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Friday, 31 October 2014

Reviews: Devin Townsend Project/Devin Townsend

Devin Townsend Project: Sky Blue (InsideOut)
Devin Townsend: Z2- Dark Matters (InsideOut)

Hevy Devy returns!! Yes fan boys start your fapping as the crown prince of geeky prog has come back with his new album(s). Yes folks two for the price of one as the Z2 has the new DTP album Sky Blue as well as the sequel and continuing story of the coffee seeking alien Ziltoid the Omnicient on Dark Matters. They are two fundamentally different albums, one is a DTP album the other a Devin solo effort as it continues the Ziltoid chapter. As such I'll review them as two albums:

Sky Blue - Devin Townsend Project

Sky Blue is DTP working within it's own confines, strong, anthemic music mixing rock, metal, electonica together in a melting point, but also showing a lot of of creative freedom to try new things. Rejoice has the cascading riffs, Anneke Van Giersbergen's amazing vocals and Devin doing his shouted croon on top of multi layered playing, it sets the album up perfectly following directly on from the previous album Epicloud, Fallout too merges metal with pop and allows Devin to exercise his operatic tendencies. As usual he contributes pretty much everything music wise with Dave Young on additional guitars, Bryan Waddell on bass, Ryan Van Poederooyen on drums and Mike St John on keys. They all long term members of his touring band and as such are flawless in their delivery, on this note the production too is both bold and crystalline. Midnight Sun is a slower more balladic song which shows off the special Universal Choir, this is a contribution of 2000 voices which make for the largest choir on a metal record ever, the choir contribute to both records but are at their best on Sky Blue. A New Reign is heavier than previous songs, but Universal Flame is unabashed pop with it's bouncy rhythm and the choir on top form. There is always something so cathartic about Devin's music, you can't help but smile when it comes on, you just sit back and let the music wash over you filling you with joy at the musical menagerie involved in every DTP album. Sky Blue also throws the occasional curveball with the title track itself is based on DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love by Usher and as such has a pumping electronic back beat, the whispered croon of Townsend and the ethereal vocals of Giersbergen. Silent Militia makes full use of Anneke and is a tribute to will.i.am in the style of You Spin Me Right Round by Dead Or Alive. Rain City is darker in tone and brings things back to the DTP sound (something that a lot of the time is only subjective). The nearly 8 minute Rain City starts normal enough before the finally becomes very eastern and atmospheric with a clockwork beat behind it, it is followed by the heart breaking Forever but is counteracted by the life-affirming Before We Die which all but ends the album.  Sky Blue is the natural successor to Epicloud as it continues to combine all the facets of Townsend's career but it is also a progression as it indulges in a lot more sonic experimentation drawing from other artists, showing that yet again Townsend and in particular his Project are vital to the rock and metal scene. 8/10

Dark Matters - Devin Townsend

So moving on we come to Dark Matters, this is not credited as a DTP album even though it features the same band as Sky Blue, no classed is a Townsend solo record and the second part of the Ziltoid The Omnicient storyline. As such it is Townsend that handles the guitars, keys and programming with Morgan Ågren contributing percussion on From Sleep Awake (Ågren was last seen on the Causalties of Cool album). As From Sleep Awake starts we are told Ziltoid has become a megastar with all the world now revering him as a God, we are reintroduced by Captain Spectacular (played by Chris Jericho) as well as other characters such as the Poozer on Ziltodian Empire, the Queen Blattaria mother of the Poozer's on the rocking War Princess, The War Princess is played by Dominique Lenore Persi from the experimental band Stolen Babies, she has very unique but very good voice and along with Townsend and Jericho works well as one of the three lead characters. With a crazy tongue in cheek story about intergalactic war The Ziltoid concept is still as mental as ever but I'm not going to explain what happens (spoilers and all that) but what I will say is that this album has a much bigger scope than the previous Ziltoid record, with the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra contributing heavily and the story being propelled by Bill Courage's narration giving a proper cinematic feel to things. Now unless you are on board with the Ziltoid story then you may think that is album is a little childish, which to be honest is, but it is also full of fun with some great, heavy music to back it up, from the rocking DeathRay, to the Samael influenced March Of The Poozers, the Soilwork speed metal of Ziltoid Goes Home and the epic Earth which takes it's cues from Peter And The Wolf. By itself Dark Matters is a worthy addition to the Ziltoid canon, but as part of the Z2 package it is pipped to the post by Sky Blue which is an album with a broader appeal than the metallic second record. Still like I said if you like The Omniscient, coffee loving alien and his intergalactic hijinks then you will over this but for me it is beaten hands down by the DTP effort. 5/10

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