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3.60 | 32 ratings | 3 reviews
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Album · 2000


1. Namaste (3:43)
2. Victim (3:15)
3. Material (2:47)
4. Kingdom (5:54)
5. Death (2:26)
6. Devoid (1:28)
7. The Complex (3:30)
8. Irish Maiden (2:44)
9. Jupiter (3:36)
10. Planet Rain (11:08)

Total Time 40:37


- Devin Townsend / vocals, guitar, keyboards
- Gene Hoglan / drums
- Byron Stroud / bass
- Jed Simon / guitar

About this release

Label: HevyDevy Records
Release Date: June 26, 2000

Released by Sony in Japan with the following bonus tracks:

11. Forgotten (5:59)
12. Man (5:12)
13. Ocean Machines (8:24)
14. Promise (5:26)

Thanks to negoba, Stooge, Lynx33 for the updates


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Specialists/collaborators reviews

"Physicist" is the third full-length studio album by Canadian artist Devin Townsend. The album was released through HevyDevy Records (Townsend´s own label) in June 2000. It´s the successor to "Infinity" from October 1998. The album project started with the side-project that Townsend had with then Metallica bassist Jason Newsted called IR8. IR8 recorded a demo tape and then Townsend and Newsted started working on another project called Fizzicist. Newsted However ended up having to stop working with Townsend, when his Metallica bandmates learned of his side-project and vetoed his involvement in any other project than Metallica. Townsend soldiered on though and recruited his Strapping Young Lad bandmates for the recording sessions, which ended up being "Physicist".

At this point Strapping Young Lad was effectively on hold, to enable Townsend to concentrate on his solo career and to produce for other artists (Zimmers Hole, Soilwork, Stuck Mojo), but his solo career and Strapping Young Lad were always entangled in some way and the three other guys from Strapping Young Lad also toured with Townsend as his solo band those days, with a setlist featuring tracks from both projects.

"Physicist" is often criticized by fans and even by Townsend himself and called one of the least interesting releases in his discography, and while I don´t necessarily agree with that sentiment, I can see why people (and Townsend himself) would think that. Coming from the schizophrenic and experimental sounds of "Infinity", "Physicist" is a much more straight forward and consistent release. The basis of many of the tracks is relatively hard edged thrash metal influenced drumming and guitar riffs and Townsend´s vocals are predominantly raw and screaming. When that is said "Physicist" also features the trademark layers of keyboards/synths and a few more melodic moments with clean vocals (tracks like "Material" and "Jupiter"). It´s a highly energetic release and often relatively fast-paced.

Opening track "Namaste" is the best example of that with it´s relentless pounding drumming style and sharp thrashy riffs (as are "Victim" and "Death"). To my ears "Namaste" is definitely a highlight, but tracks like "Kingdom", and the 11:08 minutes long closing track "Planet Rain" are also standout tracks on "Physicist". The album unfortunately also features what I would call a couple of fillers. Or at least a few unremarkable tracks, and it therefore loses a bit of steam around half way through the playing time. It´s not a major issue, but it´s of course not a positive either.

The sound production is a bit "thin" and lacks some heavy bottom, but other than that it´s a professional, detailed, and relatively well sounding production. Definitely not Townsend´s best production work, but it´s not an awful sounding album by any means. Many people seem to think that "Physicist" is just a Strapping Young Lad album disguised as a Devin Townsend solo album, and while there are some arguments which are valid enough to form such an opinion, there are also many elements on "Physicist", which would not have been included on a Strapping Young Lad album, and it´s not a given that fans of Strapping Young Lad, who are not fans of Townsend´s solo releases, would find this album attractive. To my ears "Physicist" sits somewhere between the two projects and it´s quite unique in Townsend´s vast discography. Better than its reputation, but not a perfect release, a 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.
Whenever I get into a band or artist and like them to the point that I decide to get all the studio albums I know there will be an album or two that fail to grab me. With Devin Townsend, the album I like least is this one, an album that is almost unanimously one of his least impressive a midst a catalogue rife with impressive albums. The man himself counts this as his biggest solo effort flop and the backing band (the Strapping Young Lad guys) are also unanimous in their dislike for the album.

