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Townsend, Devin, Project: Z2
Ever since the first Ziltoid album, the strange alien being/puppet/online video host with a fixation for coffee and evil doings, has grown a life of his own, the man behind the 'toid (that'll be Devin Townsend then) promising a whole host of multimedia extravaganzas to keep Ziltides happy. However first up we have the small matter of the second Ziltoid album, Z2, to contend with, as everyone's favourite Devin decides to go the whole hog and present the untrustworthy being from another planet with his very own, heavily narrated concept album. In fact, Dark Matters, or as we like to know it, disc one (or at least it was, a late change makes it disc two, so is this a Ziltoid album with bonus disc, or a Devin Townsend album with added Ziltoid, or both, or neither.....?), is as much tongue in cheek, science fiction space opera as it is Progressive Metal workout – something which proves an initial boon, Townsend's wacky humour coming across magnificently through some ridiculous set plays and genuinely funny dialogue. However great though tracks like "March Of The Poozers" and "Ziltoid Goes Home" are, repeat listens over a short period of time find me yearning slightly for more of the music and less of the dialogue. That said, in the same way that even the best of comedies can wear thin if over indulged in, I can't help but think that a period of abstinence will suddenly find me chuckling at the little asides and one liners that had me guffawing first time round, as I revel in the trademark mix of bristling riffs, full on vocals and synthesized mayhem that most recent Townsend (Casualties Of Cool excepted) has provided. Don't get me wrong, Dark Matters is a really good album, just not maybe one I'll reach for often when I'm in the mood for a DT fix.
However what will give Z2 the opportunity to regularly come down from its place on the shelf (if it wasn't a download of course!) is disc two, that's actually now disc one...I think. For Sky Blue is another matter entirely, being a full blown Devin Townsend Project release where once again Anneke Van Giersbergen almost has equal vocal billing as Towny himself. Basically if you liked Epicloud, and can imagine it with a slice more of Ghost, then Sky Blue is for you. Stomping anthems jostle keenly with electro beats and synthesized vocals, while AvG adds an airy feel to some muscular outings. "Silent Militia" thumps into view, hook laden, perfect for punching the air to and at the correct volume (which is LOUD) a wonderful antidote to another boring day. Add in the expansive and undoubtedly more restrained "Rain City", which is captivating in the extreme, "Universal Flame", which is bombastic in feel and approach and the exuberant "Warrior", where bleeps and bloops combine with a serious chugga-chugga-chugga via banks of vocals quite superbly and there's something here for lovers of everything and anything (maybe not Strapping Young Lad to be fair) Devin.
In truth, Z2 is more two separate albums packaged together, then it is one cohesive double, but that's no bad thing. If I was rating these discs individually then Dark Matters would be ***1/2, while Sky Blue would be ****1/2, making the neat score below. Either way there's much to enjoy and much to be impressed by and much to (in a good way) laugh along with. Oh and I suggest you hide your coffee, unless you want a visit from a certain alien...
Disc 1: Sky Blue
3. Midnight Sun
4. A New Reign
5. Universal Flame
7. Sky Blue
8. Silent Militia
9. Rain City
11. Before We Die
12. The Ones Who Love
Disc 2: Dark Matters
2. From Sleep Awake
3. Ziltoidian Empire
4. War Princess
6. March of the Poozers
7. Wandering Eye
9. Ziltoid Goes Home
10. Through the Wormhole
11. Dimension Z
Added: November 4th 2014
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Related Link: Devin Townsend online
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|Townsend, Devin, Project: Z2
Posted by Ryan Good, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-11-04 20:18:25
Yin and Yang; parts of each in the other. To have balance is to have both.
Z2 is a perfect aural biography of the current state of Devin Townsend - musically, emotionally, spiritually (in my humble opinion). He is a musician who, like Zappa, has fans that are along for the entire musical ride, whether the music is extreme metal (Strapping Young Lad) or space-country (Casualties of Cool). His evolution is part of our experience.
Those unfamiliar with Devin will have a lot of music to digest. This music is dense but not in a cumbersome way. With each listen more intricacies are revealed. Sky Blue is the appropriate disc with which to begin the journey. The Devin Townsend Project's sixth recording, Sky Blue picks up where Epicloud left off.
The mid-tempo rocker "Rejoice" kicks off Sky Blue with Devin's trademark wall-of-sound production. Whether you use headphones, computer speakers, home stereo, or a car stereo, different groups of sounds are experienced. Anneke Von Giersbergen (former The Gathering), appears again and provides an extra layer of beauty.
Anneke takes lead vocals on track 2 "Fallout." Something else that is so remarkable about Devin, as far as I am concerned. Soon before the masters were sent to the record label, Devin decided the version of "Fallout" with his vocals was second best to the version presented on Z2; Something about him being sick of his own voice!? Hopefully the version with Devin is made available because both are superb and for music nerds like me it is a joy to listen to both and figure out why Devin made that decision. As you can see, there is so much more to Sky Blue than the songs on disc one which is why Devin has such a rabid fanbase.
"Midnight Sun" is a heavy and dreamy head-bobber, a track that envelops you as you float through the sky. Note the seamless time signature change between the acoustic guitar arpeggios and the verse music.
"A New Reign" continues this duo of ear-pillow melodic rockers containing many hooks and powerful vocals from Devin and Anneke. "Warrior" finds Anneke singing lead and she's part of the Devin Townsend Project as far as I'm concerned. One can detect some sequenced synths beneath the proceedings but again it's another awesome weapon in Devin's arsenal; he truly is a composer, not just a songwriter.
The title track begins with gentle vocals and trip-hop music and transforms into mid-tempo trademark Hevy Devy. "Silent Militia" brings the heavy up a couple notches with a bouncing Top-40-sounding metal guitar riff which alternates with Anneke's ethereal vocals.
The trip-hop/electronica touch is more pronounced on "Rain City" which is a slower tempo, a breather of sorts that contains deliberate drawn-out melodies. The final minutes are a soundscape with many voices, faint percussion, acoustic guitar and synth washes; it's a transfixing journey indeed.
One of the most emotional songs in Devin's catalog is "Forever" which causes "Before We Die" to be all the more triumphant. If you've been listening for the Universal Choir, the internet-sourced group of backing vocalists culled from across the planet, sit back and blast the chorus and feel your heart expand. This is another track that has minutes of grandiose ambient beauty, with atmosphere and literal bells and whistles. I hope this is played as the last song in Devin's set on his upcoming U.S. Tour! Final track "The Ones Who Love" is like a closing prayer:
"As beings of light we are rhythms of the world
Though we live in fear and darkness
Its always hard when we lose the ones we love
If we only knew...
Call your mourning off...
Call your mourning off...
Call your mourning off...
Call your mourning off..."
For me, an album that leaves me feeling spiritually and emotionally elevated when it's complete is five star territory. While decidedly less upbeat and almost sobering, there is a hopeful, comforting message that reaches emotional depths that are new and welcome coming from the Devin Townsend Project.
Of course to the yin we must have the yang; stay tuned for the review of disc 2 of Z2: Dark Matters.
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