Sound — 9
Even if it's not his intention, Devin Townsend is quickly proving himself to be one of the most versatile musicians in any genre. While his work with extreme metal project Strapping Young Lad was usually an assault on the senses, the vast majority of his solo output has been the polar opposite or as close to that description as you can get. Fueled by mellow, ambient arrangements, solo endeavors like The Hummer and Ki seem like they could not have been possibly been touched by the man behind such crushing metal tunes as Underneath The Waves or All Hail The New Flesh. For the new album Addicted (released only about six months after his previous record Ki), his current outfit The Devin Townsend Project has combined the best of both musical worlds with impressive results. Addicted is not what you would call light listening. With every song delivering an epic-type approach to songwriting, the Devin Townsend Project's fourth album (Townsend's 11th solo album in total) is a veritable wall of sound. It's hard to characterize the record as any one specific genre, which makes the listening experience a fascinating one. The opening track Addicted! (by the way, exclamation points follow each title oddly enough), there's an array of computer/sci-fi samples, thick banshee-like vocals, and good, old fashioned distorted guitar. Universal Ball! does not ease up on the energy, but only adds intensity with its industrial vibe and operatic vocals. Townsend's range and power are insane, and guest vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen (who sounds like a long-lost member of ABBA) is a fitting match for the multi-talented artist. There are plenty of twists and turns on Addicted, and Supercrush! is a perfect example of the craziness. Starting out with a slower, chugging guitar and the cherubic vocal stylings of Giersbergen, the chorus explodes with a wall of sound that showcase the male and female voices trading off. In many ways, the 10 tracks could be compared to orchestral pieces. Numbered! stands out in this aspect for its grandiose construction, at times almost sounding like it would fit perfectly in an over-the-top musical at least one that doesn't mind pinch harmonics and some badass percussion.
Lyrics — 7
If the fact that every song features an exclamation point didn't tip you off, reading the full song text should indicate that Townsend has one of the oddest approaches around to lyric writing. There's something quite vague and mysterious about each song, but it's not because Townsend is caught up in a thesaurus. He just prefers to keep things simple, fairly repetitive, and very cryptic. Take the song Hyperdrive!, which features the casual lines, Where the river flows; Sail away, Hey, I'm sorry; Everyday is a new day; Hooray for love. Nothing is ever truly clarified from beginning to end, but given Townsend's amazing skills as a musician, one has to believe that he knows exactly what he's doing. Of course, that still doesn't help in the deciphering process.
Overall Impression — 8
With Addicted, you get the feeling that Townsend has some pretty lofty goals as a composer. You'll be barraged by a variety of sounds and instruments while listening to the CD, so be prepared for something far different than the traditional rock arrangements. Townsend has dabbled in a variety of genres, and the new album in many ways touches on them all again only on a grander and heavier scale. There's never quite the metal peak you'd get with Strapping Young Lad, but there's enough of an industrial vibe to keep things aggressive. Yes, those heavy moments are usually interwoven with big, keyboard-driven, epic choruses, but it makes for a wildly refreshing combination in the end.