Heavy Metal icon Devin Townsend has been making music for over twenty years at this point. From his original band “Strapping Young Lad” to his most recent forays into more progressive work with “The Devin Townsend Project,” he consistently makes innovative and impressive music for his audience. His most recent album, “Z2”, is an example of that. It is a double album that is half DTP music, half continuation of the tale of the inter-dimensional warlord Ziltoid, a creation of Townsend’s that debuted in his 2007 album “Ziltoid the Omniscient.”
Much like DTP’s previous record “Epicloud” the first half of Z2, titled Sky Blue, is less a heavy metal album and more a compilation of poppy hard rock. While almost every song is quite enjoyable, “Rejoice,” “Fallout,” and “Sky Blue” stand out as fantastic tracks.
“Rejoice” starts the album off with a bang, featuring upbeat guitar and drum rhythms, and one of Townsend’s trademark vocal styles, including some very fast paced screams mixed with very quickly delivered singing. It’s an incredibly catchy track, highlighted by some haunting background vocals by Dutch singer Anneke Van Giersbergen, who is featured in quite a few of the album’s tracks.
“Fallout” is stylistically quite similar to “Rejoice” in that it is an upbeat rock piece, but this time features more of Anneke’s vocals and less of Townsend’s. This song also features some less repetitive and more technical instrumental work.
“Sky Blue” is a complete change is musical direction. The song sounds like a poppy dance track, something that might be played at a club. It also gives Townsend a chance to show off his soothing clean vocals, though he doesn’t stretch his five and a half octave range nearly as much as he used to.
The second half of the album, titled “Dark Matters” is a concept album about the aforementioned Ziltoid. The album follows the story of Ziltoid as he is adopted by the earthlings as a god, and how he reacts when the earth is attacked by another alien being. The narrative is ridiculous, and intentionally so. Townsend has never been the most serious musician, and this tale is full of humor, both crude and otherwise.
“Dark Matters” is what most Devin Townsend fans were most excited about with this album, because the first “Ziltoid” was a masterpiece. Sadly, this sequel does not stand up to the original. While the first Ziltoid story was full of fantastic songs as well as comedic narrative, this album lacks the musical hooks. There is too much narration, and not enough interesting music. There isn’t really a single song that stands out on this half of the album.
“Z2” is such a mixed bag of styles it is very hard to review as a whole album. The first half, “Sky Blue” is a brilliant compilation of musical styles, while “Dark Matters” is quite underwhelming. All in all, I would give “Sky Blue” a 5 out of 5, while I would give “Dark Matters” a 3 out of 5.