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Metal Album of The Week: Devin Townsend Project – Z^2

November 5, 2014

Congratulations, you’ve stumbled into a weekly column where Simon, our station resident metal-head, tells you about a new metal album that you haven’t heard and why that needs to change as soon as possible. Bask in the glory of the riffs, dear reader!

 

Admittedly, this is the first time in my life I’ve attempted to keep up with new music on an almost daily basis. It’s a tiny bit exhausting, but it’s also a tiny bit fucking awesome. Even limiting myself to only metal, there’s an obscene amount of cool releases every week. This week was no exception, as I found myself loving the riffs from the new Abysmal Dawn, Haken, and particularly Bloodshot Dawn. Honestly, I’d never heard of Bloodshot Dawn before, but if you like your melodic death metal with some of the catchiest riffs and most memorable solos, you need to jam their new album Demon right away (plus check out their self-titled debut, also stellar).

 

But enough chit chat! We can only have one winner. I feel like I’m cheating using an album I’ve been anxiously waiting for all year, but just like when the professor leaves the exam room, it’s almost too easy, right? This week’s album of the week comes from Devin Townsend, formerly the leader for the Canadian extreme metal band Strapping Young Lad (as well as about a thousand other projects, all awesome).

 

The double album is called Z^2.  The first half is by his band, Devin Townsend Project (DTP) and is called Sky Blue. DTP has released several albums, all of them drastically different in style and genre. Their release Epicloud is like a quirkier, heavier version of Queen, while Ghost is more progressive ambient, not at all what one would consider metal. Sky Blue falls somewhere in between these two. It features some heavy riffs (Devin prefers to play in open-C guitar tuning), but also some beautiful choral vocals, orchestrations, and lead vocals from Anneke van Giersbergen, a woman who has lent her impressive vocal range to many metal artists.

 

Sky Blue sounds like Devin’s passion project. Love it or hate it, it’s beautifully put together and just an extremely talented musician writing the songs he wants to hear. You never know what the next DTP album is going to bring, but it’s always thoughtful and engaging.  In contrast, the second half of the double album is what many metal fans have been waiting for for years: the sequel to Devin’s solo album from 2007, Ziltoid the Omniscient. The sequel’s title: Dark Matters.

 

Quick background: Ziltoid the Omniscient is a concept album that Devin recorded purely solo, meaning he played all the instruments and programmed the drums. In short, it’s a hilarious sci-fi story about an alien who invades Earth because he’s looking for the ultimate cup of coffee. Dark Matters is a sequel to that story, and while Devin wrote all of the story and all of the music, he got the benefit of having a full band and orchestration, as well as multiple vocalists (including hundreds of fan submissions). It, like Sky Blue, is a massive sounding album, with layers and layers of melodies and guitar work.

 

Additionally, the story is hilarious. It’s more of a collection of sci-fi genre tropes than a perfect narrative, but it’s perfect for a heavy metal concept album. There’s plenty of coffee, deathrays, tiny aliens called Poozers, Chris Jericho guest voicing a character named Captain Spectacular (yes, that Chris Jericho!) and, of course, plenty of Ziltoid himself. If you like sci-fi, metal, both, or neither, I don’t really care, because this is an awesome album that is insanely entertaining.

 

Check out “Deathray” and “Rejoice” from Dark Matters and Sky Blue, respectively:

 

 

-Simon SV 

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