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Deconstruction is an overwhelming album. Even for those with a strong constitution of technical music and aggressive music will likely find the sheer size and scope of this album a bit overwhelming. For this reason, I find the album is most enjoyed in an environment where the listener can move. This is because it constantly incites physical reactions (or at least to me) be it dancing, headbanging, hell even running or whatever. Manic music like this simply isn't experienced as well when sitting down, particularly when listening all the way through.
With that out of the way, I'd like to say that Deconstruction has become one of my favorite works of Devin's. It's greatest two strengths are one it's innovation, and two it's composition. While much of the musical elements to be found here have been used by other bands, Devin structures them and executes them in such an unusually manic way, that coupled with the layers of production creates a take on a typical prog sound that still manages to actually be "progressive." Just listen to the title track, where you have some offbeat rhythms continually increasing and decreasing in tempo like a wheel with the choirs accenting Devin's bizarre lyrical rant at just the right spot. That is just one small example of the numerous ways Devin mixes up familiar elements, so I will attempt to point out some of the more memorable ones without getting too lost in the technical aspects. Because as a musician and as a fan of technical music this album is something of a wet dream if you will.
I mentioned earlier that the composition and structure was one of the album's finest points. This is clearly observed in the track listing. Starting off with "Praise the Lowered" is appropriate because it allows you to slowly build into the vibe. Using mainly just electronic drums, soft vocals, and muttering keyboards in the back it's hardly what you may have initially expected when hearing about the album in the press. This then leads into "Stand" which has a fairly moody, slower intro that gradually builds into the explosion of guitar which is when the album first takes up the metal torch it waves throughout much of it. The song weaves it's way through several changes including an almost Maiden like guitar solo, and then builds back down to it's conclusion.
It's hard to pick distinct highlights because the album really works great as a whole. It really feels like your on the journey the protagonist is, and the visual soundscapes created by the songs are quite exciting. By the time you get to "Juular" the journey speeds up quite a bit and from there your basically holding on for dear life as the stream of consciousness style songwriting takes a firmer grip. Ryan van Poederooyen and Dirk Verbeuren help tie all this chaos together with their standout performances. Juicy fills, tight rhythms, and the ability to really lock in and connect with the melodic instruments gives the songs a stronger impact.
I will say that "The Mighty Masturbator" struck me initially as the best song on the album, and in a sense it is but I hesitate to say with certainty. Either way this is by far Devin's most overtly "prog" song he's ever done and strangely enough kind of reminds me of The Princess Bride. Now I know you're probably think "what the hell" but let me explain. In the commentary for this album Devin explains that this piece was something of a response/parody to the pressure he has received to write technical music and so he wanted to go all out and then end it with a joke. In this way it reminds me of The Princess Bride because both simultaneously adhere to the genre they are making fun of, do it better than many others, and still manage to come out with a few laughs. There's some especially juicy instrumental parts on this song as well, particularly that 5 over 4 bit with descending guitar line and the fills during the post "rave club" section. All in all it swings you through many moods and is definitely in my point of view one of the greatest songs of 2011.
As you can probably tell, there's so much information that it's difficult to sum up. But don't get the impression that it's a one trick pony or at one dynamic the whole time. The soft sections in "Planet of the Apes", "Sumeria", the title track and a few others provide breathing space and also help tell the story as well. Devin was wise to mix it up because knowing some of his past tendencies it easily could have become overly hectic and unlistenable. Instead it is overwhelming and technical, but still enjoyable and fun.
Which brings me to another point. Many people have pointed out the humor present on the album, particularly in the title track. Now, it would be silly to pretend these elements are absent and in fact one of the things that keeps it from becoming annoying is the humor. However, I don't think it plays out like a comedy album in the same way Ziltoid did at times or obviously Punky Bruster. As Devy has mentioned before, it deals with some serious issues when you actually read through the lyrics and keep track of what's going. The title track for example may have fart noises, excessive guitar "wanking" (which I'm not gonna lie I totally dug the hell out of) and goofy narrations from Oderus Urungus, but by the end I was almost moved you could say. Some of the melodies towards the end almost reminded me of Pain of Salvation or Dream Theater and really get caught in your head. This being another example of how Townsend balances musicality with absurdity.
So all in all, there's so much enjoyment to be had with this album if you let it do so. It's a great musical journey that manages to avoid any pretentiousness that some others have reached. It can be fun or serious (or both) depending on how you approach it, and thanks to it's multi layer production and whacked arrangements can be listened to numerous times without quite catching everything. If it has a flaw, it's that even with the variety present it nonetheless does define itself quite solidly. You definitely have to be in a very specific mood to enjoy it otherwise it could be quite disappointing, so it may not be one of the most listened to CD's in a person's catalog. Regardless, at least for me, it's definitely one of the best.