceded it, but because Deconstruction was to be DT’s much-clamored-for return to face-shredding heavy fucking metal. Devin himself spoke at length about the crippling technicality and insane musicianship that he was about to unleash, and diehards such as myself became ravenous for an SYL-esque enterprise. Because, let’s be honest: Post-City Strap left a lot to be desired. Sure, Alien is a miniature classic, but Chicken Feather was way too Byron n’ Jed for its own good, and The New Black was spotty, slapped together, and cheesy as hell. SYL geeks craved a new platter of Dev-driven metal, and he seemed to want to give it to us. Deconstruction was gonna be fuckin’ it, man.

Unfortunately, it isn’t, because it seems that he didn’t really have it in him.

Deconstruction, while sufficiently heavy and impressively complex, comes off like a bloated, incoherent follow-through on an empty promise. It’s not until the closing track, “Poltergeist,” that the old-school manic-Dev adrenaline rush comes back in full effect. Even then, the song is littered with the oddball incongruities that tarnish the majority of the album: Pompous keyboard theatrics that would make Danny Elfman blush; cutesy vocal affectations; and a palpable outside-looking-in feeling…one that makes you feel as if Devin initially conceived Deconstruction for the fans, but the concept somehow ran away from him, rendering Deconstruction an insular expulsion that only he wanted to hear.

Now, this could all just be a matter of taste. Those that can listen to any of the songs on Ziltoid the Omniscient not named “Hyperdrive” (or anything Sigh has released in the past half-decade) without vomiting might have an easier time digesting Deconstruction. But there’s a circus-metal vibe here that perpetually and precariously teeters between tolerable and boorish, all but ruining the moments of profound devastation found on “Sumeria” and “Pandemic.” Any visceral metalness that Devin exudes is drowned in layer-upon-layer of cheesedick affectations.

The aforementioned are the shorter tracks, where slam-bang throwdowns should be a given, or at least an adrenaline-fueled respites from the four sprawling epics found herein. These pillars of Deconstruction, “Stand,” “Planet of the Apes,” “The Mighty Masturbator,” and “Deconstruction,” are staggering in their combination of leftover Synchestra pomp, telegraphed soloing, and introverted vocal immolation. “Stand” just never gets going—it’s like Devin’s “…And Justice For All,” minus the awesome solo. “Planet of the Apes” opens with an absolutely excruciating plod that doesn’t relent until we’re three minutes deep, and even though it does flash some moments of bizarre coolness, it comes across like a really obnoxious way of saying, “We’re only heavy for the sake of being heavy, and we all just rip off Meshuggah anyway.” (And, though I’m paraphrasing, that is the actual lyrical theme, believe it or not.)

This introspection reaches critical mass on “The Mighty Masturbator”—which, at sixteen-minutes-plus, has the most apt title of anything released this year—and the title track, which is ten minutes of guitar solos trading off with bodily functions. As far as guitar wanks go, it’s a far cry from “Away.”

On the whole, Deconstruction isn’t a great–or even decent–heavy metal record, but maybe that’s okay. Consider it a purging, if you will, for both Dev and his fans alike. Fans expecting a content, introspective forty-year-old to channel the unhinged mania of his heshed-out twenty-one-year-old self is a little absurd. In thinking he could channel a smidge of that metallic madness and filter it through a prog-clogged filter, Devin bit off a colossal piece of gristle. If not for his massive and ever-growing body of work, Deconstruction would be considered a creative disaster. Amidst his cavalcade of material, it’s merely a bump in the road.

All stylistic blunders aside, the ADD-addled crudeness of these compositions renders Deconstruction the absolute weakest of the Project entries, and it will rot alongside Ziltoid and Synchestra as the most forgettable—and cripplingly self-indulgent—of any of Townsend’s solo works.

Chris McDonald’s take:

In spite of the fact that Devin Townsend is a long-time favorite artist of mine, there are certain creative endeavors and experiments that I just can’t get behind, no matter how ambitious or pure of intention they may be. Townsend’s 2007 comedy opus Ziltoid the Omniscient was one example, and this album is another. Deconstruction is exactly the kind of album that results from an irrepressible genius that has too much talent, too many ideas, too much ambition, and the resources to take advantage of it all. Put simply, Deconstruction is a jarring, disjointed mess.

Listening to this album is a comparable experience to setting up three of Townsend’s previous albums and playing them all at the same time at random intervals. A sprawling, utterly ridiculous union of Infinity’s psychedelic freakouts, Strapping Young Lad’s tribal aggression, and the irritating rock-opera flourishes of Ziltoid, Deconstruction is the most head-spinning music Townsend has ever releaesed by a long-shot. Unfortunately, the album’s quirkiness and sparse instances of genius are completely buried by mountains of directionless prog-ambling and flat-out boring songwriting.

There are definitely parts of this album that work, and some that even work well. The interesting trip-hop bend of intro “Praise the Lowered” would’ve sounded more at home on Ki, but still opens the album with some pleasant, mellow vibes, which sets the stage for the more intense pulse of “Stand.” Later on, the (comparatively) straightforward “Sumeria” is a decent mid-album jaunt, and the get-to-the-fucking-point feel of the blistering “Pandemic” makes for a solid late-album palette cleanser. These more condensed tracks, while flawed in their own right, are just easier to digest and subsequently easier to enjoy, and if the entire album was composed in this manner, it would make for a much more serviceable and even listening experience.

It’s primarily the utter lack of focus in the longer tracks that completely derails Deconstruction, and sours impressions of the shorter songs that surround them. “Planet of the Apes,” despite featuring a catchy main hook and some interesting compositional turns, is so padded with aimless, multilayered fluff that its hard to know what you’re even supposed to be listening to half of the time. Random vocal interchanges and completely arbitrary shifts in direction and rhythm render what could be an epic journey into an exercise in watch-checking. Similarly, the sixteen-minute-plus “The Might Masturbator” lives up to its name with some of the most mindlessly self-congratulatory “songwriting” of Townsend’s career. It’s hard to comprehend that the man who penned such effortlessly catchy material as that found on Addicted could shit out a brick like this, with utterly brainless cycles of manic lead guitar and chugging polyrhythms that go absolutely nowhere. Again, there’s a few interesting touches and melodies here and there, but when absorbed in the context of a sixteen-minute song, sitting through the whole thing quickly becomes a chore. The same goes for the title track, which features some woefully unfunny voice samples and a similar lack of solid, cohesive hooks.

I have to say: I’ll give Townsend some credit for the courage it took to even release this record – following up one of the most accessible, purely fun recordings of his career in Addicted with easily the most inaccessible and mentally taxing album in his catalogue was a bold move. Unfortunately for all of us, it’s a move that didn’t pay off. Deconstruction shows serious promise at times and it’s full to the gills with Townsend’s trademark oddball charm, but the lack of basic intent and focus in most of the material here is just too big an obstacle to overcome, no matter how many times you listen. Even several months after its release, I’m still not sure what the hell Devin was trying to accomplish or prove here, but I sincerely hope his next foray into heavier waters is better realized than this, because Deconstruction is about as close to an all-out debacle as anything the man has ever put to tape.

Posted by Old Guard

The retired elite of LastRites/MetalReview.

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