Getting Into: Devin Townsend: Part II: The 2000s


Written by: ScreamingSteelUS
Published: 27.08.2020


PART I: THE 1990s

Devin Townsend entered the 2000s at the top of his game, with two career-bests under his belt already and many more career-bests yet to come. His work both with Strapping Young Lad and under his own name had begun to garner acclaim within the metal community, and his creative energy seemed endless. Unfortunately, Devin's struggles with his mental health and self-destructive habits eventually took their toll; the increasingly unhealthy atmosphere surrounding his Strapping Young Lad material, fueled by the negative side of his bipolar disorder, led him to retire the project in 2007, and in the same year he stepped back from creating music altogether. For two years, from 2007 to 2009, Devin embarked on a detoxifying hiatus; he quit smoking, drinking, and what he characterized as a host of other addictions plaguing him. He returned to taking his medication, dedicated more time to his family, and worked behind the scenes as a producer to relieve the pressure of constant touring and recording. After a sufficient absence, he began to write prolifically again, and when in 2009 he returned to releasing music actively it was with the first stage of his new Devin Townsend Project concept: a series of four albums, each with its own distinct sound borne of his musical rehabilitation, to be released in pairs. Though Strapping Young Lad remained mothballed (and, for the most part, still does), with Devin avoiding the material out of concern for its emotional toll, the Project project proved a great success and welcomed a healthier Devin back to the forefront of the metal scene.

--

Devin Townsend - Physicist (2000)

Ironically, in spite of his running start, Devin faltered as the new millennium began: critics, fans, and Devin himself often rank Physicist as the worst entry in his discography. Sensible justifications for this assessment can be found (deleterious production, inconsistent songwriting, uncharacteristically lackluster performances), and on the whole Physicist could be considered a rare misstep. There is no reason to shrug it off entirely, however - as the only one of Devin's non-Strapping Young Lad albums to feature the SYL lineup, Physicist has an aggressive, razor-like sound and an unmistakable attitude that, if undercut by the deadened mix, make this album something of a "lost" Strapping album. Physicist also offers up a few genuinely strong tracks, and "Kingdom" would later be rescued from its unflattering incarnation by a re-recording for Epicloud.
Standout Tracks: "Namaste," "Irish Maiden," "Planet Rain," "Victim"






Devin Townsend - Terria (2001)

Terria is a lush world of serene natural imagery inspired by the landscape of Devin's native Canada. Sparkling canopies of keyboards lie atop patterns of rich, verdant guitar lines that meander organically into progressive soundscapes. Terria features some of the loosest, most fluid, and most inspired guitar work of any Devin Townsend album, especially on tracks like "Deep Peace" and "Down Under"; on the whole, this is an exceptional album for Devin as an instrumentalist and songwriter. At its roots, Terria is as firmly a heavy metal album as anything around it, as demonstrated by the thunderous stomp of "Mountain," the blasting mutations of "The Fluke," and the shrieking barrages of the classic "Earth Day," but it is also one of Devin's most uplifting albums, buoyed by relaxed, calming melodies and a flirtation with classic prog and ambient music that never seems to be at odds with the metal aspects. Devin's vocals are often more liminal and ethereal than on other records, preferring to let the music shape and cultivate the atmosphere without assistance; as often as he is conducting his orchestra, he is narrating the placid awakening of the album's pastoral charms.
Standout Tracks: "Earth Day," "Deep Peace," "Nobody's Here," "Stagnant"

Strapping Young Lad - Strapping Young Lad (2003)

The successor to Strapping Young Lad's legendary epic City took the band's sound in a different direction, away from the layered, machinist shrieking and into the realms of traditional death metal. More organic instrumental tones, a looser and less monolithic sound, and bracing, metallic riffs make SYL sound more like Morbid Angel or Autopsy than City, but with Devin's distinctive vocals and periodic concessions to melody, the album keeps continuity with Strapping Young Lad, albeit in a more esoteric fashion. SYL often receives less attention than other Strapping releases due to its departure from the unique, attention-grabbing menace of City and Alien; its uncharacteristically crude production, less humorous tone, and utilization of somewhat traditional metal structures make it something of a novelty in Devin's discography. Contained within this album, however, are jungles of punishing guitars and unfamiliar ideas that make this album a valuable adventure; a more conventional extreme metal album it may be, but "conventional" for Devin is rarely ever tedious.
Standout Tracks: "Aftermath," "Relentless," "Force Fed," "Bring On The Young"






Devin Townsend Band - Accelerated Evolution (2003)

