Devin Townsend- ‘Contain Us’


January 19, 2012 by Dan Swinhoe

Can you sum up the last two years of your career with anything really exciting? I can sum mine up with one bit of paper saying I went to university and another being saying I’m unemployed. Devin Townsend managed to sum his up with eight disks, 70 tracks, a shed load of videos and a big black book filled with pictures of his face.

‘Contain Us’ (A Cont/Ainus joke perhaps?) is a culmination of the Devin Townsend Project ’s work for last few years. Bringing together the original four albums rolled into one large box-set and throwing in a host of extras, it’s a collector’s dream. The packaging is a huge; a black hardback book, filled to the brim with photos of Canada’s favourite oddball and his thoughts of each album and what it means to him.

Whole journals have been filled with whether music should mean something to people, to be more than notes and sounds to dance to. With ‘Contain Us’, Devin Townsend explains what his musical project has meant to him. From breaking up previous band Strapping Young Lad because he wasn’t the angry 20-year old he was, to exploring the concepts behind each album and his trepidation in returning to heavy music, Devin is nothing but honest here. Backstage photos, endless lyric sheets and enlarged versions of the original artworks are included as well

The original four are as they were (See reviews for Ghost & Deconstruction here), each with their own voice and style. ‘Ki’ was the quiet, introspective opener, ‘Addicted!’ was the pop-rock party, ‘Deconstruction’ was the heavy mindfuck, with ‘Ghost’ its new-age antithesis. It’s hard to pick a favourite, or a standout, and each one really does stand as the pinnacle of his career in all its forms.Each one is different and shows how versatile Devin is as a songwriter; from the slow build of ‘Coast’ and ‘Disruptr’, the soaring melody of ‘Supercrush’ and ‘Ih-Ah!’, the sheer sonic crush of ‘Juular’ and ‘Stand’ to the laid back ‘Kawaii’ and ‘Fly’. There’s not a weak album, and barely a weak track among them.

Being the insatiable and greedy bastards that we are, there’s plenty on the bonus side of things to appease the fans. The first bonus disc features B-sides and various songs that didn’t quite make it to the final release. It’s a mixed bag; some reworking of old songs (’Om’ & ‘Fucker’), leftovers, and the first tracks of the Ghost II/Epicloud album, which on what’s shown promises to be excellent. The main track is ‘Traestorz’, a 20-minute ambient/electro beast, very reminiscent of the DevLab/Hummer releases, and features a segment which later became ‘Deconstruction’s ‘The Mighty Masturbator.’ A nice touch in the sleeve notes is how each song came to be, and why it didn’t quite make it out of the vault before.

The second bonus disk is full of original demos, which for the most part fairly similar to the originals. The biggest change is the female vocals from various songs are replaced by Devin himself, and couple those with the live clips it’s a mystery why he ever thought he needed outside help at all. Of course there’s a couple of oddities in there too, ‘Brown Man’ enlists some  Buckethead style fret-wanking coupled with slightly disturbing vocals of ‘”Pussypussypussy OMNOMNOM!” The other none album track is ‘Madd At My Dadd,’ a solid wall of noise and probably the most SYL-esque song of the whole project, and for completists became ‘Terrorizer’ and given away a few months ago with the magazine of the same name. Stylistically both these discs vary wildly, and it’s not hard to see why there were released over four albums. To release these songs as one or even two albums would have been a mess.

If you were one of the super lucky few, the bonus edition arrives with a 10″ vinyl featuring two more bonus songs. ‘A Ziltoidian Rapture’ sees the return of Devin’s favourite omni-dimensional alien, Ziltoid, in a nine minute epic featuring ranting, raving, and a large segment of Juular. ‘Dinosaurs’ is equally odd, with an almost polka beat with a saxophone lead sounds akin to ‘Bad Devil’ or ‘Vampolka’. Not only are they good tracks, physical copies of these will no doubt become collectors items worth as much as Devin’s Skullet.

For your eyes, ‘Contain Us’ gives a nice selection of treats. The two live performances, one acoustic and one metal, show both sides of the DTP and offers downloads on the second DVD. All four promo videos are present, with a mix of aliens, war and old men riding satanic trains, as well as the obligatory ‘live’ video. All in all, pretty standard DVD fare. The second video however, gives a pretty personal snapshot of Devin’s world.

Each album is given a track by track commentary, mostly consisting of Devin waking up at the crack of dawn to give us nuggets of info about recording specifications and other treats (Did you know ‘Addicted!’ was recorded 1BPM faster than intended?) There are some interesting moments, Devin admitting he spent most of ‘Deconstruction’s meagre budget on the orchestra and had to stump up around $40,000 of his own money to record the thing shows how much the project meant to him.

The rest of the disk varies wildly, for remixers there’s the original masters to play around with (A cappella Cookie-monster vocals are good for a laugh), for serious people there’s a chance to actually make country versions of metal songs. For people who like weird shit there’s a variety of odd videos; The ‘deep Thought’ shorts ponder notions of reality and existence coupled with the awesomeness of blow jobs, and the rest of the disk is devoted to a wild mix of studio footage, tour clips, and general tomfoolery with a video camera. Very rough around the edges, but good fun.

‘Contain Us’ is an honest insight into the whole process of nearly four years of work, and as close a look at Devin as you can get without actually getting into bed with the guy. With the release of ‘Epicloud/Ghost II’ and the planned Retinal Circus performance in London set for 2012, This was as good a way to round off 2011 and an epic project as you could get.
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2 thoughts on “Devin Townsend- ‘Contain Us’

  1. […] a musician as he is, you never quite know what you’re going to get with Devin Townsend. His Tetralogy series last year; Ki, Addicted!, Deconstruction and Ghost all showed the different extremes the […]

  2. […] a musician as he is, you never quite know what you’re going to get with Devin Townsend. His Tetralogy series last year; Ki, Addicted!, Deconstruction and Ghost all showed the different extremes the […]

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