Review Summary: A masterpiece of relentless beauty.
What can be said about Devin Townsend that hasn't been said already? He's one of the most prominent figures in modern metal, whether being known for his work with the extreme (and I mean extreme) metal band Strapping Young Lad or for his large body of solo work. Either way, this man is everywhere, and has crossed nearly every boundary in contemporary music while retaining his rock/metal roots.
However, ever since Ki (his first album under the alias "The Devin Townsend Project"), Townsend's music has gradually grown more honest, only rearing the head of his earlier work with the album Deconstruction (released the same day as Ghost). Many fans didn't even know what to expect after such an album like Deconstruction; a record filled with scatological humor and a diverse selection of extreme progressive metal tracks. However, its brother album Ghost is the polar opposite; A new-age/ambient album filled with the most soothing palette of sounds released by Townsend.
Any trace of the metallic wall of sound present on earlier Devin Townsend releases is gone, replaced with Townsend's soothing vocals, an oceanic atmosphere, and some of the softest instrumentation by the man since the quieter moments of Terria. Let's start with the first track, "Fly." Right off the bat, the calm sound of the album immediately makes its presence known. Kicking things off with a beautifully soaring flute, "Fly" sees Devin Townsend reaching for a zen-like effect with his guitar and vocals, creating something truly wonderful. It's as if he's inviting the listener to soar across the mountaintops with him; the synthesizer effects contribute to this atmosphere just as well.
This style continues for the duration of the album... there's no metal, and only a trace of rock in songs like "Feather" or "Blackberry." Speaking of "Feather", that is, HANDS DOWN, one of the best songs on the record if not THE best song on the record. The song, like "Fly", starts out with the lovely flute, yet transforms into something entirely different. This song is over 11 minutes long, but never will you lose your focus on the song. There's always something interesting going on, whether it's in the multiple textural layers present in the instruments or the loose-yet-powerful flow the track exudes.
While we're on the topic of focus, I'll just say this now: This is where Ghost really escapes the pitfall that Deconstruction fell victim to. In Deconstruction, there was lost focus in some of the offerings, and some portions simply felt like they didn't meld well. In Ghost, however, there is an abundance of music to really stay focused in on, even at a daunting 72:45. Even with an album of this epic magnitude, nothing feels tacked on or feels like dead weight; everything serves a genuine purpose and role in the album.
So what do we end up having? We end up having one of the best albums of Devin Townsend's career, and a subdued masterpiece to behold by fans of any genre. Folk? You have it. Ambient? That's there as well. Progressive rock? Definitely there. The biggest departure is certainly the departure from the metal genre, but it shows that Devin Townsend's maturing out of his immature humor of yesteryear and progressing toward bigger things. If this was his intention, then he succeeded wildly.
Devin Townsend Project (for this album):
Devin Townsend – guitars, bass, vocals, banjo, ambience
Dave Young – keyboards, mandolin
Mike St. Jean – drums
Kat Epple – flute, EWI, bawu
Katrina – female vocals