Devin Townsend Project
Z2


3.8
excellent

Review

by Thompson D. Gerhart STAFF
October 26th, 2014 | 320 replies


Release Date: 10/27/2014 | Tracklist

Review Summary: More a contemporary inspiration than a sequel. Hang on to your coffee!

Devin Townsend is an artist of volumes. For most artists, that spells consistency - a set sound with little to no deviation from album to album. For Devin, it's something very different - having delved whole-hearted into everything from the dark matter dense heaviness of City to his first 2014 release, ambient country album Casualties of Cool. Devin has always been in a mode of constant experimentation and progression from the word go.

Yet 2012's Epicloud feels like the exception to this rule of thumb. It was a calculated album that followed the same pop metal formula developed on Addicted, though it fell a bit flat for lack of hooks. Meanwhile, 2007's Ziltoid the Omniscient - the most obvious direct link to Z2 - was a highly experimental album in that Devin wrote and recorded the whole album himself (including drums using the "Drumkit from Hell" software package). It's important to mention these two albums because they are the clearest and most direct links to Z2 - Ziltoid being where Z2 draws its concept from and Epicloud and Devin's more recent works being where much of Z2, though especially Sky Blue, Z2's first disc, draws its tone and direction from.

Again, Devin is an artist of volumes. He has an edge on the competition when it comes to success, but as with all volumes of output, there are some hits and some misses. Where Epicloud seemed to stagnate, Sky Blue thrives by taking the same direction of metal heavily influenced by pop and electronica and hitting on catchy, fun tracks like "Sky Blue" and "Before We Die." Perennial DTP contributor Anneke van Giersbergen seems to have had her imprint reduced ever so slightly as well, making her parts feel special rather than common and paying dividends for the flavor and appeal of Z2 as a whole. Really, though, the album just feels a bit more coherent, even with aggressive tracks such as the album's heaviest, "Silent Militia," which touts crisp low-end highlighting Devin's trademark screams without breaking the flow of Sky Blue.

The formula isn't exactly perfect, but it is more polished and perfected since Epicloud. Dramatic and spacey tracks like "Midnight Sun" and "A New Reign," while certainly not bad or boring on their own, can grow a bit tedious in the tandem they're presented in, while their bookends ("Fallout" and "Universal Flame") have that danceable groove that distinguish them as boppy, fun, and immediately stimulating. As with Epicloud, there's another feeling that much of Sky Blue (and Z2 as a whole) are meant to be fun for fun's sake, and, hey, if there's a few little bumps in the flow, so what?

Now, while Sky Blue may be the direct descendant of Epicloud and Addicted, it feels a bit untouched by the legacy of Ziltoid the first. Fret not - it doesn't really get in the way of the music on Sky Blue and, to be honest, it feels like it keeps a certain weight from hindering what's essentially Dev's take two with the Epicloud style and crew. Certainly this isn't the case for second disc Dark Matters, yet it's a bit impressive how much the paradigm has shifted from its 2007 predecessor.

Dark Matters, like Sky Blue, is nowhere near as heavy as the original Ziltoid the Omniscient - which is understandable considering Devin's musical evolution from that point to the present day, though it does present a bit of a theming conflict. How could something so impossibly heavy be followed by something with a lighter, more comical air? Sure - both albums are notably silly (Z2 notably features a breed of "poozers" which fly around with fart noises and a continued concept of planetary coffee theft), but Ziltoid prioritized music over comedy, and it seems to be the other way around on Z2. There's nothing quite as heart-stirring as "Hyperdrive" or as intimidatingly heavy as "Planet Smasher," which holds the album back musically, though there are rare exceptions, such as the pummeling invasion epic "Deathray," which is sure to be a crowd-pleaser at future shows.

As a comedic musical, on the other hand, it's easy to see that Z2 has the potential to work towards something bigger. The dialog is well-executed, funny, and visually evocative, though it feels like there's a stage show we're missing out on. While the exposition gets in the way of the album's musicality, it makes perfect sense in the theater of context it was intended for, and at the end of the day, that's about all you can ask for.

As an album of music, what can you say? Devin Townsend is an artist of volumes, and his earlier volume this year Casualties of Cool is the clear contender for album of the year this time around. Sky Blue has several very strong and catchy tracks rooted in dance pop-inspired metal that will hold up for years to come, while Dark Matters is a fun, theatrical "War of the Worlds" type of experience that will likely carry more of a niche gathering. Either way, while Z2 isn't the best album in Townsend's collection of works (a tall order), it's certainly a step up from its predecessor and another fun spin on a rare brand of metal.



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user ratings (345)
Chart.
3.5
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
AtomicWaste
Moderator
October 26th 2014


2706 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

Ranking:



Ziltoid > Z2 > Epicloud.



Discuss.

JokineAugustus
October 26th 2014


8587 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

A review already! I haven't even heard this yet :O

Judio!
October 26th 2014


8401 Comments


So weird that my voice is on a few of these tracks lol, I need to jam this badly. Sweet review!

