Devin Townsend Project
Inside Out Music/EMI Music Australia
Reviewed By Sean Dudley
More amazing music from the mind of Devin Townsend
One of the most hard-working musicians in the world of music today, but particularly in heavy metal, is without a doubt Canadian native Devin Townsend. A career in music that started the moment he learnt to play guitar when he was 12, Townsend originally wanted to be a puppet maker/master. I say this on behalf of all metal fans when I thank the metal gods Devin decided to become a musician instead. Devin Townsend the man is one hell of a talented person. Not only is Devin a wonderful guitarist, but also an extraordinary song-writer, singer, visionary and also producer.
Since performing lead vocals on Steve Vai's 1993 release Sex & Religion, and being a part of other small projects such as The Wildhearts and IR8 (with former Metallica bassist Jason Newsted and Exodus drummer Tom Hunting), he became discouraged by what he experienced in the music scene, with music labels rejecting his own work submissions. Finally the break he was looking for occurred in 1994, with Century Media Records signing Townsend to a 5-album deal, wanting him to make some more extreme metal sounding releases. Strapping Young Lad was born and the debut album appeared in 1995. This enabled Townsend to try again with his own material and in doing so formed his own record label, HevyDevy Records.
Since then Devin Townsend has gone on to release over 20 studio albums through different "solo" bands and line-ups, such as Devin Townsend (8 albums), Devin Townsend Band (2 albums), Devin Townsend Project (6 albums) and of course the already mentioned Strapping Young Lad (5 albums). Each band is quite different from the other, with SYL being the heaviest and extreme sounding metal out of the group; while other releases from his other bands can be completely opposite.
It makes sense why Devin Townsend has released albums of polar opposites, going from extreme metal to pop/ambient metal and completely non-metal, such as albums of nothing but ambience and electronic tones and sounds (see Devlab, The Hummer), as he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 1997. The vast range of styles Devin Townsend has recorded and released over the years are the many facets of his personality, which changes drastically due to the disorder. Musically speaking, it would be a creative helping hand when it comes to writing music and gathering ideas (which Devin seems to have plenty of), and probably organically enhanced his music to a certain degree too. Much like the old songs we consider "classics" today from the 60's and 70's, would have probably never been written or have sounded so good if the members involved didn't get an enhancement from an assortment of drugs readily available at the time.
Those familiar with the Devin Townsend Project, would know that the music is again drastically different from both his solo band (Devin Townsend), the Devin Townsend Band and Strapping Young Lad. The DTP was originally designed to clarify his musical identity and being the person "accountable" for the persona(s) he projects to the public. The initial four albums included a different style and theme and had a different group of musicians – for example, Ki featured traces of both ambience and heavy metal, with progressive rock, jazz rock, and also blues, while Ghost was quite ambient, soft, gentle and typical of that new age style used for relaxation and meditation.
Once the original concept of releasing the four albums has been achieved, Devin decided to continue on with the project and released Epicloud in 2012. Again the music throughout the CD was different than anything else before it, with touches of new age mixed with prog rock, alternative rock, prog metal and a touch of ambience. Devin mentioned quite a few times that he wanted to write another Ziltoid album, but had been putting it off for some time. He hasn't put it off any longer, with DTP's latest effort, a double album entitled Z².
Z² is split into two releases, the first CD is entitled Sky Blue, while the second CD is called Dark Matter, and it is from the latter where Ziltoid the Omniscient makes a triumphant return. Sky Blue is different yet again to what Devin Townsend has done previously, featuring a prominent industrial, almost gothic rock/metal sound; not overly heavy but quite atmospheric and laden with keys/synths and electronica elements. Think of Fear Factory's more sombre tracks like "A Therapy for Pain" and "Timelessness", mixed with a combination of both Static-X and Rob Zombie. There's also a touch of ambience throughout the first disc with tons of melody, choirs and acoustics here and there.
Accompanying Devin with the vocals is ex-The Gathering singer Anneke Van Giersbergen; who also sung on Addicted and Epicloud. Anneke has a fairy large role on Sky Blue, singing on every track either in a co-vocalist or backup role; her angelic voice suiting the music extremely well.
The second disc, Dark Matters, is a concept album continuing the adventures of the alien Ziltoid. Very much like the first Ziltoid release, Dark Matters contains epic choirs and heavy bombastic music, with the same sci-fi comedy rock opera (ala Flash Gordon) that featured on the first instalment. Dark Matters again includes narration, sound effects and guest vocalists taking on the roles of various characters. Musically on the second disc, the sound varies between epic atmospheric movie scores, to doses of heavy double bass pummelling and fierce guitar riffs; depending on what is happening in the storyline. Both Devin's and other guest vocalists' singing styles change from soft and sombre to almost deranged and furious (Strapping Young Lad style), and again storyline depending).
Overall, both discs balance each other out very nicely, despite being completely different in both style, music and vocal delivery. On both Sky Blue and Dark Matter I cannot fault anything that Devin has created, but know that his music and creative ideas are not everyone's cup of tea. So if you have been a fan of anything Devin Townsend has released, from either his own solo band, or DTB and DTP, then Z² should once again impress and entertain as only Devin Townsend can.
I take my hat off to him too, as not many people have chosen or could even try to create the varying styles of music that he has made over the past 20 years. Not one alum is the same in the 20+ that Devin has released, and with a personality as large as life as his, Devin could be described as a musical genius or an unstable deranged lunatic...maybe it's a bit of both and I say that in the nicest possibly way, as I have much respect for what Devin Townsend has achieved in his musical career.