The Devin Townsend Project: Ki

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The Devin Townsend Project: Ki
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The Devin Townsend Project: Ki
Acoustic, Progressive Rock
InsideOut Music
May 25th, 2009
Release length: 1:06:46
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The Devin Townsend Project formed in the ashes of Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend Band, and even the solo Devin Townsend act. With it comes the promise from Devin Townsend of a four album musical experience that spans various styles. Ki happens to be the first of these four albums, and for fans of his larger project Strapping Young Lad, it was not what people expected. This Progressive Rock piece took his works in a whole other direction, and made it clear that this four album set really was going to be something quite different. But, being different isn’t always the most enjoyable for fans, and may not be the best path to take.

Ki met a lot of praise and dismissal throughout the internet, and for good reason. The music is mostly composed of really light guitars, as well as some acoustic guitars scattered about. Of course there’s some rich bass behind it, and there’s also some drumming, but the latter doesn’t do much against the slower music. Having a simpler musical premise from Devin Townsend isn’t really the issue here, but rather the execution. Ki starts off with “A Monday”, an acoustic introduction track that sounds loud with rich acoustics that make the track feel more intimate with it’s softer sound. Those expectations immediately become dashes with “Coast” as the song takes on more of a soft approach without the intimate sound, without any atmosphere, a soft singing performance that ranges from whispered to generally low in volume, and some Industrial effects here and there, all working to try to create what comes off as more of a Space Rock kind of atmospheric vibe that becomes estblished later in the song as it builds up, but never really seems to get the chance to actually reach the pivotol climax it feels like it’s building up to. Of course, this isn’t the only song to really feel confusing or that seems to go nowhere.

But, as you progress through the album, it shockingly becomes more obvious that there’s no real general direction to this album at all. There’s no atmosphere, the attitude of the songs all drift in different directions, and it just becomes so confusing as to what the point of it all is that you’ll lose interest with the album very quick. Aside that, much of the slower music becomes repetitive. “Gato” sounds like “Coast”, except with more spots for the music to become heavier out of nowhere instead of building up to a heavier climax that feels like it never comes. While the obvious overtone of the album is meant to be relaxtion or finding you “ki” to put your yin and yang in balance, those random moments of intensity seem greatly out of place and feel more like it’s disrupting that harmony that some of the slower music manages to give you, especially when the vocals start screaming at you when the music becomes more intense. It’s pointed out that it’s meant to reflect coming to a harmonized state of being and restraining the chaotic elements, and if you can think about the album that way, it does make a little more sense in a conceptual manner, but it doesn’t automatically make it a good album, or even that it will make any more sense direction-wise then it did when you first walked into the release.

But, there are times where it seems to have a clear objective in mind. As mentioned, “A Monday” feels soft and intimate, and really sets up the album to be like that, though it fails miserably to hit upon that concept for the most part. “Terminal”, however, seems to embrace the concept of the album title, as well as shows the introduction wasn’t just there to sound good. This is another acoustic piece that comes off soothing and relaxing, as if reaching a point of absolute zen through music that cascades a soft paradise emotionally in the atmosphere with soothing vocals taking the listener away. “Ki” also comes off that way with it’s clear meditative approach through acoustic guitars and a deeper, more subtle and hynotizing vocal approach. Burt perhaps one of the most impressive tracks here is “Quiet Riot” which is an atmosphere rich track that comes off a really sad song in a reflective manner with really soft, remorseful-like vocals against an emotional acoustic guitar performance that makes a great impact on the listener. The only fault for that song is that it actually is shorter then the three minute track length suggests as there’s a large gap of dead air near the end of the song. Finally there’s “Heaven Send”, which acts a little differently to reach a more intimate state of mind. The song itself is rather laid back and take a more traditional Progressive Rock approach to the slower music to give off a sense of paradise in a zen-like world, but the music does build up, and eventually has a very chaotic guitar solo that ruins the mood of the song, losing that intimate feeling after a while, and eventually just hammers into a loud and heavy passage to conclude the song, closing with people talking and recorded in the studio in the same manner that kicked off the song before reaching it’s climax was crazy heavily-industrialized elements.

The only way to describe what this album comes across as is simply a personal album that is a musical output of Devin himself trying to come to terms with his frustrations and get his body into total harmonzation, and to illuminate the struggles to do so through music. But, even then it becomes questionable as some tracks don’t really seem to have anything to do with that concept, like “Trainfire” which feels like a Rock song about a Country setting from back in the day when trains were more heavily used. In the end it’s more infuriating then anything trying to figure out exactly what’s going on with this release, and how it all plays into a persons “ki”, even that of Devin Townsend himself. The additional female vocals give a little extra soothing atmosphere to some songs, but as a Progressive Rock album, it’s beyond comprehension, and it often makes no sense, riddled with songs that seem to go nowhere, and a number of tracks that just aren’t too entertaining because of that, like “Gato”. Even as a general soft Rock album, it’s not the most impressive, and the songs that make the most of an impact are the ones that feel a little more intimate, like “Terminal”, or just feel like they go somewhere and are well done songs in the first place, like “Lady Helen”, which just feels like a well composed and performed Progressive Rock song that is one of the few that seems to know what direction it’s going in. Overall, not one of Devin’s best works, but it does have a couple good songs going for it.

01. A Monday – 1:42
02. Coast – 4:35
03. Disruptr – 5:49
04. Gato – 5:23
05. Terminal – 6:58
06. Heaven Send – 8:54
07. Ain’t Never Gonna Win – 3:17
08. Winter – 4:48
09. Trainfire – 5:58
10. Lady Helen – 6:05
11. Ki – 7:20
12. Quiet Riot – 3:02
13. Demon League – 2:55
Overall Score: 5.5/10
The Devin Townsend Project (band)
The Devin Townsend Project
Physical review copy of this release provided by personal funds.