Accelerated Evolution combines the heady prog pace of Ocean Machine's more cyclopean tracks with an indulgent effervescence left over from Terria, resulting in a rich mélange of heavy metal, rock and roll, and aesthetics borrowed from folk and ambient music. Though sanitized production makes the album sound flat at times, Devin's songwriting had turned another fortuitous corner in its evolution, excelling in the album's lumbering mammoths like "Deadhead" and "Storm." Lambent synths and a slight echo on the drums and vocals create the effect of ethereal space in which massive chords and choruses resound. Noteworthy for featuring some of Devin's most iconic vocal performances, Accelerated Evolution jumps from simple, driving rockers to thoughtful, meandering riffs, but its ability to synthesize these extremes (as well as the resolutely uniform sound) makes it one of Devin's most streamlined releases - possibly his most accessible album to retain a strong measure of progressive tendency.
Standout Tracks: "Deadhead," "Storm," "Depth Charge," "Slow Me Down"

Devin Townsend - Devlab (2004)

Devlab is frequently labeled an ambient album, but this most blatantly avant-garde work of Devin's often falls more into the category of noise, or perhaps simply experimental music. Comprising sequences of seemingly unrelated audio samples, electronic soundscapes, intermittent crooning, and roiling swaths of noise that cleanse the palate before new rounds of inexplicable aural sensation, Devlab evades classification in terms of quality as much as genre. Even on such an album with no apparent direction or structure, Devin still makes his personality shine through, and Devlab is intriguing as both a novelty and proof that Devin can perform in yet one more genre when he feels so inclined, but most fans will be satisfied after a single cursory listen, if even that much.
Standout Tracks: Hard to tell.






Strapping Young Lad - Alien (2005)

Alien is a caustic inferno. Scurrilous lyrics, ferocious shrieking, concussive riffs, and grotesque displays of emotion can make Alien a difficult album to consume when not in the proper mood, but it can be strikingly commercial at the same time, with "Love?" becoming perhaps the closest thing SYL ever had to a hit single. Alien's production lacks the precision and scale of City, relying more on attitude and volume to make an impact, and this album more than any other Strapping release seems to emphasize groove (not to mention hostility); still, the songwriting often reflects the same ultra-refined thrash and anthem-sized metal that the self-titled album avoided. To prepare himself for writing Alien, Devin ceased taking his medication, suspicious that it impaired his creative abilities, and the result was a highly self-destructive environment that bleeds into the vicious and unstable lyrical content. The album was a critical and commercial success for Strapping Young Lad, but also proved to Devin that he needed to escape the project's whirlpool.
Standout Tracks: "Love?", "Shitstorm," "We Ride," "Possessions"

Devin Townsend Band - Synchestra (2006)

Breaking away from the world-spanning emotional intensity of its immediate predecessor, Synchestra circles back around to the nature-fixated Terria, offering another eloquent, calming ode to sunlit melody while sprinkling in some of Infinity's more spontaneous and bombastic elements. Having tapped into his darkest side for Alien, Devin produced Synchestra as the spritely, joyous counterbalance, a guitar-driven collection of two-minute prog songs and seven-minute pop songs. Whimsical and mellifluous even in its heaviest moments, which are quite loud and quite present, Synchestra subsists on playful instrumentals and a bright, enthusiastic delivery; its heaviness rarely slips into aggression, functioning as merely a louder way of expressing contentment. The album does become mired in its own length later on, and its tone becomes more neutral as walls of wandering chords absorb greater portions of the songs, but the folksy and carefree attitude of the first half still sparks from time to time.
Standout Tracks: "Vampira," "Hypergeek," "Notes From Africa," "Triumph"






Strapping Young Lad - The New Black (2006)

For all the adamantine fury of Alien, The New Black was perhaps the one Strapping album that most of all showed Devin's hand: fascinated by the allure and potential of heavy metal, disdainful of its narrow expectations, and resolved not to be taken seriously in either respect. Bouncy, humorous, crisp, and heaving with hooks, The New Black is unusually slick, stylish, and digestible for a Strapping Young Lad album. It features more clean vocals and guitar solos than ever before, as well as an unusual frequency of gang vocals and an exaggerated "super-metal" attitude, all appended to a very infectious array of groovy singles. The production takes the wall of sound down a peg from "furious" to "compact," which hurts an album predicated on performative excess, but this is one more area in which SYL had begun to converge on Devin's other material; The New Black signals his departure from the Cityscape, as much for Strapping's lack of musical necessity as for the mental energy it demanded of him, but the ideas he had finally arrived at on this album would soon resurface under different names.
Standout Tracks: "Almost Again," "Wrong Side," "You Suck," "Far Beyond Metal"

Devin Townsend - The Hummer (2006)

