I’d like to talk about tact, that being the idea of consideration over what you’re doing, and how sometimes people forget this idea exists. Throughout the career of Devin Townsend, he has experimented - usually - with a number of different styles, mostly in his solo material because Strapping Young Lad was a one trick pony after City, but he always had his wall-of-music production ethic along the way. However, with his new pair of albums, Deconstruction and Ghost, he plays the heavy/soft album card, tries to fancy himself a progressive, and, in what can be safely assumed from the results, decided to create the antithesis of a veritable album. Twice.
But as Ghost can easily be disregarded as the new age album new age fans wouldn’t even like, a focus on Deconstruction can only begin with a simple question: what happened? With his recent albums Ki and Addicted, Devin was able to branch himself out in two different directions at the same time, even successfully. The obvious problem with the pseudo-progressive direction taken here is that, when you look at bands who blend styles effectively they produce something memorable - like Red, Thick As A Brick, Hot Rats, even things like Écailles de Lune - Devin has created nothing memorable at all, which is one hell of an achievement considering he has guest artists ranging from Mikael Akerfeldt, Ihsahn, Tommy Rogers, Joe Duplantier, Paul Masvidal, and more, but not a single song does anything unexpected, different than something he’s done in the past, or even make you think.
The basic musical idea is slow polyrhythmic, repetitive metallic beating with slow vocal lines, and not in a cool, groovy doom way but in unmethodical and gaudy rudiments of a skeletal motif, but any time the music does something “kooky” it’s just too late for it to change your mind. If you’ve heard his Infinity, this is a lot like that but longer and dumber. This may sound like an unprofessional choice of words, but merited, for in Planet Of The Apes and Stand, the slow, predictable crescendo throughout the song doesn’t intensify the atmosphere, but rather, and possibly also at the fault of the production, completely loses attentiveness (and therefore the listener), and in songs like the opener Praise The Lowered and the closer Poltergeist, the over-confidence of the writing in tandem with the lack of structural or dynamic enthusiasm begins and ends the album nowhere in particular.
Another thing Devin has been known to succeed with is lyrical and vocal approaches, but here he tries to combine his usual silliness with the most unprofound “I want to be profound” material of the year, removing all “irony” that could have made the silliness passable. It may be a “concept album” but it’s almost “Lulu” bad, with more of a positive message; you know, the whole “stand!” and so on. Is it the fault of the intelligence of the fanbase or the integrity of Devin trying to be serious that turned these lyrics into an undergraduate’s throw-away phrases? Either way, vocally, he just draws everything out, regardless of if he’s singing or screaming. I’m not sure the tempo changes more than two or three times now that I think about it.
If there was ever a time where an album that could take a bunch of metal titans but not utilize them at all, record an orchestra that you couldn’t tell wasn’t a keyboard, and makes Between The Buried And Me look good, it could be this is a bad era for music. Sure, we have bad bands in all genres - who are naturally the popular ones - but a misstep of this magnitude in tandem with its success is disturbing. If that sounds offensive, well, maybe Devin should listen to something before he releases it. The mighty masturbater indeed.