Tag Archives: Peak Arts

The Devin Townsend Project – Deconstruction

Devin Townsend has never been a subtle or predictable guy. From the incessant heaviness of Strapping Young Lad to his sometimes ambient, sometimes off-the-wall bizarre solo material, predicting the New Westminster legend’s next creative step is always a challenge. Let’s all raise praises to a deity of choice, then, that he decided to follow up on Ziltoid the Omniscient.

Deconstruction isn’t the long-awaited Ziltoid sequel (now cancelled, apparently), but it certainly bears all the hallmarks of Devy’s most beloved alien: a heavy progressive sound, a consistent conceptual framework, shifting time-signatures, Meshuggah homages and, as always, a wicked and unapologetic sense of humour. At its core, Deconstruction is one man’s story of self-destruction, descent into Hell, and subsequent existential angst. Musically, Townsend opts for his most convoluted, head-spinning and flat out chaotic album yet: at times full choirs erupt into song, Danny Elfman-esque keyboards lurch into motion, a slew of metal legends appear (members of Opeth, Meshuggah, GWAR, Gojira and many more), and, yes, The Prague Philharmonic Orchestra shows up to lend a hand. Hevy Devy himself uses every vocal trick in his impressive repertoire, from clean singing to operatic wails to his trademark scream: Deconstruction is an absolutely glorious trip (conveniently, so is the thoroughly NSFW eponymous track). This is a technical monster of an album that demands repeat listens to parse the particulars of the storyline (which I won’t ruin here), and it pays off.

The Devin Townsend Project is running on full cylinders here. Fans absolutely cannot afford to miss it.

A

Published in The Peak, July 2011. 

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Alestorm – Back In Time

There’s something to be said for a band that knows exactly how silly they are, exactly what the audience is expecting, and exactly how to play to their strengths and limitations. Such is the case with the keytar-toting Scotsmen formerly known as Battleheart: it’s really hard to hate a band that devotes an entire track to describing how they plan to milk this Pirate-Metal thing for all its worth (“Scraping the Barrel“), and several more to their dear, dear love of alcohol (“Rum“, “I Am A Cider Drinker“, every other track). Back Through Time, with its pair of Viking-themed tracks and awesome cover art, might get you thinking this is Alestorm’s inevitable concept album: it isn’t. While unified by slick production values, a hook-based chanty style and – of course – lyrical content, Back Through Time runs away from itself after the introductory track – a clear symptom of a band having far too much fun with puns and revelry to worry about backing up their time-traveling framework with anything more substantial. That is completely okay: Back Through Time is perfectly comfortable as an infectious and unexpectedly hilarious action-film of an album.

Sometimes that’s all we really need.

B+

Originally published in The Peak, June 2011.

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Battles – Gloss Drop

The art of Gloss Drop looks like a half-melted gelato, it’s an eye-screaming shade of pink, and it bears a disturbing resemblance to that chicken-paste the Internet introduced us to last year. In all its bizarre and intriguing glory, that pile of goop is the perfect accompaniment to Battles’ latest sonic blender of extreme technicality, prog-rock groove and surprising danceability.

Their second album sees Battles returning to their mostly-instrumental roots, mostly eschewing vocals in favour of deep polyrhythmic jam sessions, fusing programming and studio virtuosity into a thick groove that begs to be played loud. Every sound on Gloss Drop is percussive: the electric guitars are distorted into steel drums, synthesizers whirl across tracks like “Futura” and “Africastle“, and vocal features are kept minimal as John Stanier’s manic drumming conjoins everything with metronome efficiency. Every sound bleeds into every other, blurring into an organic pastiche (paste?) that only ever slows to amass it into another monster loop a moment later. If you don’t mind your summers a bit psychedelic, this might just end up your joint.

A

Originally published in The Peak, June 2011.

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