Here at the Village, we keep our most revered albums in a very special place. As you may recall, a few months ago, one fearless Villager took you on a wild ride through the Village Crypt, along with a special guest. This time around, Loveloth is back in the Crypt with--you guessed it--another Devin feature.
After Addicted, there was a year and a half of silence until one faithful day, the Devin Townsend Project unleashed not one but two records, Ghost and Deconstruction. Each represents an extreme. Today we delve into the convoluted, absurd and insane Deconstruction, which is actually the record that started my reviewing journey. Three years ago, I wanted to do a review of it for Metal Archives, but the admins deemed it as too long and detailed and I completely understand why. However, the Village bears no mind to length *insert dick joke here* as long as it's good, and I definitely improved over these past few years, so prepare for a wild ride because this record deserves it. But before we get into the nitty gritty, a few facts about Deconstruction.
It's a concept album but it's an absurd and hilarious one, just like the previously eternalized Ziltoid. The story revolves around a man obsessed with finding the true nature of reality, and we watch him travel to Hell itself where he meets the Devil who grants him his wish. There is a twist to the story and it comes in a shape of a cheeseburger. The cheeseburger contains the secrets of the universe but our protagonist is a "vegemetarian" so his whole struggle was pointless. There is a positive message cleverly hidden here, and it's basically overcoming your fears and moving on, and the chaotic nature of the record reflects it.
With Devin at the helm and Ryan Van Poederooyen and Dirk Verbeuren (who I shall continue to refer as "The Dirk") as the two main drummers, this would be enough for most musicians, but not for Devin who decided to go all out. What we ended up with here is the single best line-up of guest musicians of all time (sorry Ayreon). People such as Fredrik Thorendal of that underground band Meshuggah, Mikael Åkerfeldt, Ihsahn, Joe Duplantier, Tommy Giles, Greg Puciato, Floor Jansen and Prague's very own Philharmonic Orchestra are just some of the names that will pop up on this insane record, and all of their contributions elevate Deconstruction to glorious and flatulent heights.
With that large set of information out of the way, we can finally jump in the rabbithole and see why I hold Decon in such high regard. Things start off innocently enough with the soft, electronic tinges of "Praise The Lowered". That innocence slowly fades as the track subtly adds new elements and reaches a breaking point midway through, but the chaos slowly subsides and morphs into "Stand" which, similarly to the previous track, plays with build-ups and dynamics. But this time we have Åkerfeldt and chugging in the mix and here our protagonist reaches the fiery depths of Hell but the sound palette that surrounds this voyage is oddly grandiose.
What follows is "Juular" and here is where we plummit into complete chaos. With insane, unrelenting Dirk blasts that mimic a steam locomotive on speed, "Juular" barrels through and leaves nothing in its wake. It's quirky, frantic and the closest thing we got to SYL in a long time. I would even say how it surpasses SYL. The addition of Ihsahn in the chorus certainly doesn't take away from the experience either.
Now what follows is the pinnacle of Deconstruction. It starts with "Planet Of The Apes", the first of three insane epics and it contains one of the funniest, most unexpected and relevant lines in modern metal: "While we all have lots of bands who influence still...we all rip off Meshuggah!" I vividly remember laughing out loud when hearing this for the first time, and you would be surprised how many times this occurred during the entirety of this absurd record.
However, absurdity and humor isn't the only thing carrying "Planet Of The Apes" and the rest of the record, it's everything. Even the extremely layered production works but I do wish there was more breathing room, especially for the choir which strengthens each vocal line by each guest. Things like chanting Jesus, Jihad, Jesus in the background of "Planet Of Apes" only add to my resolve.
With the frenetic "Sumeria" passing the middle mark of the record, the colossal "The Mighty Masturbater" appears, and is the culmination of everything we heard and more. Mind-boggling arpeggios and sweep picks, electronic breakdowns, swingy carnival-like bursts, and a huge buildup near the middle point of the track where Devin holds a speech. We get one of the best builds up of all time and while it lasts a bit too long, it never ceases to bring down chills down my spine. The crowd yells and Greg Puciato chants morph from "We praise God! He lives inside of our hearts!" to "We praise ourselves! We live inside of our minds" to finally "We praise Satan! He lives inside of our hearts!" and each time we reach a new level, his screams become more vitriolic and intense. This undoubtedly represents the decadence mankind is going through, and our infinite greed and selfishlesness. It's overwhelming, unrestrained, and brilliant, and the fact I spent writing one paragraph about one song speaks enough about how deep this record is and how much I love it.
Deconstruction is easily Devin's most technical, complex, and insane record he's ever made, and I seriously doubt he will ever top it. From the fourth-wall breaking parodies of sweep picking and arpeggios while doing exactly that, to fart jokes and choirs screaming "cheeseburger" while he melts the universe on his comically large Flying V, one could easily say this is too much and I agree, it will be for the majority. Ear fatigue was real, even for me, but something always called me back to it. It's the insane amount of details that resides in this ludicrous work of art, and it only becomes more apparent after your brain processes what's actually happening. Deconstruction was a challenge to Devin and it is to the listener, and that's the most exciting part. Despite it being too much, I still consider this to be a ground-breaking, unbelievably complex, and fun record that has a lot going for it, perhaps too much. So if this chaotic review piqued your interest, feel free to enter what I feel is the most alluringly insane record of all time and more than worthy pick to enter the Village Crypt where it will reside peacefully for the first time in its lifetime.
Here at the Village, we keep our most revered albums in....a very special place. Without further ado, let Loveloth take you on a 4th dimensional journey into the Village Crypt.
