Alright, so, I've been listening to the new Devin Townsend album (let's not bother getting into how I managed to hear the whole thing, but it's all available on youtube right now, so let's pretend it's that and move along ) and thought I'd give my thoughts on the whole thing.
NOTE: Spoilers Ahead - Anyone who hasn't heard the CD yet probably shouldn't read this, but it's your call
A little background, I liked "Ki". It's a cool album, though inconsistent. I really only like half the songs on it, but I don't hate any of the songs on it. Some of them I just find a little dull ("Disruptr" for example, or any of the songs where he's trying to do the heavy thing), while others are completely awesome ("A Monday", "Coast", "Terminal", "Lady Helen"). "Trainfire" is a song I never really had grow on me, but the last minute or so of it is completely amazing (the female vocals part). Overall, it was intended to be a "restrained" album, and I think he achieved that. Some of the tracks are beautiful and mellow, other tracks build a really cool tension by never fully breaking open into heaviness.
With that said, the next installment of the "Project" series of albums is "Addicted", which Devin has described as being sort of a straight up rock album. Obviously, each album in this series is kind of a challenge and experiment for him more than anything. Overall, I think "Ki" was more successful at doing what he intended to do than "Addicted".
I know one of his goals was to have production modeled after the newest Nickelback album, he didn't quite achieve this. The production's good, but the guitar tones aren't quite there and the vocals are a little too raw sounding and mixed too low and there's the occasional bit where autotune becomes a problem ("Hyperdrive!") instead of being used transparently like on a million dollar pop/rock album. The drums get close, and the editing as well.
For the most part, he's got some really monstrous hooks on this album, so that part is a success, though occasionally the verses seem a little thrown together, and overall it kind of seemed like he was saying "Look at how catchy this song can be, even with lyrics that are kind of vague or possibly meaningless in places."
Mostly, it seems like he tried really hard to tone it back to straight up, simple rock, but couldn't completely resist being himself
All this being said, it may not fully achieve the goals he seemed to set out for himself, but it's still a really awesome album, IMHO.
Here's a song-by-song breakdown:
The beginning of this song always makes me think of "Chinese Democracy", not sure if that was an intentional thing or not Overall, a cool simple heavy riff, but overall the song kind of sounds like a bit of a watered down SYL track. Maybe more accurately, it could be an SYL/DTB remix. It's got a nice catchy hook, though, and probably the most obviously meaningful lyrics on the album.
Universe In A Ball!
This album definitely grooves. Lots of great, simple groovy riffs. Some cool dynamic shifts in this one, and the first time on the album that Devin breaks out his stellar clean vocals. If I could sing half as good as this guy, I'd be very happy. Another goal for this album may have been to give himself another opportunity to branch out and show off as a singer instead of showing off his shredding ability like some of his other more recent albums.
Bend It Like Bender!
This song's been pretty controversial so far among fans, it's definitely different. It's growing on me, though it's definitely really different for him. It's definitely the least guitar-oriented song on the album. It's got a pretty solid hook, though the vocal production hurts it quite a bit. The vocals don't have any sparkle or clarity to them, they sound kind of dull and blanketed. The female vocals sound a little bored almost.
This song is, without question, incredible. The biggest, most powerful hook on the album for sure, and possibly one of the biggest, most powerful hooks I've ever heard This song makes me want to hear what Devin Townsend would do if given the opportunity to score a film (or possibly a musical). Devin's vocals are incredible on this, though still lacking a little of that high-end sparkle. The female vocals still sound slightly bored, which is my main complaint on this album.
This song is obviously an older song from the Ziltoid album. The production overall is a bit of a step up from the Ziltoid version, but the vocals bug the hell out of me. In the choruses they sound really good, in the verses they sound almost like an annoying synthesizer/vocoder. There's just something unnatural sounding and shrill about them. He honestly should have let someone else do the vocal production on this album, they just don't "pop" like they should.
Back to the groovy riffs and catchy hook. Not a really standout track, but a solid one.
This may be my favourite song on the album, and the biggest departure for Devin overall. This song is a simple, stripped back ballad and gives him a great chance to stretch out his vocal abilities. His singing is incredible on this, and Anneke's backing vocals are perfect. This song could fit right into a movie soundtrack and could easily find a more mainstream audience. I love this song, and I hope we get to hear more of this side of Devin in the future.
The Way Home!
This song kind of reminds me of parts of Ziltoid, in that it's kind of mellow and restrained, with fast drumming. If you bumped the distortion up and made the drums louder, it would be a pretty heavy track, but instead he has this way of holding it all back and making it kind of mellow. Really cool. Nice melody, too, and a really decent hook.
This song has a really cool, really solid, really epic hook. Again, kind of the "musical" side of Devin coming out again. I really like this track, really big and epic and theatrical. Again, the female vocals sound a little dull compared to what they could be, but it's not as bad as some other songs.
Another groovy, melodic kind of song with a decent hook. The "end" is probably the most SYL sounding part of the album. The "end" is about halfway through the track, though, then it trails off into loops and drones that are cool, but it's not often I've sat through the whole thing, I usually get through about half the fade-out and then skip back to "Supercrush", "Ih Ah", or "Numbered".
Overall, a really good album, and I've been listening to it a lot and really enjoying it. There's just a couple of little nagging things that bug me about it, that most people probably wouldn't notice or care about
I pretty much agree with everything you've said here, especially in regards to hyperdrive, great review dude.