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Devin Townsend Project - Z2 Award winner

Devin Townsend Project
by Daniel Fox at 06 November 2014, 8:53 PM

It’s about that time again; the time to get Hevy with Devy.

Devin Townsend may just be one of the hardest-working musicians in Metal and Rock. If you need an introduction, my sympathies; nonetheless, Devin is a Canadian musician, initially most well-known for being the founding father of STRAPPING YOUNG LAD. Disbanded in 2007, Devin did not stop there; he went on to develop a solo career, beginning with the eponymous “Ziltoid the Omiscient” projecting him into no-less-than-significant spotlight. Since then, he has developed the thematic DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT, and in addition has continued to release solo albums. 2014 sees a curious release in “Z2, a double-album in which “Sky Blue” and “Dark Matters”, respectively, are intended as a follow-up to both the PROJECT’s  “Epicloud” and the original “Ziltoid” album from the solo discography. And, once again, the magnificent Anneke Van Giersbergen is an integral vocal and thematic presence.

I felt it was prudent to examine the albums separately; “Sky Blue” begins with “Rejoice”; I was instantly reminded to expect the unexpected when it comes to Devin’s music, though I can’t quite say I was still prepared. He has spoken up in the past about how trifling it was to complete this album, and you can hear it in the production. Oh, the production; it is aural heaven. “Rejoice” showcases his apparent love for vast, arena-like atmospheres, conveyed by heavy layering and thick multi-tracking. Beneath the veneer of soaring backdrops, groove-laden riffs are aplenty in this track; what’s curious is the almost Indian or Eastern sound delivered by airy backing vocals. I would swear I hear a sitar in the mix. Moving onto “Fallout”, this might be my favourite piece on this half of the album; yet another big sound, it is kept at a solid, 4/4, upbeat rock pace, with enormous choruses and delectable guitar riffs. Now, Devin’s vocals; the man is capable of vicious growls, and planetary belts. It is rare to hear notes held that long.

“Universal Flame” feels like a continuation of “Fallout”, despite being further down on the tracklist. Here, the texture is varied a little somewhat; the softer sections, Devin can be heard singing in more mellow ranges (I’m telling you, his versatility is incredible). I especially enjoy this track because Anneke has a greater presence on it, seemingly the angelic, perfect counterpart to Devin’s boom. “Rain City” is the album’s lengthy, Proggressive monster, at over 9 minutes, delectable for it’s unpredictable and unconventional chord and melody progressions. Deviating far from the ‘intro-verse-chorus-verse-solo-chors’ formula, it’s an ornate tapestry that requires great attention, with lengthy, atmospheric dreamscapes, complimented by Anneke that thread the heavier riffs together.

The second half directly follows on from the first “Ziltoid” album, and boy, can you hear it in the music. Seemingly far-removed from “Sky Blue”, it is still most ostensibly a Devin album, but the thematic, satirical comedy that popularised “Ziltoid the Omniscient” is again projected here in its eccentric, musical glory. The introduction will make this perfectly clear; delicious, progressive arrangements of powerful, heavy Metal riffs, mixed with  a thick backdrop of choir and blearing atmospherics, progress in a spectacular crescendo, punctuated by more aggressive riffing, literally announcing Ziltoid’s return in “From Sleep Awake”. A track with intriguing arrangement, the riffs are at a drudgingly-slow, Doom-like pace, with Anneke’s voice taking the forefront. This, fellow metalheads and music-lovers, is the definition of a concept-album, “Deathray” displaying the darker recesses of this musical mind, taking a dramatic and theatrical approach; hell, I can sometimes hear a literal deathray in the background.

“Earth”, and might I say, quite the title, expresses his love for complex arrangements most representatively, the instrumentation arguably more complex and webbed than anywhere on the album, punctuated by incredibly fast and aggressive drumming. Ryan is certainly a force to be reckoned with; the latter half of this track is a terrifying musical entity on its own. In spectacular fashion, “Ziltoid Goes Home” explodes out of the wall of rock established by the previous track’s thick arrangements, in the album’s most balls-to-the-wall metal arrangement. Thrashy riffs and drumming abound and most welcome, I almost chuckled when the trademark symphonics and soaring Devin belts came back for a time. This track sees a greater prominence of his rasping coarse deliveries, almost traversing into explosive Melodeath territories. As Ziltoid literally crosses the event horizon, the track coalesces in kind, threading together the wild riffs and atmospheric tentacles.

I don’t want to be that guy, because of how cliché this may sound but… Yes I do. This is the Metal release of 2014.

5 Star Rating

CD 1:

1. Rejoice
2. Fallout
3. Midnight Sun
4. A New Reign
5. Universal Flame
6. Warrior
7. Sky Blue
8. Silent Militia
9. Rain City
10. Forever
11. Before We Die
12. The Ones Who Love

CD 2:

1. Z2
2. From Sleep Awake
3. Ziltoidian Empire
4. War Princess
5. Deathray
6. March of the Poozers
7. Wandering Eye
8. Earth
9. Ziltoid Goes Home
10. Through the Wormhole
11. Dimension Z
Devin Townsend – Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Programming
Dave Young – Guitars, Keyboards
Brian Waddell – Bass
Ryan Van Poederooyen – Drums
Mike St-Jean – Keyboards, Programming
Morgan Ågren – Additional Percussion
Kat Epple – Flute
Anneke van Giersbergen – Vocals
Chris Jericho – Vocals (as "Captain Spectacular")
Dominique Lenore Persi – Vocals (as "War Princess")
Mark Cimino – Vocals (as "Poozer")
Chris Devitt – Vocals (as "Planet Smasher")
Bill Courage – Narrator
Randy Slaugh – Orchestrations, String Arrangements
Florian Magnus Maier – Orchestrations
Eric Severinson – Choir and Orchestra Conducting
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – Orchestra
Record Label: InsideOut Music


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Edited 26 January 2021

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