The Hummer was Devin's second attempt at creating a release free of conventional songwriting constraints, built around incidental sounds and auras rather than instruments and melodies. Unlike Devlab, The Hummer moves with care and deliberation, taking its name from the soothing hum of its lengthy opener and title track. As its first two songs progress through gentle waves of repetitive aural stimulation, The Hummer shapes itself into an album more faithful to the ambient label, but it takes a turn for the mystical at the halfway point: the echoes of futuristic whirring take on a philosophical hue a la Star Trek, and as Leonard Cohen reads aloud from The Tibetan Book of the Dead, a more esoteric sort of atmosphere envelops the album. The Hummer becomes more aggressive and hypnotic in its audience-absorption tactics, eventually coming full circle with a relaxing assortment of ocean sounds and electronic pulses to finish out. Though strange in its own way, most observers would likely find The Hummer more palatable than Devlab, and its atmospheres are certainly more refined.
Standout Tracks: "The Hummer," "Arc," "Consciousness Causes Collapse"






Devin Townsend - Ziltoid The Omniscient (2007)

Ziltoid The Omniscient is easily one of Devin's most visible and enduring albums, due to the introduction of his eponymous mascot character and the absurdity of the coffee-sparked-alien-invasion storyline, but Ziltoid's epic, multileveled compositions make it one of Devin's best albums musically as well. The narrative is less intrusive and more organically integrated than that of Cooked On Phonics, with several songs suggesting a layer of personal introspection beyond any literal connection to coffee or multi-dimensionality - as haphazardly goofy as some tracks are, others fall among Devin's loneliest and most delicate compositions. The longer songs are like albums unto themselves, with Devin exercising his full array of vocal techniques and reveling in his trademark scales and riffing style while journeying from industrial groove to progressive dreamscape. With only minimal outside contributions to vocals and production, Ziltoid is a true solo album, and it demonstrates some of Devin's greatest strengths as a songwriter.
Standout Tracks: "By Your Command," "Hyperdrive," "Solar Winds," "Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!"

Devin Townsend Project - Ki (2009)

Ki is one of Devin's most dynamic albums and one of his most effective blends of light and heavy moods, taking an artful, outsider approach to its metal moments. Initially putting on a front of atmospheric calm, Ki debuts with muted vocals and intricate, math-rock-like passages played on clean guitars; as often as the quietude facilitates relaxation, however, it also serves as the agent of austerity and tension, and guest vocalist Ché Aimee Dorval oscillates between comforting and severe to back up Ki's unusual textural subtlety. The soft tread of intimate prog constantly crescendos into burly, distorted marching and then decrescendos into chilled-out mood pieces, building on lengthy rhythmic patterns and a taut forward drive. Ki is something of an abstruse release, a reserved counterpart to the infectious mirth of what would soon follow in Addicted.
Standout Tracks: "Ki," "Gato," "Heaven Sent," "Disruptr"






Devin Townsend Project - Addicted (2009)

Erstwhile The Gathering vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen joined Devin for Addicted, the second quarter of the Devin Townsend Project series. This would prove to be a golden collaboration, with Anneke's smiling voice and undiluted cheer mingling harmoniously with Devin's excitable half-screeches for an effortless flow of blithe pop choruses amidst crunchy, unyielding slabs of raw riff. Devin tempers his industrial groove into a danceable stomp, liberally slathering every track with layers of keys and beautifully polished vocal lines, relishing his newfound ability to turn aggressive metal into pop tunes. Addicted can be as heavy as anything else, but also unabashedly gooey; with its wealth of hooks, positive attitude, and majestic lead vocal combination, Addicted is easily one of Devin's most fun and accessible albums.
Standout Tracks: "Addicted!", "Hyperdrive!", "Ih-Ah!", "Bend It Like Bender!"


--

The 2000s were when Devin really got to work, capitalizing on the musical and personal discoveries he had made on his first albums. His output during this decade demonstrates a singular capacity for extremes: volume, emotion, productivity, precision, and, of course, variety. Picking up extreme metal street cred (Alien, SYL) and total weird-guy prog street cred (Ziltoid) and even some sparks of crossover success (Addicted), Devin produced such a variegated bevy of material during this time that almost anyone could find at least one album to love and one to be challenged by. The 2000s were also a tumultuous decade, during which Devin experienced many personal trials and setbacks, ultimately having to set aside one of his best-liked endeavors, but he persevered - the guy took a two-year hiatus and still released 12 albums before the decade was through. He had already produced a handful of masterworks, but it's Devin's ability to evolve in sound, style, and philosophy - demonstrated to great effect in his output here - that makes him such a charismatic and enigmatic figure. And while the Devin Townsend Project concept would eventually find itself at odds with that capricious nature of his, its initial tetralogy was bringing him to a whole new audience.



 



Written on 27.08.2020 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments

Comments: 14   Visited by: 95 users
27.08.2020 - 19:10
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Two things struck me as I was preparing this segment of the series.