The problem is mostly with the production and not the music itself. Devin's early albums are not as fine tuned production wise as his later stuff; however, "Physicist" is really a muddied effort. The project was initially conceived by a joint venture with Jason Newsted who was with Metallica at the time, but Lars Ulrich and James Hetfield did not want any member of Metallica involved in projects outside the band. Devin decided to continue on his own and called in the members of Strapping Young Lad, Devin's flagship band, to record the music. His desire was to combine the bright pop metal of Def Leppard with thrash metal. The thrash element is there without a doubt. But the bright pop metal appears only in the form of some keyboards which in a lot of cases do not work well with the rest of the music. Devin would later get the sound right on his Devin Townsend Project albums like "Epicloud", which features a much better version of the "Physicist" track "Kingdom".

If you listen to this album along with some other Devin Townsend albums or other modern albums, you will instantly notice that the sound quality is lacking. The other day, though, I listened to this album first thing in the morning while commuting to work and it sounded better than when placed against a background of superior recordings. The thrashier tracks likes "Namaste" and "Death" don't sound too bad for thrash metal. I also rather like how the keyboards add some melody to songs like "The Complex" and "Jupiter". "Kingdom" is good here. It's just that the song sounds so much better on "Epicloud" which I heard first.

The big "epic" here is said to be "Planet Rain". As the longest track it does have room to move and change rhythm and atmosphere, which it does in roughly four distinct parts, but I don't feel that it is anything particularly exciting. Perhaps for those who don't care for thrash too much this is a welcome respite. But compared to Devin's "Terria" and "Synchestra" or even "Biomech: Ocean Machine", this song needs some help.

Ultimately, this is a thrash metal album and there's not much here that illustrates Devin's more prog or post metal side. As a thrash album it's okay but the bright keyboards don't always improve the song quality. As a progressive album it seems that this is more of an experiment that didn't work out as well as it was intended. From time to time it's alright to listen through on its own. But Devin Townsend has much better music with much better production elsewhere.

Overall, I prefer his Strapping Young Lad albums more for the heavy stuff and some of his other solo albums for the more interesting stuff. But I'll say again that the other morning it did sound not so bad for the first time.
Another history lesson, and more facts of information. During the late 90's, Devin had started to take his musical experiments even further, by getting in contact with Jason Newsted from Metallica. The 2 jammed and where about to release an album under the name of IR8. But, if anyone knows the history of Metallica, apparently James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich where not big fans of their bass player going off and starting side projects.

So, having a load of material and no band, Devin decided to give his friends in Strapping Young Lad a call and have them as his backing band for this album. Which makes me ask the question...

Why wasn't this a Strapping Young Lad album!

Ok, I know this wouldn't have went well with the Strapping fans, but I have to admit, this album isn't too far from what the band would have been doing a few years later on their self titled album. Musically at times there are a lot of harkenings to the sounds created on Devin's previous 2 albums, but other than that, at least more than half of this album would have been perfect material for the band, and also, the line up for this album is al the guys from Strapping anyway, so it really wouldn't have been too much of a dramatic change.

The album opener “Namaste” is a brilliant opener. With a lot of power and some absolutely insane vocals from Devin, it starts the album off on a positive but rather insane note.

“Victim” has to be one of the heaviest songs on the album. In fact, the riff in the song is very similar to the riff in “Detox.” An absolute heavy and bone crushing song.

The early version of “Kingdom” is alright, but I have to admit, the “Epicloud” version of this song completely shadows it. I do like the instrumentation in this one, making the music have a very thunderous approach.

“Death” is probably the most insane song on the album. With music that almost touches on almost grindcore moments, Devin babbles like a basket case.

One of my personal favourites has to be “Irish Maiden” (mainly because I'm Irish). The rather folky and relaxing nature of the song adds well with the insane heaviness of the rhythm section behind it.

The album closer “Planet Rain” is the real epic on the album. A pretty simple enough idea, but as it builds up throughout, it does reach a brilliant and rather epic climax. A bit of an underrated Devin song if I'm being honest.

In conclusion, everyone's going to have a mixed opinion about this album. Personally I rather like it, but I would admit in saying that this is one of Devin's weakest albums. I would prefer if this was a Strapping Young Lad album or if the IR8 project with Jason Newsted, but it is what it is, and I rather enjoyed it. I wouldn't recommend this to every fan or prog fan, but metal fans might get a kick out of this album, cause it is pretty nuts.


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