After years of talking about it, Devin Townsend has returned with Ziltoid in tow. This time they bring us two discs full of songs about love, coffee, life, aliens and cute cuddly creatures that will destroy us all!
While this is technically one album, it is split up into two very different discs that make up the full story. I've decided to discuss them accordingly.
This marks the first logical step from its predecessor in the DTP catalog. Epicloud was a collection of massive songs that, while lacking in technicality, are proficient in production, layering, and vocal performance. Sky Blue is put together in a similar way.
The opener "Rejoice" is a really groovy, heavy tune that's on par with Epicloud's "Liberation!" or "More!" At first listen it was a fair song, but would up being a grower. I was tempted to say "Fallout" is one of Dev's finest vocal performances, until I heard "A New Reign." Both are fantastic, but the latter is up there with the second version of "Kingdom." I was absolutely blown away by his voice and his trade off with Anneke van Giersbergen. Their duets are nothing new, but on this song it is particularly satisfying.
"Warrior" was one of the real stand out tracks here. It features really infectious rhythms that are technically proficient while remaining full of joy. Anneke fronts this song but drummer Ryan Van Poederooyen really shines on this song.
Another unique song is "Sky Blue" which heavily influenced by EDM production. It's a fun one full of glitchy vocal effects and digital drums reminding me of a less crazy sister to Addicted's "Bend It Like Bender."
I've got to say, I actually found myself straight-up disliking a DTP song for the first time. Some exist that are fine but skip-able, and then there's "Silent Militia." This song is kind of a clunky mess. It opens with Mortal Kombat-esque beeps and boops, and eventually winds up in a verse that reminds me of Drowning Pool of all bands. The chorus is an epic Townsend chorus, but I'm so turned off by the rest of the song. This is literally the only hiccup I find in the post-Strapping Young Lad oeuvre.
If you're a fan of Epicloud you will probably enjoy Sky Blue because many of the songs sound like sequels to "Grace!," "Save Our Now!" and the likes. It is comprised of mostly 4/4 hook-heavy rock songs coupled with some of the best singing Devin and Anneke have ever recorded. This makes for Devin's most "accessable" record yet, which is not a bad thing.
Now for that which has been talked about for about half a decade. The proper return of Ziltoid The Omniscient,
One minute into the album, it's clear that this sequel will be WAY more theatrical than the first. This feels like a proper musical at times complete with characters not played by Devin. Guest include Dominique Lenore Persi (Stolen Babies), Chris Jericho (Fozzy, Y2J) and once again Anneke.
Now, let the fanboy gushing commence.
"From Sleep Awake" is one of the best things Devin has ever written. It is gorgeous and crushing. The layering, the instrumentation, the use of the choir, Anneke's performance, the chord choices, etc. are all perfect. I literally get chills listening to this. It gives me the same feeling I felt when I heard "Love?" live during one of the last SYL shows.
Amazing as that piece is, it doesn't feel like what I was expecting. Thusfar it only feels like a Ziltoid record in the use of narration, but "Ziltoidian Empire" brings me where I wanted to go. This song feels like the bombastic follow-up to "By Your Command." Technicality is near Deconstruction levels here in every way. "Ziltoid Goes Home" is another example of true Ziltoidian spirit and energy, but with additional grandiose atmosphere. These two are high on my list of Z2 favorites.
Anneke is always welcome to Townsend records in my book, but I loved hearing a new voice in the fold. Finding out Dominique from Stolen Babies was playing a part in this musical was a pleasant surprise. The bands toured together in 2012, and I remember thinking that they were a combination that made sense. I was right. Her voice acting and singing style fits perfectly into the beautiful chaos of this album making "War Princess" another great track.
In the past, Devin has employed assistance from a choir and a symphony and produced some pretty sweet results. This is the time I feel he utilized them to their full potential. They were great in Epicloud and Deconstruction as support for vocals and instruments that were up front in the mix, but they are being presented in full force here.
The label is offering a few versions of the album, and I will be purchasing the 3-disc one. This version includes a second Z2 without the narration and dialog. While the dialog is humorous and it is fun to hear where the Ziltoid story is going, some great music is buried under the chatter. "Wandering Eye" is one of the weirdest and most interesting pieces I've heard from Dev in a while, but a conversation about a contract and a Ziltoid monologue drown out some great guitar noodling.
It will probably come off that I was bored by Sky Blue and this isn't the case. I gladly welcome the poppier side of Devin, but while Sky Blue is really good, Dark Matters is fucking amazing. These combine to create the best introduction to Townsend that you could give someone unfamiliar with his non-SYL work.
Seriously though, between these and Casualties of Cool it has been a great year to be a Devin Townsend fan.
Z2 drops on October 28th and Devin's site has links to all your preorder needs.