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Townsend, Devin: Presents-Ziltoid the Omniscient

OK, what the hell is in the water that Devin Townsend is drinking up in his little house in the Vancouver woodland where he now lives? Now that he has officially called it quits for both Strapping Young Lad and The Devin Townsend Band, the eccentric musician has stated that he's only doing his own "one man" projects and producing. The first release since these recent changes is the bizarro Ziltoid the Omniscient, a sometimes metal, sometimes prog, sometimes wacked-out Zappa-ish orchestral nightmare of a concept album about an alient puppet named Ziltoid and his yearning for black coffee, the perfect fuel for time travel, and only found on earth. Sound bizarre? Well, believe me, it is, but it's still pretty enshrouded with a level of geniousness that is always Devin Townsend. Playing all the instruments himself, this is his first real solo album, something he has planned for a long time.

It's hard not to laugh at some of the lyrics here, and it really comes across as some sort of heavy metal Sci-Fi comedy, only meant to originally be a puppet show. Devin's range of vocals here work quite well, as he throws in some growls among the goofy passages, narrations, and screams on "Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!", and his melodic clean singing on "Solar Winds" and the soaring "Hyperdrive" are just a pleasure to hear. However, when he lets it rip with some fierce, almost death metal growls on "Planet Smasher" and his maniacal snarl on "By Your Command", you can't help but feel sad that Strapping Young Lad will now cease to exist.

Prog fans should love all the layers of keyboard, guitars, and even some tricky programmed drum work that permeate this album. It's almost like some grand rock opera, with Devin performing all the many vocal parts and the instrumentation. Yeah, it's fairly goofy, but what the hell, it's fun stuff nontheless. The ultimate would be a cartoon or actual puppet show with this as the soundtrack, which would probably really blow some minds for sure. My guess is we'll be seeing more of this kind of thing from Mr. Townsend in the future, now that he's left to his own devices.

"Hey slacker, wake up!!"

Track Listing
1. ZTO
2. By Your Command
3. Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!
4. Solar Winds
5. Hyperdrive
6. N9
7. Planet Smasher
8. Omnidimensional Creator
9. Color Your World
10. The Greys
11. Tall Latte

Added: June 2nd 2007
Reviewer: Pete Pardo
Related Link: Devin Townsend Website
Hits: 4922
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

Townsend, Devin: Presents-Ziltoid the Omniscient
Posted by Murat Batmaz, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-06-02 10:04:23
My Score:

Something inside me says people reviewing this album will focus more on the concept rather than the music presented on this disc, so I'll leave it up to them. All I will say is that Devin Townsend Presents Ziltoid the Omniscient is a sci-fi tale about a guitar-playing alien who pays a visit to planet Earth. To further investigate the plot, all you need to do is buy the album and read the booklet, which includes all lyrics except for "Hyperdrive", and it also features passages that are not sung/spoken in the songs -- then you should have a fairly solid idea on what the story is about.

For starters, Ziltoid is a solo album in the truest sense. Devin Townsend wrote all songs, recorded, mixed, and engineered everything by himself. He also played all instruments, except the drums which he programmed on the Drumkit From Hell software that Meshuggah's Fredrik Thordendal sent him. Granted the drumming does not sound as organic as, say, Terria, the somewhat industrial beats, juxtaposed with tons of samples, give off an alien-like quality to the songs, which definitely fits the concept of this album. This is also what distinguishes Ziltoid from the earlier Devin Townsend records musically. Other than that, traces of both Synchestra and Accelerated Evolution, the two previous albums, can be detected in some of the songs here. A good dose of aggressiveness and openness of either album turn into pivotal points in the course of the album, depending on the mood intended to portray.

Those who consider Ocean Machine Devin Townsend's unrivaled masterpiece will be pleasantly surprised by tracks like "Hyperdrive", which is defined by clean harmonies, liquidy guitar phrases, and the droning, meditative atmosphere. Also, "Color Your World", at nearly ten minutes, establishes a context in which Devin deftly packs both the harmonic brilliance of Terria and the peaceful, unique aural experience of Ocean Machine. The classically influenced midsection transitions into the Biomech aesthetic so seamlessly that you feel like you're listening to both masterpieces in a single composition. Speaking of seamless transitions, the spoken-like death growls on "Planet Smasher" turn into Devin's trademark confident clean singing in the blink of an eye as well.