With Strapping Young Lad and The Devin Townsend Band disbanded due to being burnt out and becoming a father, Devin stepped out of the spotlight and spent time with his family to clean up mentally. After releasing his second solo ambient record The Hummer, he wanted to create something truly by himself and so the fourth dimensional Ziltoid The Omniscient was born. Sporting his famed skullet (that's literally his hair) and inspired by Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal, Ziltoid represents a sober, stable Devin and marks a new chapter in his amazing career and... wait a second, do you smell this? sniffs Is that... coffee? Huh, anyways, this is a concept reco... oh shit, just a second dear reader, someone is trying to break in!
sci-fi sounds, sounds of struggle and yelling followed by silence
Well, it seems we have a visitor who is pointing a very 80's looking space gun at my face so I'll read the text he gave to me: clears throat...
"Greetings hu-mans, I am Ziltoid The Omniscient and I've come far across the omniverse. You shall fetch me your universe's ultimate cup of coffee: black. You have five Earth minutes. Make it perfect!"
Loveloth: Ok, that's a bit excessive dude and I am in a middle of something AND I can only make French coffee, besides, I am more of a tea person nowadays. Why are you in my flat and threatening to deconstruct me into oblivion?
Ziltoid The Omniscient: You three dimensional fool! How dare you set terms with me, the fourth dimensional Ziltoid The Omniscient? You should cower in fear yet you have the gall to oppose me?? What are you doing anyways little hu-man?
Loveloth: Was writing a review about you before you barged in, oh terrible and exalted one.
ZTO: Oh, is that so? I shall then observe you creating your "review" and interject if I find fitting and no, you have no say here hu-man! Proceed. Uuh, nice portrait of me, put it here!
Loveloth: Fine... and thank you, oh mighty one... As I was saying, Ziltoid The Omniscient is a concept album about this majestic creature that is currently rummaging my living room and everything you hear on this record (apart from the additional voices) is Devin's doing, and that includes the drums which he programmed in Ezdrummer that was given to him by a guy named Fredrik Thorendal, who plays in an underground band called Meshuggah, so you can expect complete and utter madness. And utter madness we get as Ziltoid is zany, funny, thought-provoking and a complete blast to listen to. After the Danny Elfman-meets-death metal opener "ZTO", we are thrust in "By Your Command", an eight minute, intense epic where theatrics and brutality clash in spectacular fashion. This, being the first "proper" track, features all the ingredients you'll come across during this insane voyage. Complex drumming, intricate and heavy as hell guitar chugs, flashy, mind-bending solos, sweep picks, arpeggios, dialogues between characters, calm and emotional sections and Devin firing at all cylinders. His vocal performance here is one of his finest as he growls, screams, sings, talks and confidently guides you through this amazing shit-show.
ZTO: Indeeeed. I shall interject hu-man as you seem to be forgetting one very important matter. I am the greatest guitar player ever to have lived!
Loveloth: Oh yes that, thanks for reminding me Zilty--he looks at me with one eyebrow up. K, not gonna do that again--The whole premise of this record is Zilty..oid, who craves black coffee, which is fuel for time travel but after hu-mans deliver him a "fetid" cup of it, he launches an invasion where he will take over the planet by presenting himself as the ultimate guitar hero and steal all the coffee he needs via mindcontrol and his lackies. His sinister ploy works, but Captain Spectacular sets out to expose Ziltoid for what the truly is: a nerd. In order to achieve this, Spectacular needs help from the fifth dimensional hive mind Nebulowe-nine or N9 for short. The plot thickens but I think you get the point: this is cheesy, over-the-top, self-aware yet intriguing, deep and booting absolutely sensational music.
Each track is crucial to the story but none reach filler status, even the "Omnidimensional Creator" which is basically 48 seconds of Ziltoid and OC conversing but it's simply so entertaining and intruiging that you're hard pressed to skip it and I never do.
ZTO: farts Bahahaha! Good one, if I do say so myself!The fart I mean. Put this portrait here too or I'll disintegrate you!
Loveloth: There, dick.
ZTO: What did you say? Speak hu-man!
Loveloth: Umm, nothing, glorious one. Anyways, the two tracks that follow, "Color Your World" and "The Greys" are gorgeous, expansive and one of Devin's crowning achievements. "The Greys" in particular, touches on something I've been struggling with for a long time and I am fairly certain a lot of you are as well. As for the production, well, its stellar, the vocals sit beneath the guitars which have a wonderful crunchy, deep tone and everything is layered wonderfully but you can really hear the drums were programmed. With all these positives listed, the only flaw I can think of (apart from the drums) is that some could disregard this whole record due to its silly nature and narrative but that comes down to personal preference. I've come to the point where I can always listen to Ziltoid The Omniscient and enjoy myself, even if I know the dialogue bits by heart but I can completely understand if they'll bug you on repeated listens.
ZTO: Finish this and bring me coffee, as you've already wasted five minutes but I am feeling benevolent and frisky today hu-man!
Loveloth: Yeah yeah coming. In case you couldn't tell, I truly love this record and consider it one of music's crowning achievements and only Devin is capable of creating something so cheesy yet captivating, unbelievably fun and impressive, all at the same time. And whoever says comedy and metal don't go together, listen to this.
In (not so) short, Ziltoid is a must hear in my book and I am truly sorry for this mess, really didn't expect HIM coming here. That's four dimensional beings for ya. Onwards to coffee making, pray it works or otherwise we're doomed! Ta-ta!
ZTO: waves and laughs maniacally
Written by a certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry