Review Summary: Uninspired and boring, Townsend's latest album reeks of overused production techniques, lacks any sort of life, and just plain sucks.
Don't let any of the hype fool you--Ziltoid the Omniscient
is an uninspired, generic, tepid piece of trash.
With Townsend himself at the helm of all the instruments, there's a distinct lack of any personality in the performance. While technically good, Townsend's voice sounds dry and fails to emote or, well, sing any interesting melodies. Instrumentally it consists of rehashed guitar riffs and robotic programmed drums lacking any feel or groove. Townsend has been known to rehash riffs in the past, but normally it's masked by outstanding emotion or unpredictable song structures and instrumentation. Not so here; this is an emotionless collection that lacks any sort of purpose. Coined a "self-parody," it turns around and laughs at its awfulness as an excuse to be awful.
Townsend's trademark "wall of sound" production can no longer hide the fact that he's running out of ideas. Imagine Ocean Machine
, except lacking the luscious melodies, stark naked emotion and fresh production technique. It's no longer surprising to hear a massive wall of guitars come out of the speakers, and those ambient keyboards underneath still kind of float around meekly, but this time they only feel like layers added on to mask the lack of interesting material. The fact is, it just no longer seems that impressive when any teenage art school drop-out living with his parents, sitting in his boxer shorts can do the exact same thing (and that's kinda the image you get here--he couldn't hire any musicians to inject some life into this ***?).
In hindsight, this release was inevitable. We heard it on Synchestra
. As good as that album got in some places, Townsend's downward slide was in the cards--he just doesn't have anything new to say, so instead he's making jokes and love letters proclaiming how happy and content he is with his life.
Promoted as gearing towards a more holistic combination of his vicious metal band, Strapping Young Lad, and his calmer solo project, Townsend indeed injects plenty blasting palm-muted, double-bass metal insanity in here among the more serene, ambient sections. Okay. What now? "Bravura!" He's done the impossible! Even through this predictable song-writing technique, there's no sense of dynamics because the songs never really get genuinely
intense. Townsend's production is so easy on the ears that it scrapes out any traces of actual tension and leaves the album sounding the same all the way through.
The "concept" of this album appears humorous in nature and indeed it is. It's a heard-it-before gag (if you can go so far as calling it that)--the kind of horrid joke you wish your friend would just stop telling--only it lasts an hour, and all you can do is hide your head in embarrassment and cringe at the silence after the punchline.
After completion of this album, Townsend announced that he would be retreating from the music industry, washed up and burned out. When your relentless dedication to releasing albums and touring sucks out any imagination, it seems like the right move to make. Let the cards fall where they may--stop pushing things. Townsend has been on the defensive for years now, acting as if he doesn't release every riff and lousy vocal melody he comes across while noodling on his basement laptop, he may not be the prolific artist he's reputed to be. So now he's caught himself between a rock and a hard place. Like in a chaotic game of chess, he's no longer playing his game, but trying to stave off the inevitable while not putting in the time necessary to really read the board correctly. Maybe he's too many moves ahead for his own good (it certainly seemed that way on the excellent Infinity
back in '98), but, hell, it sounds to me like he's scrambling for any pawn he can knock out.
At least we can still look forward to those basement laptop recordings now that he's not touring.