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Progressive Rock CD Reviews

Devin Townsend Project

Ki

Review by Gary Hill

Devin Townsend is best known for his work in Strapping Young Lad – and that might make you think this is a metal album. It’s got some metal in the mix, but most of the disc is far closer to Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd than it is to real heavy metal. It’s a great and diverse disc with some amazing music. It will probably land near the top of my “best of 2009” list when it’s all said and done.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
A Monday
This is a sedate and moody instrumental that seems to have some hints of the Ventures along with the more obvious contenders like Pink Floyd.
Coast
A sound effects introduction starts this. Then it moves to something akin to Porcupine Tree with a King Crimson like rubbery rhythm section. This really has a cool atmosphere to it. At times I can hear bits of rockabilly in this, but yet it’s essentially very moody modern prog rock. They bring out into harder rocking territory as they continue onward. This is just plain awesome. You might hear Pink Floyd and Alan Parsons both on this, but the overall mode is quite modern. They do take into an almost metal mode for a short time, but then drop it way back to acoustic to end.
Disruptr
This comes in harder edged feeling like something from modern King Crimson. It’s definitely more metallic, but far odder than real metal. We do get some extreme metal sounding vocals, but almost more like instrumentation. I will concede that the section around the three minute mark could without question pass as pure metal, but I’d still stand by the fact that there’s a lot of prog going on, too – making this not such an easy fix into the metal category. The cut is dropped back to more balladic motifs for a break.
Gato
There’s a definite melodic arrangement here. It’s got some of that noisy modern King Crimson in the mix and you could probably make an argument to compare this to the other King – King’s X (OK, King Diamond might be the other King, but this really isn’t like him). It does become more purely metal as it carries on, but still there’s enough prog bits here to consider this to be really progressive rock with some serious metal in its midst. They alternate between the more melodic and this pounding movement to carry onward. 
Terminal
While there’s a definite dark atmosphere to this it really is melodic and quite pretty. Comparisons to Porcupine Tree are earned and Pink Floyd is another name that will probably come to mind. I like this one a lot and it serves as a nice contrast to the crunchy power that made up a lot of the last piece. 
Heaven Send
This only rises to the level of metal around the three minute mark, but it’s got more of a rock feeling to it than the previous number. The bass drives the first half of and pressed I’d call it “space rock.” They take it out to more adventurous territory as they move it forward and none of this is anything close to predictable. Even when they take it into metal territory there’s still plenty of prog sensibility to it. They take it out to an almost fusion stripped down approach after this crunch movement. This gives way to some serious Crimsoid weirdness and then a reprise of the earlier portions of the track. It works back through to the metallic portion. We get a false ending and then a powerful reprise of this harder rocking section.  At almost nine minutes in length this is a very epic piece – and the longest piece on show. It’s also one of the most dynamic cuts here and one of the best. 
Ain't Never Gonna Win....
An instrumental, this combines the Porcupine Tree and Pink Floyd type elements with a real groove. It’s a nice bit of a breather after the powerhouse that preceded it. 
Winter
Here’s another that’s a lot like Porcupine Tree or a modern Alan Parsons. It’s melodic and tasteful and very cool.  I particularly like the keyboard outro. 
Trainfire
The sound of a train gives way to percussion to start things off. This turns into a rockabilly sort of jam that would almost feel like Stray Cats or Elvis Presley were it not for bits of that proggy oddness. They take us out into a powerhouse prog rock jam for the energized chorus. We get some metallic sections on this, too, but it never rises to the level of metal that some of the others do. This is quite a cool and diverse piece of music. The closing segment is part Mazzy Star, part jazz trio. 
Lady Hellen
This is a pretty and melodic piece that’s quite balladic. It grows up rather gradually and resembles Pink Floyd and Porcupine Tree at times, but I also hear a lot of Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity” in this. They take us into a very mellow section for the extended outro. 
Ki
An extremely pretty piece, parts of this have an incredibly complex vocal arrangement. Still, in many ways this is much like the other Porcupine Tree styled moody prog of much of the rest of the disc. When it’s working this well, why change it? It shifts out later into a section that feels like Al DiMeola and then evolves into one of the most dramatic and powerful pure progressive rock segments on the whole album. This is dark and dramatic and mysterious – and awesome. The extended outro has some operatic moments and is incredibly powerful. 
Quiet Riot
Acoustic guitar based this is both folky and also a lot like Pink Floyd. Of course, I also hear plenty of Porcupine Tree in the mix, too. There is a gap between the end of this one and the start of the next. The title of that song is listed on the cover, though – so it’s not a hidden track. I guess the silence is part of “Quiet Riot,” and that’s in keeping with the title.
Demon League
The title might make you think this one is going to be metal. It’s far from it. It’s more PT meet Pink Floyd in a mellow mix. I like it quite a bit, but I think perhaps one of the more potent tracks should have ended the CD.
 
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