DEVIN TOWNSEND — Physicist (review)

DEVIN TOWNSEND — Physicist album cover Album · 2000 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
"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.
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siLLy puPPy wrote:
1 year ago
This one seems to get the lowest ratings of all his albums but once i finally heard it i was blown away. Probably one of my favorite albums of his. THe production doesn't bother me at all.


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