Nothing Exceeds Like Excess
Completing a four-album project that began with 2009’s Addicted and Ki, Vancouver-born singer/guitarist Devin Townsend made sure that no one could claim he didn’t try everything. Forming the other bookend, Deconstruction and Ghost appear as different from each other as can be, echoing the feat he accomplished two years prior, but upon closer inspection these albums have more in common than their disparity in energy level would lead you to believe.
Deconstruction, like Addicted, is loud and intense. Ghost, like Ki, is mellow and warm. Common in both, however, is a level of musical complexity to identify The Devin Townsend Project uniquely.
Deconstruction begins mellowly with “Praise the Lowered,” as Townsend provides an ominous purr over synthesizers and loops, but halfway in the song builds as he modulates to falsetto, finally screaming over the loudest of metal punctuated with orchestral soundscapes. Before the song gets overbearing, it calms back down, melding into the next tune. The rest of the 70-minute album follows suit. Each song has charm that’s muddied by entire cadres of instruments and sounds.
Townsend’s vocal range stands out, ranging from guttural growl to demonic scream when he’s not singing, and shifting between Dio’s authoritative chant and Jeff Buckley’s passionate croon when he is. This makes for some inspired moments, such as the first three minutes of “Stand” or the refrain in “Planet of the Apes.” Townsend also hasn’t lost the sense of humor that was a trademark in his previous band, Strapping Young Lad, as heard in the opening sounds of the title track that lead into a catchy loop of “cheeseburger.”
The complex arrangements throughout Deconstruction prove that DTP’s brand of industrial metal can sit on shelves alongside classical works. Having said that, it doesn’t inspire repeat listens. There is so much going on that you will feel exhausted towards the end. The remedy is his companion release, Ghost.
Also clocking in over 70 minutes long, the DTP displayed in Ghost could tour with Bon Iver and Iron & Wine. The songs are tranquil and, for the most part, on an even keel. Townsend displays a thick, sympathetic tone deliberately absent from Deconstruction. “Texada” sounds like something from a David Gilmour solo album; the bouncy title track has a luau feel to it; “Blackberry” has a bluegrass quality that adds to the mystique of the album. There are some lovely melodies on Ghost, giving credence to Townsend as a songwriter.
With patience, you’ll find a hook in just about every song, which then gets drowned in a drone of guitars and keyboards. Therein lies the similarity: Ghost, like Deconstruction, is guilty of excess. In music composition, taste is also an instrument, one that Townsend would be wise to employ in his next release. Just because you have access to a panflute doesn’t mean you need to use it.