Review Summary: Devin Townsend lets loose on the semi-technical progressive pop Addicted, creating some of his best material in years in the process. It's also more fun than a pillow fight.
Devin Townsend is a goofy man. The dude stomped around for years with his trademark "skullet" hairstyle, wrote a concept album about an alien that threatened to destroy the earth lest he get the universe's greatest cup of coffee, and has made a career of out of being a pretty crazy guy in general. When we last saw HevyDevy, he released the first in an ambitious four album project claiming that he wanted to be taken seriously as an artist after ridding himself of many of the things that made him the crazy guy that he is. The result, KI, was a surprisingly restrained effort that was a nice change of pace from the usual craziness that Mr. Townsend produces. The only major fault that Ki had, was that it never fully went all the way. Sure, this was intentional but it seemed hellbent on trying to prove that Devin is not the artist you think he is and it would have been nice if it let loose. Enter "Addicted", the second part in the four part series. Addicted is not only a major departure from Ki and Devin's earlier work in general, but it's also fun as hell.
For a man that wants to be taken seriously, Devin sure knows how to make things hard for himself. In his own words, he described "Addicted" as being heavily inspried by Meshuggah and the Venga Boys as well as having a song title based off an alcoholic cartoon robot. All this is hit home by the fact that every song title is eager to be played judging by the exclamation mark each one has. The strange truth is that it all somehow works. There's parts on addicted that sound like they would be at home on a Meshuggah cd and the horribly catchy dance anthems of the Venga Boys.
All this just goes to further show how musically adaptable Devin Townsend can really be. One moment, you can be headbanging to heavy songs like "Universe in a ball!", the next you could be dancing along to catchy anthems like the aforementioned "Bend it like Bender!", which happens to be one of the most criminally catchy songs of the year. Townsend never really brings the shred on "Addicted", instead opting for a more fun, and laid back approach. Don't think that these songs are not somewhat technical though as the drums and background keyboards are frequently astounding.
However, the instrumentation, while great, pales in comparison to the absolutely jaw dropping vocal work found all over the album. Guest singer Anneke van Giersbergen goes a long way into putting the final polish on all the songs with her powerful, energetic voice. She truly shines on the more energetic songs like "Bend it like Bender!" and "Hyperdrive!" While "Hyperdrive!" was originally found on Ziltoid the Omniscient, Anneke's vocals really give the song the electric shock that it needed, beating Devy's old vocals to a bloody pulp. That's not to discount Townsend's vocals found on here. In fact, Townsend's vocal performance found on here is nothing short of breathtaking. Ranging from an angry scowl to soaring operatic vocals, he truly is a musical chameleon blending into whatever he sees fit.
Which brings me to a song that needs special mention. "The way home!" honestly makes me feel like I can fly. An inspiring pop song that starts off as a whisper and gradually builds up to the grandest of choruses. "The way home!" certainly embodies the sort of mood that Townsend seems to be in lately and the lyrics, while simple, reflect his newfound sobriety in an epic way with his flawless and theatric execution.
"So hollow now... Show's over now... And I've wasted time on daylight...
I won't be shown the way home. "
While "Addicted" has many strengths, it is not without its weaknesses. Some of the heavier parts like "Universe in a ball!" and other riffs throughout seem to drag on a bit and lack some of the punch that was intended. Actually, come to think of it, that's it's only weakness. Other than that, the songs mesh extremely well and the experience is over for what feels like all too soon. Album closer "Awake!" does an excellent job of putting the rest in summation all while giving a taste of what is to come in the upcoming third installment, "Deconstruction."
"Addicted" is an excellent release and succeeds in the many different regards that Devin set out to do. The heavy parts are a little taxing, but the carefree, techno, poppy parts more than make for it in sheer fun. Sure, it's not for everyone and there will always be those who will feel betrayed at the drastic change in sound, but "Addicted" too much fun to ignore. Serious or not, Devin Townsend proves time and time again that he is capable of writing great music, addicted or not.