First, I remembered why I had set aside this particular "Getting Into" project in the first place. I started this probably five years ago and ultimately gave up because every time I listened to one of Devin's albums I understood it in a new way; the amount of rewriting that has gone into each entry is substantial, and it's sort of an exercise in futility because my opinions of his work have changed a lot more drastically over the years than my opinions of other artists for whom I've done "Getting Into" articles. There is so much material and it is all so varied, so layered, sometimes mood-dependent - no matter what you say about any album, or even any song, there are going to be a lot of fans who feel very differently about every last detail. To some extent, you get that with just about any band, of course, but for someone like Devin, who has so many albums in so many styles, that inability to grasp his true essence seems amplified.

Second, though I have been listening to Devin for about a decade now and I've gradually come to appreciate just about all of his albums one way or another, this was the first time when I really had to listen to them in chronological order and figure out a clear picture of his progression over time. I see much more clearly now how much continuity there is between all of his various guises. Obviously Epicloud sounds like Addicted and Synchestra has some Infinity and whatnot - it's the same guy doing it all - and he does like to recycle pieces of songs, like how "Color Your World" borrows from "Wrong Side" and "The Death of Music" borrows from "Japan," but more than that I feel like I hear the implicit similarities in less obvious places. Ki bleeds into Deconstruction really well and there are tracks on both that could have been on Ziltoid; "Fucker" sounds like a test run for Addicted; there are moments on Strapping Young Lad that I'm sure came up in Transcendence; Terria is as much Empath as Ocean Machine. When you listen to everything piecemeal, it all seems rather disjointed and eccentric, even if you still like it and you know in the front of your mind that it's the same person writing it all. Having listened to everything numerous times more or less in order now, it doesn't seem all that irreconcilable anymore - still extremely varied, but more consistent spiritually.
----
Umaku naritai umaku naritai umaku naritai umaku naritai

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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28.08.2020 - 09:46
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Amazing how many 5/5 albums this guy has and relatively little duds. Well the duds may come in the last part, at least according to some people.

I really should listen to more of his stuff again. I have seen him live and listened to most of his albums already, but whenever I'm in a mood for him I basically just listen to that one live version of "Deadhead", sometimes "Kingdom".

I met him and told him I have a meme page. He said "That's very cool" is a slightly condescending tone. The highlight of my life.
----
- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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28.08.2020 - 15:28
Hyamendacil1450
Informative article, but like in the previous one, some very questionable ratings and choices.

1. Devlab and The Hummer should have been omitted. Devin has told many times that these were not serious projects, more like him messing around with his studio stuff just because he can. These two projects were never intended to be serious musical outputs. And here we are having them rated better than Physicist. Despite these albums being essentially ambient elevator music. Good if you want to fall asleep. Then again, no wonder... his guitar "improvisations" received mind-boggling ratings here. When you hate good music, you tend to rate shit music or non-music higher.

2. Physicist is that album where Devtards simply love to pick on, just because Devin said that he was not happy with it. In typical sheep mentality, people think that "if Devin said this album is not that good, then we must rate it accordingly". People complain mostly about the sound, which is a bit weird, but not shit-sounding, but in terms of songwriting it is simply spectacular. You have to be a sound fetishist to bitch about the sound, yet ignore the songwriting. Physicist is an oddball in a sense, as this should have been a SYL record. It is much heavier than Devin's solo stuff. At least half of the songs are the typical SYL stuff, while the other half is softer, sort of like a bridge between SYL and solo-Devin. The highlights are rather well chosen though, I still would replace Irish Maiden with Material.

3. The New Black, while a good album, in no way delivers the same quality as Alien. So 5 stars for it is a big no. It is also less consistent, roughly half of the songs are uneven, with good parts and bad parts spread-out, it has only one major highlight (Almost Again) and it is mostly a watered-down version of SYL. SYL-lite essentially. Sort of like milk in coffee. You make it taste better, but less powerful.

Edit: I saw Ki being rated 4 stars. Ki dynamic? Seriously? What's dynamic in the soft-ass pop rock sound in this record? Dynamic is what you would call maybe Epicloud, Addicted or Transcendence, but not this snooze fest. The best song on this album is the one that was not included in it, but included in Contain Us "Synchronicity Freaks". The irony...

Other than that, the assessment of the other albums is pretty much spot on, although, on a personal note, I would rate Accelerated Evolution higher than Terria. Both are brilliant albums, but Terria is too soft for my taste, way too reminiscent of how Devin would 'shitxperiment' with Ki.
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28.08.2020 - 20:55
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by Hyamendacil1450 on 28.08.2020 at 15:28

When you hate good music, you tend to rate shit music or non-music higher.

Why don't you just walk back that self-importance there, bud? This is a good, clean, family show and there's no reason to be hostile just because I didn't consult you before publishing.

