Devin Townsend Project
posted on 11/2009 By:
The Devin Townsend Project is a landmark, not simply because of the four-album deluge of gloriousness that it's due to produce. It's bigger than the sum of its parts. Admittedly, this claim is a bit presumptuous; two of the albums haven't even been recorded yet, and I haven't even begun to detail the reasons why Addicted is one of the best albums of an absolutely loaded 2009. I'll get there. Trust me. Just hang with me for a minute.
Ki and Addicted are Townsend's first works since becoming sober. As we have come to expect, he has been extremely candid about this revelation of lucidity, and now seems to exude a determination and focus that has fans chomping at the bit. (His difference in attitude is profound, especially when contrasted with the aggressively cynical interviews he was giving near the end of The New Black's weird flirtation with "success.") Dev seems recharged. Revived. And to a person like myself, currently wrestling their way through the first year of sobriety, his resolve is particularly inspiring. In a weird way, it's also slightly comforting. Being a sober metalhead is like being stuck in a tragic comedy--a dreary, stone-serious Wes Anderson flick, sans Rolling Stones soundtrack. And sleeves.
Sure, the shitty, dive bar setting that most US metal shows are confined to certainly dictates the culture to a certain extent. But the live hard/die fast mantra has been intertwined with metal for its entire history, from Motorhead to Metallica to Municipal Waste. Think about it: a significant part of the scene is predicated upon self-medicating with canned Pabst, often to numb the pain of smashing your skull into Matt Pike's floor monitors. Metal is about letting loose, thrashing like a maniac, and achieving maximum catharsis; and for the majority, it's partially fueled by alcohol. It comes with the territory.
The landscape isn't so lonely anymore. The fact that I can draw a real-life parallel to a musician I have practically worshiped for over a decade is huge for me. Ever since City semi-permanently lodged itself into the CD player of my first truck, Townsend's music--in every incarnation--has propelled me through every stage of my life. Now, as I'm embarking on the first stages of life as an adult, Townsend's music is still with me, in lockstep with my evolution. My anticipation of Addicted was unparalleled.
However, there was one caveat: Addicted had a significant chance of sucking. The last recovery record that "graced" the metal world with its presence was St. fuckin' Anger. Sobriety hasn't been kind to our icons. Fortunately for us, Devin's creative genius has flourished within his newfound clarity.
Ki was beautiful; Addicted rocks. Hard. Our Jager-shooting, chiba-roasting brethren need not worry about the title; there are no heavy-handed folk ballads of regrets and rock-bottoms here. No, the term Addicted is more of an allusion to how catchy and immediate these songs are. There's no progressive noodling to be found...and hell, there's not even much in the way of in-your-face riffs. Instead, Addicted is jammed to the gills with massive beats, huge choruses, and soaring vocals, making it the most infectious, vibrant metal album in recent memory.
Addicted was to be Devin's attempt at creating a streamlined pop-rock album in the radio-ready vein. Most would view this as a traitorous act, but fans keen to Dev's definition of accessibility had no reason to worry. The resulting album is stylistically similar to the acclaimed (relative) simplicity of Biomech and Accelerated Evolution, though Addicted carries none of the former album's somber introspection, nor the latter's spacey drift. This thing is a celebratory, effervescent cousin of Physicist. The opening title track, powered by simple crunch and RVP's fifteen-ton feet, sets the tone: this motherfucker is going to be fun. This, along with "Universe in a Ball!" are aggressive bursts of dance rock, with Dev plugging his happy-medium roar into explosive, energetic hooks.
But things don't really start to take off until Anneke van Giersbergen fully steps into the frame, effectively throwing the vocal gauntlet at Devin's feet. "Supercrush!" is a full-on duel, the two singers stretching their pipes to 'til they nearly burst in a cavalcade of warmth. Anneke then takes sole possession of the mic for a stellar cruise with "Hyperdrive," (easily the most powerful piece from the somewhat-maligned Ziltoid puzzle) which segues perfectly into the hard-driving, Wildhearts-inspired stomp of "Resolve!" The true showcase of this record's brilliance, however, is the show-stopping "Numbered," a track that's simply too gorgeous for words. Yeah, for a critic, that's a cop out; but Anneke and Dev unleash their souls on this thing. At high volumes, the reverberations will quake your tear ducts before threatening to swallow you whole.
