The Devin Townsend Project - Ki
InsideOut Music
Progressive Rock/Metal
13 songs (66:50)
Release year: 2009
Devin Townsend , InsideOut Music
Reviewed by James

Devin Townsend may have stepped outside the realms of metal before with his ambient Devlab and Hummer projects, but those were closer to side-projects than anything else than a new solo album proper. Ki, on the other hand is Devin Townsend's return to music after the somewhat underwhelming (although apparently I'm the only one who holds that opinion) Ziltoid The Omniscient. It's the first part of the Devin Townsend Project, a ridiculously ambitious four-album piece that is the product of a year of self-reinvention. Metal's very own mad scientist has shaved the infamous skullet that had become his trademark, quit the hallucinogens that (he claims) inspired so much of his work, and became a more mature figure. Ki is something of an introduction to the project, rather than being representative of a whole, yet it's still likely to prove itself a challenge to fans of Townsend's work in the uncompromisingly brutal Strapping Young Lad. Ki is propelled by near-ambient guitars, warm, rich, rolling bass lines, and subtle drumming from legendary session drummer Duris Maxwell. Coast lays down the template, which changes little throughout the album, and for the next hour your immersed in not his usual ear-splitting wall of sound, but something warmer, though just as thick, which a poster over at the forums described as a “marshmallow of sound”, which I think is as good a description as any.

Yet for all the changes he's gone through in his career, Devin's music always has a sound that's utterly unique to him, and Ki is certainly no different. When all is said and done, it's not that far removed from some of Infinity's more out-there moments (imagine if Unity was expanded into a full album, although that doesn't quite cover it). What is new however, is the addition of female vocals, which adds a new dynamic to the songs in which they feature (although it could be argued that a second vocalist detracts from the personal nature of this album). Devin's own voice has come on in leaps and bounds, too. For whatever reason, he sounds more melodic and powerful than ever (his high-pitched operatic vocals on Coast give me chills), Ki perhaps marking his most accomplished vocal performance to date.

What should be noted when listening to Ki is that it's very much a mood piece. Devin Townsend didn't intend to make material with big riffs and catchy choruses here (though apparently follow-up album Addicted will be just that) and the album spends much of it's 66-minute run-time in hypnotic guitar lines (although moments of metal riffage do show up from time to time). It could be argued that it goes on a bit too much longer than it needs to for that sort of thing, especially as this is only a quarter of Townsend's planned output for the year. Indeed, the album is remarkably engaging for something so low-key. We do get a couple of breaks from the formula, but it's fair to say they're hit-and-miss. Trainfire opens with a rockabilly pastiche that sounds jarringly out of place with the rest of the album (Devin has mostly reined in the zaniness this time), and comes off as a little irritating, the only misstep on an otherwise remarkably well-crafted release. Lady Helen, on the other hand is a stunning mostly-acoustic track and the most tightly constructed song on here.

Ki isn't entirely perfect, but it is a very welcome return to the fold from one of metal's most beloved figures. The Devin Townsend Project has got off to a very fine start so far, and considering Ki is more of a scene-setter than anything else, I for one cannot wait for the actual meat of the project, which happens to include, on album three, “the heaviest music [he's] ever made”. Ladies and gentlemen, we are in for a treat.

Killing Songs :
All except Trainfire
James quoted 87 / 100
Other albums by The Devin Townsend Project that we have reviewed:
The Devin Townsend Project - Z2 reviewed by Joel and quoted 93 / 100
The Devin Townsend Project - Epicloud reviewed by Aleksie and quoted 91 / 100
The Devin Townsend Project - Ghost reviewed by Cory and quoted 72 / 100
The Devin Townsend Project - Deconstruction reviewed by Goat and quoted 86 / 100
The Devin Townsend Project - Addicted reviewed by Goat and quoted 91 / 100
4 readers voted
Your quote was: 100.
Change your vote

There are 15 replies to this review. Last one on Sat Aug 08, 2009 2:30 pm
View and Post comments