METAL MONDAY: Beating the Ghost of a Dead Horse: Sex & Religion in a Post DTP World

I guess to some attentive people, Transcendence was an obvious sign of the end-times. The third album was in excess of the original intended four for Devin Townsend Project (making it the seventh down the line), and the notorious sonic tyrant decided to let the Project half in on the writing process, as if they were some kind of band. My pattern-assigning monkey brain is telling me even the title was a clue. Fortunately, I am not some attentive people, so I'm just figuring this out now for your amusement.

Everything is fine. He's done this before and it's always turned out fine. It's fine. So as I weepily dust off my credit card to hoover up whatever limited edition presses might still be bobbing with the flotsam, here's a first-impression review of Steve Vai's widely panned Sex & Religion that came out when I was five (thank you very much, get off my ass). Or specifically, the meagre two tracks “co-written” by some strapping young lad named Devin, because this is the four-way flaming dumpster collision that launched his career. I put sarcastic quotes there to remind us that the album was notoriously micromanaged by Vai to the point that the band split more or less immediately upon release.

I might be showing my hand a little soon. I'm sure it's very nice.

“Just Cartilage” exists solely as a B-side and one of those mythical bonus tracks spoken of only in Japanese. Truly there is no greater honour than not even being on the main release. If you've listened to my show, and you really shouldn't, you've probably heard “The Mighty Masturbator” or “Deconstruction” about seventeen times each, and could be forgiven for believing I have any tolerance for overlong prog-wank. This is that but shorter, wankier, and inexplicably bequeathed with a hook. At the very least it's self-aware, and if anything, presages Devin's magnum opus “Meatball” which would need a whole other article to talk about. His performance is as disjointed and nonsensical as every other part of this track, so points for committing to theme.

The absurder Zappa is definitely an influence here, but not so much as on “Pig,” which as far as I can tell is dedicated to not having any consistent rhythm—so full prog points there I guess. It does the whole start-stop, let's-change-tempo until it literally ends in tears. Once again there is somehow a hook, speaking to Vai's liminal existence as what would have been yet another glam-era guitar-jock if not for the Mothers of Invention infecting him with terminal poly-rhythms. With that in mind, the idea that anyone could make human mouth sounds over this defies reason anyway, so the pig grunting is more harmonious than the harmony.

Taken as a unit, these two songs represent everything I always initially hate about a Devin Townsend classic until it eventually worms its way into my aorta and lays eggs. That makes no goddamn sense and defies any organic attempt to identify with it results in the aural equivalent of a magic eye picture. Goddamn pattern-assigning monkey brain. It's musical Stockholm Syndrome. I have already been compromised and I haven't even finished lambasting it. ANSWER MY MESSAGES, DEVIN.