Not everything on Addicted is of outright stellar caliber, though. "Bend it Like Bender!" is comically trivial Euro Pop tripe, but it's just another manifestation of Devin's quirk. As is "Ih-Ah," a tranquil, lilting ballad that would've had potential to be a legit mainstream hit--if not for the purely phonetic chorus. Things like this may be an annoyance for casual listeners, but they're a treat for devotees. They're further proof that Devin's vision of pop music exists on another plane, just slightly beyond our comfort zone, teasing us by lobbing kinetic snippets of madness at our heads. And then, ever self-aware, the man calls himself out on his own bullshit, delivering a prog-punch like "The Way Home!" as penance.
Is this the most profound work of his career? Not even close. Is it the most fun album of his career? In light of the fact that Infinity can get slightly creepy at times...yeah. Fuck yeah. Addicted is, aptly, dangerously addictive. The energy is boundless, the brightness is blinding, and, yes, Addicted is one of the very best albums in an absolutely ridiculous year in heavy metal. Now...get up and Deconstruct.
posted on 11/2009 By:
As someone who has always had a rabid infatuation with the poppier side of Devin Townsend’s discography, the concept of Addicted had me excited as hell right from the onset. Not only did Townsend admit outright that the album would be nothing but fun, heavy jams, the samples that he posted many months back lived up to the description beautifully, and the contributions from the immensely talented Anneke van Giersbergen was the icing on the cake. Now, after months of anticipation, perhaps the only thing more exciting than the fact that this record is finally upon us is how well it actually lives up toTownsend’s hype.
Addicted is catchier than the most common of colds, and I don’t recall a time where I literally had to force myself to listen to other things just to prevent an album from losing its sheen too quickly. Needless to say, it hasn’t been an easy task. Addicted takes all that’s best about Townsend’s various projects— an abundance of catchy melodies, supurb production, and obviously outstanding vocal work—and condenses it all into a surprisingly neat, anthemic package. What’s really impressive is how much depth and longevity this record has considering its relatively straightforward nature, and it really points to Townsend’s brilliance as a songwriter even in his newly adopted sober lifestyle.
Right off the bat, “Addicted!” sets the template perfectly for one of the year’s most purely fun musical ventures. A simple, pounding beat, a groovy chug-based riff, and one hell of a rousing chorus—it’s the kind of approach that feels familiar yet fresh at the same time. “Universe In A Ball!” and “Bend It Like Bender!” both follow a similar recipe (the latter delivering one of the most absurd choruses to ever actually work in a rock or metal song), but the epic “Supercrush!” is the first track to elevate the record beyond mere “party album” status (not that that’s necessarily a bad thing). Anchored by a titanic main riff, Anneke introduces the song with some gorgeous singing during the verses, ushering in Townsend to deliver one of the most soaring choruses of his career. The two converge together at the end of the song for a gigantic climax, and it’s the kind of track that astounds you by accomplishing so much while consisting of so relatively little.
From here the album switches gears slightly to the more upbeat vibes of “Hyperdrive!” and “Resolve!,” before turning the emotions back up for the quiet ballad of “Ih-Ah!” and the rousing “The Way Home!,” which features some truly breathtaking lead vocals by Townsend. “Numbered!” follows “Supercrush!” as another stunning union of the voices of Devin and Anneke, witha solo from the later in the song’s conclusion that still gives me chills after weeks of listening. Honestly, the album could end right there and I would have been totally satisfied, but “Awake!” ties up any loose ends with another frighteningly danceable chorus and a great display of Devin’s many vocal personalities before closing things quietly with a soothing wash of ambient noise.
Addicted is not a flawless listen by any means (“Universe In A Ball!” and “Resolve” in particular both feel kind of shallow), but in terms of living up to the expectations set when the album’s concept was announced earlier this year, I have to commend Townsend for a smashing success. It doesn’t quite match the quirky brilliance of his more sprawling works (Infinity, Terria) or the hard-rocking atmospherics of Ocean Machine or Accelerated Evolution, but I wholeheartedly second Mr. Campbell’s notion that Addicted is without a doubt the most fun and accessible album of Townsend’s career, and sits comfortably along side many of this year’s more expansive and forward-thinking metal albums simply because it's such a goddamn blast to listen to.
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