Thinking of Devin Townsend as a musician no longer works. While his command of his instruments is awe-inspiring, to confine him only as such would be a disservice. With Deconstruction, Devin Townsend has ascended to the level of mad scientist; he’ll be aiming an interplanetary weapon at us next. Released simultaneously with Ghost, Deconstruction is part of the four-album the Devin Townsend Project cycle, which also includes the vibrant, poppy Addicted and the much softer (but still complex) Ki. Like much of Townsend’s oeuvre, Deconstruction is a concept album; it loosely follows the journey of a man who descends into hell. There, he meets the devil, who offers him a cheeseburger that contains all the secrets of the universe. Like any devilish generosity, it’s a cruel joke: the man is a vegetarian and cannot partake of the cheeseburger epiphany. Does that sound ridiculous? Of course it is, but this is a project from the man who brought us a rock opera about a megalomaniacal alien willing to wage interstellar war over a cup of coffee. In that context, it feels perfectly reasonable.
What is this monstrosity like musically? It doesn’t get more complicated than this. The album features a full vocal choir, two drummers (Ryan Van Poederooyan and Dirk Verbeuren), and a veritable pantheon of guest vocal talent. Paul Kuhr’s work on “Praise the Lowered” is particularly excellent, as are Joe Duplantier’s vocals on “Sumeria.” There are ten guest vocalists in total and it’s a genuine triumph of mixing that none of them are lost. Each voice stands out, is strong and distinct, adding something to each track. This album is immense, complex and bursting at the seams with layers and guest talent. But the greatest strength of Deconstruction is not its complexity, but its clarity. All of the elements feel necessary. No performance or effect could be cut without losing something and that strikes me as amazing. Deconstruction isn’t going to be for everybody, multiple careful listens in, I am still finding things, still analyzing the album and picking it apart. It’s a demented puzzle box, sometimes as violent and frenetic as Strapping Young Lad, sometimes as tender and plaintive as Ki. I keep returning to “The Planet of the Apes,” something in that song’s particularly manic riffs and drumming keeps drawing me back. This is an album that will reward long-term relationships. I would love to review Deconstruction again in six months.