AtomicWaste
Moderator
October 26th 2014


2706 Comments

Album Rating: 3.4

Haha - I know that feeling. I think I hear myself on the track "Z2," actually, which was interesting to say the least.

trilogique21
October 26th 2014


1269 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

the softness and abundance of dialogue on Dark Matters is what brings this album down for me. gonna check out the no dialogue version and see how it is doe

Digging: Spectral Voice - Eroded Corridors of Unbeing

LilLioness
October 26th 2014


2994 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

"Ranking:



Ziltoid > Z2 > Epicloud."



Same.



Honestly, I think I still prefer Dark Matters over Sky Blue. Sure, Sky Blue has "Rejoice", "Silent Militia", "Rain City" and "Before we Die", but it just feels superfluous in a way. I mean, you wanted to hear Z2 because of ZTO and to have an entire album that has nothing to do with that prior album stapled on just feels wrong to me. It would have been better if Dark Matters was Z2 and Sky Blue was just the next album after Z2.

TychoBrahe
October 26th 2014


511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Just got this in the mail today. Devin always surprises me. This whole time I was waiting for the next DTP album and didn't really give too much thought to Casualties or Ziltoid 2. To my surprise CoC is in the running for AOTY (although I'm really digging Syro at the moment) and while I wasn't a huge fan of the first Ziltoid album the Z2 musical just sounds incredible. The drums, guitars, the choirs (which I didn't take part in) even the storyline and humor which put me off to the original Ziltoid were actually well executed. Brendon Small and Devin need to stop fucking around and collaborate on something already.



And then there's Sky Blue which I feel like is some of Devin's worst work to date. And I'm not even mad, 2 outstanding albums in one year is quite the achievement. Going to have to give these albums some time to sink in, but man, comedy or not Dark Matters really shows how capable Devin is as a musician.





TychoBrahe
October 26th 2014


511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I love Devin, but i heard the track Rejoice and it was the worst song ever...might have to listen to the rest of this but my hopes are low.



Be prepared to cringe hard when you hear the title track off of Sky Blue.

Gnome7
October 26th 2014


252 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I was really surprised by this album. I really loved Sky Blue it's definitely a solid 4. Midnight Sun and A New Reign were freaking fantastic. But Dark Matters was just awesome. I cant stop listening to it, the music is great, the story is great and everything is executed to perfection. I was disappointed when i heard deathray released earlier but when i got the album and listened to it from start to finish, deathray was the perfect song for that point in the album and now its stuck in my head.

deathschool
October 26th 2014


21896 Comments


"So weird that my voice is on a few of these tracks lol, I need to jam this badly. Sweet review!"

"Haha - I know that feeling. I think I hear myself on the track "Z2," actually, which was interesting to say the least."

Will read the review, but what is this about?

Gnome7
October 26th 2014


252 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

@deathschool He's referring to the universal choir. Devin had people on the internet sing parts of Z2 and record themselves and submit it. He then mixed it all together and used it for choir parts.

TychoBrahe
October 26th 2014


511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

^ He did a universal choir thing where fans could submit recordings of them singing certain choir parts. Apparently there were over two thousand submissions or something and it actually does sound pretty cool.

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
October 26th 2014


55293 Comments


sweet

Digging: Pop Unknown - If Arsenic Fails, Try Algebra

SaneTBP
October 26th 2014


2070 Comments


Rejoice is pretty neat, haven't heard anything else from this

KerfuffleinaHussle
October 26th 2014


1033 Comments


"Ziltoid prioritized music over comedy, and it seems to be the other way around on Z2."

It always felt like the opposite to me. Ziltoid I has like a half dozen genuinely awesome songs like Color Your World or By Your Command, and the rest is just...well, whatever the rest is. Z2 feels more like an album of songs to me.

Although that said I'm really not enjoying either discs yet. Am I the only one thinking all the melodies on Sky Blue sound a little too familiar?

percyforward
October 26th 2014


70 Comments


"Am I the only one thinking all the melodies on Sky Blue sound a little too familiar?"

Same here. Not that I'm complaining, they're still awesome, just a little too familiar as you said.

XfingTheSullen
October 26th 2014


4062 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Gotta listen to it, been waiting for it a long time!

emester
October 26th 2014


8163 Comments


Pretty good album. Sky Blue far outshines Z2 though

Digging: Spectral Voice - Eroded Corridors of Unbeing

TychoBrahe
October 26th 2014


511 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Am I the only one thinking all the melodies on Sky Blue sound a little too familiar?



Thought it was funny when I read this in the booklet: "Silent Militia was influenced by Will I Am". Man that song sucks too (the Devin song, not sure which Will I Am song it was and I'm not in a hurry to find out). Also, @ 5:53 in Rain City he starts singing Bastard for some reason.

KerfuffleinaHussle
October 26th 2014


1033 Comments


"Man that song sucks too (the Devin song, not sure which Will I Am song it was and I'm not in a hurry to find out). Also, @ 5:53 in Rain City he starts singing Bastard for some reason. "

Not to mention the main melody from the title track is ripped straight from an Usher song...like c'mon, Devin's 'referenced' other musicians in the past (Radial Highway) but this just seems like plagiarism to me



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