Let me begin by outlining for you what exactly the "Getting Into" series is, at least as far as what I do with it. My ratings do not religiously track to my personal assessment of the albums, and the same is true of the descriptions, nor are they beholden to the Metal Storm community ratings. These articles are not typical album reviews: they are partly my own opinion, partly what I think inexperienced fans will want to know about the music, and I try not to let the two sides get in the way of each other if I can. Sometimes I will bump a rating up or down by half a star if my own sentiment does so persuade me, but I like to think that I am doing a reasonable job of presenting a summary for the average reader. I'm not out to provide the most definitive and insightful and exhaustively researched encyclopedia of Devin in the world; this is just an introduction. A "Getting Into" recipe. As I stated in my first comment on this article, I find that arriving at a suitably "objective" assessment is much more difficult with Devin even than with Sigh, another band with a highly variegated discography. I don't believe that any of my ratings are patently unreasonable, though, even if I do show my own favoritism here and there; of course, ultimately, there is no objective valuation of Devin's career, nor is there a definitive selection of "best songs" on any given album (which is why I omitted "In The Rainy Season" from my HAARHT write-up last time - it's a good song, but I think there are better ones on the album).

1. Devlab and The Hummer are both full-length studio albums that Devin released. You can buy them separately from his website (at least you could last time I checked), we have separate entries for them on our profile of him, they are treated everywhere like regular studio albums, because they are - regardless of the thought that went into making them, I see no sense in omitting them, since my article purports to cover all of Devin's albums. It's obvious that Devin didn't spend as much time putting together these releases (or his Guitar Improvisation series) as, say, Ziltoid or Ocean Machine, but if we're omitting albums that Devin did not intend to be "serious projects," then I might as well cut Z2 from my next article. I happen to think that The Hummer is pretty good, and I believe that any fan with an appreciation for ambient music will also find it enjoyable; if you don't like that kind of music or don't even consider it music, that's okay, but I see no reason there why I should neglect to cover these releases, or why that constitutes grounds for ridiculing my taste as opposed to disagreeing with it. Devlab is more ineffable, hence its slightly lower rating, but I think that it is a better noise/experimental album than Physicist is a metal album (and I'll get into that). In any case, it's silly trying to read so deeply into a half-star difference in rating between two albums that are so wildly different as to be basically incomparable on such a scale. It's not as though the infinite quality of all art forms can be accurately boiled down to a ten-point measurement system. And maybe I do want to fall asleep.

2. First of all, I did not ignore the songwriting. In fact, I specifically went out of my way to praise the songwriting. "Namaste" is killer, "Material" is good, and I did have enough songs to fill out the "Standout Tracks" list, after all; if there weren't enough good songs, I would have left it blank. Second, I don't know what makes you think that taking production into consideration for a final opinion makes one a "sound fetishist," but finding an album difficult to listen to because of substandard production quality does not imply neglect of the album's other characteristics. The sound of an album is as much a part of the album's overall quality as the songs themselves, as is the execution, and all it takes is one listen to this version of "Kingdom" to realize that Devin was not exactly on his game during the recording of Physicist. Third, I listened to Physicist and came to these conclusions myself before I ever knew what Devin thinks of the album. You can claim it's my "sheep mentality" if you like, but I formed my opinion independently - and even if I hadn't, again, this isn't just about my own feelings. In an article series like this, with the premise I've stated, it would be totally fair to rate an album poorly just because a lot of fans feel that way. I don't listen to Physicist that often and, given that a lot of fans tend to agree that it ranks poorly in Devin's discography, I don't think it's unreasonable to provide some indication to newcomers that they can take or leave this album. If you think it's underappreciated, that's fine. I do like this album, but I don't think its flaws are easily ignored.

3. I fully agree that The New Black is a watered-down version of Strapping Young Lad. It doesn't deliver the same quality as Alien, but it's a completely different album that doesn't even try to do that. Neither of these things makes it a "bad" album, nor do they even prevent it from being a "great" album - and even if we're in agreement that it isn't as "powerful," how are we supposed to account for it "tasting better"? What do you mean by that? If "tasting better" is the point, which is why it's so intensely melodic and poppy, and that contributes to a killer raft of songs, then where's the issue? I disagree about the songwriting entirely; I find the album remarkably consistent and for a time this was my favorite SYL album. Maybe that's my personal bias filtering through, but, look, do you want the "sheeple" opinion or the "personal" opinion? I understand why people don't look on The New Black as fondly as Alien or City, but I think it should be quite palatable to DTP fans, if not so much SYL fans, given the similarities.

Fine, we disagree about the quality of that album. That is permitted.