"By Your Command" and "Ziltoida Attaxx!!!" both contain Devin's theatrical, less intensified SYL type of growling fused with hilarious lyrical content, and his classic epic arrangements defined by rising synth modulations and furious double bass drum battery. The latter even features an unexpected guitar solo atop a dissonant rhythmic cluster. To balance things out, Devin offers his deepest clean singing to date -- which eerily evokes Dan Swano at his most expressive -- on another mammoth number, "Solar Winds", poised to become many a fan's favourite off of this record, along with "The Greys", a modern take on the sounds of his first solo album. Halfway through the song, heavier guitar accents come in rolling whilst the classical touch of Terria's symphonic quality crops up. This is music with immense impact. Period.

Being a rock-opera kind of thing, there is plenty of narrated sections on most of the tunes, which can be annoying at first. However, after repeated listens, these voice-overs will fade into the background, much like the spoken stuff in the intro of Terria's "Earth Day". Also, the Ocean Machine-like material, which boasts profound ambient passages filled with tidal waves of churning guitar riffage, utilizes Devin's vocals as an extra dimension to the music, rather than a vocalist simply adding his nth melody to an already challenging and well crafted composition. "N9", for instance, is one of these songs. Aside from the heavier Strapping Young Lad-inspired guitar attacks and smashing rhythms, the piece is carried by wonderfully arranged, sweeping melodies distilled into dissonant passages of Middle Eastern textures. Amidst all of this are Devin's otherworldly vocal lines interwoven into the layers. It's simply beautiful.

The first and last tracks serve more as an intro and outro to the album, and track eight, "Omnidimensional Creator", at less than a minute, is more of a precursor to the grandiose "Color Your World". Overall, Ziltoid is a cosmos of sound, which deliberately functions as a genre-crosser whilst retaining Devin Townsend's truly unique songwriting vision.

Considering that Devin has put both the DTB and SYL on hold and stated that he will solely focus on his solo career, hopefully he will put out more albums that continue to shock and please his loyal fan base.

Townsend, Devin: Presents-Ziltoid the Omniscient
Posted by Jedd Beaudoin, SoT Staff Writer on 2007-05-23 14:42:23
My Score:

No one really knows what goes on in Devin Townsend's mind but this tale of a coffee-slurping alien appears to be an exploration of uncontrollable ego and prideful stardom. We're treated to Townsend's vision of epic symphonic rock, his keen sense of knowing and a plenty of powerful prog-oriented riffs along the way. Townsend remains bold and true in his vision through tracks such as "N9," "Hyperdrive" and "The Greys." You'll laugh as often as you cry, knowing as you do that no matter how far-out the premise, the artist's words and worry are true.

» Reader Comments:

Townsend, Devin: Presents-Ziltoid the Omniscient
Posted by Skelly on 2007-05-30 16:25:45
My Score:

take it from someone who is bored bored BORED with metal and the absolute lack of creativity in some of the bands out there, Yes sometimes I hear good music coming thru my speakers but If I hear one more band singing about satan, kicking somebodys ass or crying over your girlfriend Im going to puke on your expensive loafers. Ziltoid the Omniscient is probably one of the greatest albums I have heard in a long while, it felt like an epic space battle between Ziltoid and Captain stupendous and the music told a lot of the story. You have to be really smart to be that funny and some things in this album are hold your stomach laugh out loud funny like the brief "Omnisdimensional Creator" it appears that Devin is flexing his creative muscles as well as thumbing his nose at what other bands cannot do. I mean... he comes out with an album which is a masterpiece musically, oh and by the way hes singing about a coffee drinking lizard who wants to destroy the earth...WHO THE HELL THINKS OF THIS KIND OF STUFF? Some call it weird, I call it genius. Keep listening to all of his stuff and stop lamenting for SYL, yes! they were phenominal but Dev is not gone, just off in his own world from the sounds of it. I will continue to seek out whatever he does because he is obviously just as bored with the same old stuff and has started blazing his own trail.

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