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Devin Townsend has become one of the most well-respected musicians in metal, and for good reason. The guy is well known for being the frontman of Strapping Young Lad, as well as his numerous solo albums and projects. Not many musicians are quite as diverse, multi-talented, or hard-working as he. The man can sing (with an extremely wide range, both cleans and harsh), play multiple instruments, compose, and write lyrics. He is also known for writing different styles of music, whether it be extreme metal or ambient acoustic rock. When you think about how his albums are almost entirely written by him, you cannot deny his talent and hard work, even if you dislike his work. Personally, I consider Mr. Townsend to be one of the most talented musicians who ever lived, not only in metal, but music in general.
Now then, here we have Deconstruction, which (excluding Strapping Young Lad) is the heaviest album he has ever released. This record perfectly blends extreme metal with progressive, symphonic, industrial and avant-garde to make something truly epic, operatic, and chaotic with a touch of humor. There are various guest musicians from other well known bands who appear, whom will be mentioned later on. Musically, this is unlike anything ever released in metal. Lyrically, the album tells a story of a man who searches for the true meaning of reality, and then finds that the secrets of the world are confined in a cheeseburger presented to him by the devil. As he is a vegetarian, he cannot eat the burger and his journey is rendered fruitless. Yeah, it's a pretty weird story concept, but this is the kind of thing Devin Townsend is known for.
Now, let's look at the songs. The opening track, "Praise the Lowered", begins with some calming and ambient industrial sounds and soft drums. Devin's vocals come in with a soft melody about a minute or so in. This part of the song is pretty much the polar opposite of what you will be hearing for the next 69 minutes or so. Around 2 minutes you will hear Devin going into his higher vocal registers, along with some heavier guitar and drums, plus an orchestra, fading in, in the background. Then, you hear Devin doing high shriek vocals while the song progressively gets heavier. At one point you hear him and a growled voice saying "SMOKE THAT FUCKING..." And once they hit the word "WEED!" the song has reached it's heavy peak, and becomes a very chaotic ocean of screaming, growling (provided by Paul Kuhr of Novembers Doom), guitars, drums, and orchestral instruments and choirs. This continues for about a minute, and then the music begins to fade out, with a sustaining ambient sound being faded in at the same time.
The ambient sound from the previous track then begins to fade as a simple palm-muted riff fades in simultaneously. This marks the beginning of track #2. "Stand" begins with Devin singing a soft, dissonant sounding melody which creates a somewhat unsettling atmosphere. After the first verse, some soft orchestra starts coming in during the second verse. After verse two, the orchestra part pauses, you hear the word "ready", and then the guitar and orchestra parts come back in much louder, along with Devin's vocals which now sound angry. At this point, the rest of the song maintains this level of intensity, much complimented with the growled vocals of Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth. There's a short part in the middle where everything quiets down for a few measures and then goes straight back into its chaotic nature.
Next, we have track #3, "Juular", which begins with a high scream from Devin. This song kicks you in the face from the get go, and maintains a constant down-up-down-up riff with some cool choir-like vocals in the background chanting in rhythm to the guitar riff. Devin's operatic singing comes in shortly. The screamed choruses in this song are performed by ex-Emperor frontman, Ihsahn, which creates a chilling atmosphere along with the background vocals going "ahhh-ahh-ahh-ahhhhhhh!". This track is short, sweet, and to the point.
"Planet of the Apes" begins with a short, dissonant piano lick and then a "Djent" influenced riff comes in, shortly accompanied by a dissonant sounding guitar lead, sounding very Meshuggah-esque. Then kicks off another symphonic accompanied guitar riff, which then goes into a part where Devin is heard doing a talking voice for a few verses. a couple minutes in, you hear some of his growled vocals repeating "SO BAD... SO BAD.... SO BAD...." and then the music takes a sweet turn and you can hear Devin doing some of his high register clean vocals some more. After this, there is a funny line where he sings "While we all have lots of bands who influence, still, we all rip off Meshuggah!" along to the Djent-ish riff from the beginning. The song continues taking various twists and turns, and featuring some guest vocals by Tommy Giles Rogers, of Between the Buried and Me. This is probably the most rhythmically complex song on the album.
"Sumeria" starts with an epic operatic sounding choir singing the first few lines, somewhat similar to a Nightwish chorus. The song then begins with a gallop riff that maintains throughout the track. This track features Joe Duplantier of Gojira during the songs verses, and then the track ends calmly to some clean guitar accompanied by the voice of Paul Masvidal of Cynic.
"The Mighty Masturbator", the longest song on the album begins with a soft minor arpeggio being played along with Devin singing in a soft yet operatic voice. About a minute and a half in, the orchestral parts and distorted guitars all come in at once, completely changing the vibe. Here Townsend showcases his operatic vocals very well. They sound similar to something you would hear in a famous musical on Broadway of something like that. The song continues with the arpeggios for quite a while, and then goes into a part where the tempo is sped up and a cool descending scale is heard from the guitar and keyboards as Devin sings in his operatic voice "Save the world, you fool, you child". This continues until around the midpoint of the song where an electronic beat can be heard, and some cheering sounds to Devin making a speech of some sort. For the next four minutes you hear a bunch of voices saying "Give it up, your world! Give it up, your world world world world!" being chanted along the electronic beat in the background. The guitars and orchestras are also adding their compliments here. In the middle you can hear vocals from Greg Puciato, of The Dillenger Escape Plan. After this little section is over, the song goes back to sounding like symphonic metal for a few mintues, and then for the last couple minutes of the song, it breaks into a "carnival-swing" while you hear Devin in a faded voice announcing a freak show. At the end you hear Devin saying "Ladies and Gentlemen, I now know my life's purpose! I am the mighty Masturbator!" along with an operatic "Ahhhh... mennnn" at the end. Overall, this is probably the goofiest and strangest song on the album.
"Pandemic" begins with blastbeats and vocals, along with some fast-spoken vocals similar to SYL being heard in the background. Early in the song you hear some soprano vocals provoded by Floor Jansen (ex-After Forever). The song, similar to Juular, is a fast, short song that maintains its rhythm and doesn't make a whole lot of twists and turns. One of the album's more forgettable tracks, but still good.
Next, we have the title track, "Deconstruction". The album begins with farting noises (yeah... farting noises) and voices talking. Then, a guitar lead can be heard while the word "cheeseburger" is repeated. The song then kicks off in a speed metal riff. Some vocals on this song are provided by Oderus Urungus, of GWAR. In the middle of the song, the guitars and drums are paused while you hear the orchestra and choir vocals repeating the lines "All beef patties, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bunnnn" And then you hear a voice going "but I don't like cheeseburgers guys, I'm a vege-ma-tarian", at which point, the song becomes furious and sweeps and blast beats are heard. Then comes a solo performed by Fredrik Thordendal of Meshuggah which reminds me very much of the solo from "New Millenium Cyanide Christ". Ok, I take it back. THIS is the goofiest song on the album.
"Poltergeist" is another song similar to "Juular" and "Pandemic" in terms of song structure. This I consider to be the album's weakest track, but it still serves as a good ending.
Overall, Deconstruction is one of the craziest, epic and unique albums I have ever listened to. It blends everything extremely well into something that is intense, overwhelming and humorous at the same time. This album is like the musical equivalent of a spicy hot dog with mustard, relish, chocolate, peanut butter and chili beans. It's that crazy. I would recommend this to any fan of extreme metal, progressive metal, operatic/symphonic metal, avant-garde metal, or all of the above.