And, fine, you don't think that Ki deserves 4 stars. Personally, I'd give it 4.5, but out of deference to the facts that the album sits behind Addicted and Deconstruction in terms of rating here and that most fans I know prefer one of the latter, I gave it a more modest score. In a way, all (at least most) of Devin's albums are dynamic, but Ki is different. Yeah, it's a soft album with a quiet mix and it never comes close to Devin's heaviest material, but it has some of the best crescendos in his discography and all throughout the transitions are impeccable. It does get loud and heavy and I find the contrast there more arresting than, say, when Alien and Epicloud get quiet; a soft album getting heavy is more jarring than a loud album getting quiet. Just listen to "Coast," "Heaven Send," or the title track; those are excellent examples of Devin's ability to play with volume within a song as opposed to just playing "loud song/quiet song" or "quiet verse/heavy chorus.
----
Umaku naritai umaku naritai umaku naritai umaku naritai

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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28.08.2020 - 21:19
brimarsh
Written by Hyamendacil1450 on 28.08.2020 at 15:28

Sort of like milk in coffee. You make it taste better, but less powerful.

Lots of emboldened language here from someone who thinks milk makes coffee taste better.





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28.08.2020 - 22:41
Hyamendacil1450
Written by brimarsh on 28.08.2020 at 21:19

Written by Hyamendacil1450 on 28.08.2020 at 15:28

Sort of like milk in coffee. You make it taste better, but less powerful.

Lots of emboldened language here from someone who thinks milk makes coffee taste better.


Was more like a figure of speech. I drink my coffee without it.
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28.08.2020 - 23:15
musclassia
Written by RaduP on 28.08.2020 at 09:46

whenever I'm in a mood for him I basically just listen to that one live version of "Deadhead", sometimes "Kingdom".



Been guilty of that myself - Deadhead is so far ahead of most of his material in terms of preference for me
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28.08.2020 - 23:24
Hyamendacil1450
Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 28.08.2020 at 20:55

Text wall


1. Mmkay... at this rate Devin can start recording his own farts, they would still be considered viable music projects/full length albums and get 4 stars just because. Ambient is not a valid musical genre IMO, unless you mix it with actual music, which Devin has done decently in the past. I seriously don't understand how can somebody appreciate neverending soundscapes with a melody and a half that plods along the entire album without yawning. These 2 albums are what one rightfully calls self-indulgence. It is not about nitpicking on half a star or a full star. It is about discerning between serious music and self-indulgence. Especially if the purpose of this article is to introduce potential fans to his music. Unless your goal is to provide a bad impression. Only someone who would consider Ki as the epitome of music expression can seriously say that these 2 albums trump over Physicist, i.e. yuppies or hipsters.

2. You kinda do. Physicist contains 2 killer tracks, Namaste and Planet Rain, and 3 terrific ones, Victim, Material and The Complex. The rest are solid. Hardly a 2 and half star material. More like 4 or 4.5. The production on Physicist is not bad. It is just weird, different. It does not hamper the tracks overall. It is more like something a sound fetishist would nitpick about. Had Devin praised this album as he did numerous times with other inferior ones, wanna bet that this aspect would have been completely ignored and this album would have been hailed as one of his best? Kingdom is a solid track, and even the version he made later on isn't really great. But stuff like the 5 tracks I mentioned above clearly proves that this is a serious musical project (unlike the 2 ambient albums) and there is musical quality to be found. Just because people hate this album (few actually bothered listening to it though) since Devin said he is not happy with it, that does not make it bad by default.

3. The problem with TNB is not that it doesn't try to be Alien 2. The problem is that it is inferior to Alien in every manner. The production is not as good as that in Alien. The songwriting is uneven. Alien had 4 killer tracks, this one has only one. Good riffs are evenly spread and entangled with bad riffs throughout most of the songs, which can be a dull experience. This one normally should have a middle-ground rating, a 3 or 3.5 at most. By tasting better but lacking power I meant that you make something sound better at first, but lackluster on the long run. TNB is the kind of album you get a good impression at the beginning, but it grows old with time passing. I would have rated it as well as you do now many years ago. Now not so much.

4. Any fan that knows a thing or two about Devin knows that it is usually the albums he hypes that actually are inferior. He hyped Synchestra and Deconstruction - they are good albums, but nowhere near Terria, AE, Physicist or Ziltoid. He hyped Ki - it sucked big time. He hyped Dark Matters more so than Sky Blue, but the later was stellar, the former was only good. Most recently he hyped Empath and is his biggest dud since Ki. Forgot about CoC, another one of his hyped self-indulgent projects. Dynamism is not what defines Ki. Lethargy is what defines it, coupled with self-indulgence and a penchant for playing music safe and cozy. Music is not supposed to be predictable, safe, cozy, lethargic even less. I don't hate this album because it is soft, but because it reeks of laziness, mediocrity and conformism. Good music is supposed to be challenging. Devin made soft music that sounds good, such as Sit In The Mountain or the stuff that followed Ki. That's how you do good soft music. Not this. Ki is lucky having a good female singer, but she does not sing on all songs and her voice alone cannot pull the entire album from mediocrity. Ki is the definition of musicians placing more emphasis on lyrics over music IMO. Even Dev admitted that he wanted the music to be as restrained as possible in order for him to convey his 'message'. That's like saying "I want the music to take a step back in order for whatever lyrical concept to take the spotlight". And it shows.
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29.08.2020 - 00:03
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by Hyamendacil1450 on 28.08.2020 at 23:24

Ambient is not a valid musical genre IMO,

Pretty much stopped reading there
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- I've dreamt of that for years.
- Dying?
- Running.




2020 goodies
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29.08.2020 - 02:35
ScreamingSteelUS
Editor-in-Chief
Written by Hyamendacil1450 on 28.08.2020 at 23:24

Ambient is not a valid musical genre IMO [...] I seriously don't understand how can somebody appreciate neverending soundscapes with a melody and a half that plods along the entire album without yawning. These 2 albums are what one rightfully calls self-indulgence.

1. See, these were my arguments for why post-rock is bad when I was 14, but I grew out of that once I realized that "music" isn't synonymous with "things I already like." Just because you don't understand how somebody could appreciate it doesn't mean that people don't appreciate it or that it isn't music at all. I don't understand how some people appreciate pop country, but there's no sense in denying that Luke Bryan and Zac Brown play music. Ambient music is music, and whether or not you consider it "valid," I think you'll find yourself in the minority if you try to argue seriously that a soundscape with a melody somehow doesn't constitute music. Likewise, if you think that you are qualified to render an accurate judgment of what constitutes "serious music," your haughtiness is noted; artificial stratification between "serious" and "self-indulgent" music has no bearing on reality or how other people perceive it. By all means, draw your own line and enjoy what you want how you want, but I am not required to accept your definition; insisting that you know what is and is not "self-indulgence" doesn't mean that you do, so before you go around calling your own opinion "rightful" in earnest, descend from your elevated equine and recognize the subjectivity of all the stances you're hammering home.

My intent with this article series is to introduce potential fans to Devin's music, but, what, am I supposed to completely ignore less-than-stellar albums or try to sell people on a release that in all likelihood they won't enjoy as much as most of his other work? If I'm to get people into Devin Townsend, I want them to know where not to start as well as where to start, and Physicist does not make a very good first impression. I sure don't consider Ki the epitome of music (in fact, it is easily the third best of the original DTP tetralogy, and that's pending a much-needed Ghost reassessment on my part), and if you're going to resort to name-calling (do people even still call other people "yuppies" and "hipsters" in 2020?), then it appears that no amount of convincing will make a dent in your self-assured correctness.

Also, knowing Devin, it's only a matter of time before he does record his own farts and release that as an album, and by George I'm going to review it when he does.

2. I said the words, "Physicist also offers up a few genuinely strong tracks," of which I listed several: "Namaste," "Irish Maiden," "Planet Rain," and "Victim." I also quite like "Material." I didn't say the songwriting sucked; I just find it inconsistent, and "inconsistent" or "uneven" or "variable" or "asperous" equates to a middling score. Based on songs alone, yes, I would give Physicist a slightly higher score than that, but there is a lot more to an album than whether or not you can hum each tune. These write-ups are short and I'm not spending all that much time talking about how good each track is - rather, I prefer to avoid discussing individual songs where possible, because it leaves less time for the album as a whole. It's fine if the production on Physicist doesn't bother you, but to come back with the attitude "No, it's not bad, you're just wrong" doesn't convince me when I find the production subpar, unflattering, thin, coarse, maybe even "bad." Again, I'm not sure where you find justification for calling me a "sound fetishist." It takes about ten seconds to arrive at the conclusion that Physicist doesn't sound great and it's not like I'm part of some elitist group that's out to smear the album with some esoteric opinion that only a lifelong audiophile would be able to appreciate. Plenty of people find Physicist on the weaker side.

I've never gotten the impression that many people out there "hate" Physicist, though. A 2.5-star rating on a 5-star scale is not "hatred." A 7.6 site-wide average (plus 3.28/5 on RateYourMusic, 16/20 on Spirit of Metal, and even an 86% on the Metal Archives) does not equal "hate" - it's lower on average than his other solo work on each site, but I'm not seeing any evidence for hatred. I don't hate anything Devin has ever released. You want to know an album that I hate? Manowar's Kings Of Metal MMXIV. That got a half-star rating in my "Getting Into: Manowar" article. A 2.5 is not "bad" and it's not "I hate this and anybody who likes it is a fool who doesn't appreciate Devin like I do." A 2.5 is "this isn't great, but it's not terrible, so check it out after you've hit all of his better albums." And Physicist does have its staunch defenders aside from yourself, so I don't think that Devin's fans are so universally soft-willed and impressionable that they'd believe whatever he told them about an album; if you listen to something like Terria or City or Ocean Machine and then throw on Physicist, you're going to notice a difference, and it doesn't take a complete toady to spot it. Where you get the idea that most people who rate Physicist modestly or poorly haven't actually listened to it I do not know.

3. You're offering as serious criticism of The New Black the same points that you rejected when I described Physicist. Again, I agree that The New Black does not have the same standard of production as Alien, and I've fallen in and out of love with the album a few times over the years, but you can't turn around and tell me that the production quality suddenly has an effect on the album's overall quality if you refused to accept that when talking about another album that you happen to feel differently about. I find the songwriting on The New Black very consistent - more so than on Alien, in fact - but that's just my opinion, just as it's your own opinion that the songwriting is uneven. Stating it bluntly doesn't make it an objective truth and it doesn't make me wrong for feeling otherwise, so whatever you think The New Black should be rated "normally" or whatever you think universally happens to any listener's experience over time has no firmer basis in reality than my assertion that The New Black is all killer. You have yet to divine the difference between what you do think and what everybody else should think.

4. Once again, this is purely your own experience with Devin's music, and you'll pardon me if I don't accept you speaking for "any fan who knows a thing or two about Devin." Of course he's going to generate excitement for his new release; any artist would, and like any artist he feels more or less confidently about different releases. If Devin's personal satisfaction with an album doesn't track exactly to your enjoyment of it, well, that's fine. It doesn't have to. Even if you notice a pattern involving the level of hype you perceive, that doesn't mean that that pattern extends anywhere beyond your own ratings. Devin's fan base is wide and varied, and people all have their own opinions on his myriad projects. We disagree about Ki, obviously, but I find it silly to call the album "lethargic" just because it's frequently calm, quiet, and soothing. Music isn't necessarily "lethargic" just because it has a low tempo and low volume, and Ki happens to have a good bit of musical complexity in it; I've already explained why I think it's dynamic, and if that doesn't suit your definition of "dynamic," then I don't see any getting around that. But what about Ki is "safe"? What about Ki reeks of "conformism"? What is Devin conforming to? Is there some bizarre definition of the term that I'm not aware of? Personally, I've barely read the lyrics to Ki, because lyrics rarely factor into my enjoyment of an album, and I still think it's great on a purely musical basis.

I appear to have a greater attention span than Radu, because I kept reading through your message after the first paragraph, but when I get to "Music is not supposed to be predictable, safe, cozy, lethargic even less. I don't hate this album because it is soft, but because it reeks of laziness, mediocrity and conformism. Good music is supposed to be challenging."... I just don't know what to say, man. I mean, do you have any idea how you sound? As soon as you start bloviating about what music is "supposed to be," you lose every shred of credibility. You can have your own opinion and it can be whatever you want, but dictating what good art is and is not is pure arrogance. If you don't like music that is predictable, safe, or cozy, that's perfectly understandable, but to say that music is not allowed to be that way is absurd. I and my Ramones records scoff at thee.
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Umaku naritai umaku naritai umaku naritai umaku naritai

I'm the Agent of Steel.
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29.08.2020 - 04:02
Troy Killjoy
perfunctionist
Written by RaduP on 29.08.2020 at 00:03
Pretty much stopped reading there

You saved yourself a lot of valuable time.

Time I won't get back.

I regret coming here.
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I have no memory of this place.
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01.09.2020 - 22:41
SoUnDs LiKe PoP
I'm gonna go on record as the only Dev fan in the world who became a fan due to his last few albums. Don't care as much for his older stuff, just feels like a wall of noise.
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I lift weights and listen to metal
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02.09.2020 - 07:41
M C Vice
Ex-polydactyl
Written by SoUnDs LiKe PoP on 01.09.2020 at 22:41

I'm gonna go on record as the only Dev fan in the world who became a fan due to his last few albums. Don't care as much for his older stuff, just feels like a wall of noise.

I think Epicloud and Casualties Of Cool are his 2 best albums.
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"Another day, another Doug."
"I'll fight you on one condition. That you lower your nipples."
" 'Tis a lie! Thy backside is whole and ungobbled, thou ungrateful whelp!"
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02.09.2020 - 16:50
SoUnDs LiKe PoP
Written by M C Vice on 02.09.2020 at 07:41

Written by SoUnDs LiKe PoP on 01.09.2020 at 22:41

I'm gonna go on record as the only Dev fan in the world who became a fan due to his last few albums. Don't care as much for his older stuff, just feels like a wall of noise.

I think Epicloud and Casualties Of Cool are his 2 best albums.


I enjoy both of those, as well. The album that made me a fan - and is my favorite Dev album to date - is Transcendence, however.
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I lift weights and listen to metal
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