Devin Townsend (band) - Ki
Fewer things in life bring more joy to this reviewer's life than the promise of new material from Canada's own Devin Townsend. A faithful follower of his evolution from Steve Vai frontman to solo-star, to modest success fronting extreme metal act Strapping Young Lad, every step along the way has offered much to satisfy my varying musical appetites. After a hiatus which saw him all but let go of the part of himself able to keep such a stress-inducing project as Strapping Young Lad afloat, and numerous changes in his personal life, DT not too long ago announced the next chapter in his musical journey; the four-album collection under the banner The Devin Townsend Project. Each is to be put together with different backing bands, and through widely varying styles. First to arrive is "Ki". Altogether a different beast than anything he's offered prior, the album is more focused, conscious of itself, and clear-minded. It showcases the musician Mr. Townsend is without going overboard into the fantastic ideas and over-wordly themes he has for so long used to express himself. In short, Ki is Devin Townsend's most honest and direct project yet.
So, how does it translate through the songs? Perfectly. I know I may be biased, but I can't find flaw in this album and believe me, I have tried. From the opening subdued riff of"A Monday" and it's melancholy effect to the first "song" "Coast" and it's interlocking groove of rhythm and vocals, Devin's new stage is instantly set. The entire concept of the album begins to unfold slowly over "Disruptr" and "Gato", both of which also show that he's not quite ready to release the metallic nature of his prior work. "Gato" in particular has one hell of a catchy chorus featuring some female guest vocals. It all feels on the verge of boiling over before the quiet rumble of "Terminal" lowers the temperature some. This is really a highlight, especially the atmospheric, ambient nature of the track's latter half. Of all the album's tracks, "Heaven Send" comes off as the most conventionally written and similar to Devin's previous work. More guest vocals at the chorus, and an edge reminiscent of latter-day Strapping. One might see these bursts of aggression as Devin letting go of the last remnants of the bad habits he dropped in the past couple of years. "Ain't Ever Gonna Win..." and "Winter" are lightly played, jazz-infused pieces that serve as steady interludes to the album's real emotional and spiritual peak that crests over the last 5 songs. Bringing to mind the fantastic "Bad Devil" (From his Infinity project), "Trainfire" is a combination of Townsend's quirky nature and Elvis Presley's crooning grooves, culminating in the album's most accessable and fun track."Lady Helen" is altogether beautiful, a tribute perhaps to his wife and their young child. One gets a picture of Devin quietly harmonizing during a quiet morning alone, looking back and forward on his life. All of this excellent material, and we just come to the best song available, the title track. The first half serves as foreplay, and abruptly breaks off with some guitar noodling before the climax begins. And this one is epic, folks. A swirling riff that sounds lifted from "Ziltoid The Omniscient" is the basis for the rising, ethereal beauty that slowly but surely fills your soundspace with something approaching zen, true spiritual bliss, a revelation beyond words. Honestly. This track had me tingling all over the first time I heard it.
There are a couple more tracks but this review has already spilled over it's intended length. I now sound like more of a fanboy than ever but I am unable to stop myself from falling in love with just about everything Devin Townsend does musically. The ideas are concise, take no detours in hitting home. The band he's assembled works wonders, especially in the rhythm department as this is an extremely groove-based album that works off of ambient flourishes and Devin's soulful guitar work and vocals. Ki isn't cemented as my album of 2009 yet (I am still debating whether or not Mastodon's Crack The Skye had more of an impact) but it's the most beautiful album I've heard since his Terria project. If you're a fan, you must own it. If not, this may be the perfect place to become (re)aquainted. Look out for a possible interview with Devin I might have in the works very soon. And buy the fucking album!
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