Released: 2000, Hevy Devy Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Let me say this right up front: I think Devin Townsend is a musical and creative genius. Whatever he does, I love it. That is, everything except for PHYSICIST. Released in 2000, PHYSICIST was the first album Devin released after his nervous breakdown. PHYSICIST isn’t all that bad, but it lacks the expansive musical pallette of TERRIA and the intensity of SYL’s CITY. Unfortunately, the album sounds at times like “Strapping Young Lad-lite” and even features the entire SYL lineup, even though it is a Devin solo project. For the recording process, Devin enlisted his Strapping Young Lad bandmates: drummer of the gods, Gene Hoglan (ex-Dark Angel, Death, Testament, Old Man’s Child), as well as bassist Byron Stroud and second guitarist Jed Simon.
One of Devin’s trademarks is his ability to put layer upon layer of sound on a track to create an intense and emotional listening experience. He does just that once again as “Namaste” opens PHYSICIST with an industrial heaviness usually found on an SYL album. Hoglan’s drumming on this track is particularly impressive. “Material” has a catchy chorus and could easily be a radio hit. Its lush melodies are played over a brutal drum beat and thick keyboards. “Kingdom” opens with a bizarre keyboard sound that almost sounds like steel drums. Hoglan’s tight, double bass blastbeats snap at you throughout the song as it segues into a trippy, psychedelic outro complete with church organ. “Death” is the heaviest track on the album but it is laden with a distortion-filled vocal track that makes anything Devin sings completely unintelligible. “Devoid” is a short instrumental piece that along with “Death” are the most SYL-like tracks found here. Unfortunately, from here on, the album loses me. “The Complex” is a plodding, uninteresting song. “Irish Maiden” is a bizarre song that features a muddy vocal track and again just seems to go on without purpose. “Jupiter” has a cool riff but is otherwise forgettable. “Planet Rain” goes on for what seems like an eternity (actually it’s 11 minutes) and could be admired for its ambitiousness but I found it just plain boring and monotonous.
An unlisted bonus track, “The Forgotten”, features the same lyrics as the track “Bad Devil” from Devin’s 1998 album, INFINITY. The CD also features a multimedia portion where Devin himself explains each track.
PHYSICIST combines the industrial aggression of Ministry and Fear Factory with melody and scope. Stacked up against the rest of Devin’s solo material and Strapping Young Lad, PHYSICIST just can’t keep up. Don’t let it be your first introduction to the mind of Devin Townsend because you will be selling both him and yourself short.