"This man has no boundaries as far as music goes. From singing for Steve Vai at age 19, to the bastion of noise known as Strapping Young Lad, Devin Townsend has proven time and time again that he's a musical genius. There are so many metal acts out there that are just following the basic formula of heavy guitars, double bass drumming, and screaming vocals with some singing here and there. But so many of them fail at either end of the spectrum, especially when compared to something that Devin Townsend can pull off.
Enter Physicist. Originally billed as "Strapping Young Lad lite" and rumored to be a project with Devin, Jason Newsted of Metallica, and SYL drummer Gene Hoglan, Physicist redefines what melody and metal should sound like when melded together. Physicist is basically the SYL lineup of Townsend, bassist Byron Stroud, guitarist Jed Simon, and Hoglan on drums.
The melody on this album is amazing. With Devin on keys and guitar, there is a light, high-pitched synthetic aura behind each song that enhances Devin's familiar screams, most noticeable on the appropriate opener, "Namaste", a song about how Devin is tired of the meaningless, clichéd words that so many songwriters use today.
Physicist doesn't really approach the visceral, possessed heaviness that SYL has been struck with on their albums, save for the song "Death" which might sound at home on an SYL album. Devin has stated before that he aimed for a more "pop" type sound for Physicist, and while I don't think N-Sync's position on Billboard's Hot 100 is threatened, the sound simply works for Physicist. It really manifests itself on the third track, "Material". The keyboard-laden chorus line kicks in with a strange, retro 1950's feeling as Devin sings "Ah, these are the days/ Let them roll, as they roll/ And be all you are/ Because you're beautiful/ Material". While it may sound like cheezy pop, Devin pulls it off like no one else can.
The patented light speed double bass of Gene Hoglan is apparent on Physicist. This man is quite possibly the best true metal drummer out there. Having served time on crews like Testament, Dark Angel, and SYL, Hoglan slows it down.. a little bit.. for Physicist. He proves that creativity can prevail when you've proven yourself capable of all other talents behind the drumset. Jed Simon and Byron Stroud get the job done on the strings. Guitar riffs are crunchy, but the keyboards seem to take center stage on Physicist.
This album also has some of the coolest artwork I've ever seen - a big P bursting out of a ring of lightning. Pretty sweet.
Altogether, this may be one of the surprise albums of 2000, although it really shouldn't be, because I fail to see why Devin's music has gone largely unnoticed by the metal community. While SYL received some respect, his releases like Infinity and Ocean Machine have been ignored by most metal heads that consider those albums too soft. I invite everyone to take a listen to Physicist, an album that extends the heaviness of SYL towards the melodies of Infinity and Ocean Machine." - Blistering