Rapid Review: DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT Z²: Sky Blue and Dark Matters

by I.O. Kirkwood on October 27, 2014

cover 2DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT has generated a double album, one called Sky Blue and a Ziltoid-saga called Dark Matters combined under the title Z2. I think what surprised me about my first listen is that my music player alternated between the two albums, playing track one of Sky Blue and then track one of Dark Matters then the track twos and the threes, etc. If you like old-time radio, this would appeal to you.

For some reason, I expected something heavier. I’m not sure where my “heavy” expectation came from. This was before I read up on Mr. Townsend’s career or listened to previous efforts. Yes, I know he created STRAPPING YOUNG LAD and I’d heard of the band before, but I do try for a bit of deliberate ignorance so that I can approach albums fresh. I’m trying to hold onto the wide-eyed wonder for as long as I can.

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What you can expect to hear is power metal with overlays of Electronica. The Sky Blue disc has an Alan Parsons Project “Eye In The Sky” feel to it overall. The tracks share that same hi-fidelity, progressive quality with Devin Townsend’s signature “wall of sound” production. All of the songs are lovely, but there is a sameness to them that would place this half of the album into the background music category for me. I sensed a lyrical depth that might change my opinion over time. One exception: the vocals for “Rejoice” have a Zombiesque flavor, which sets it apart. This is my favorite song on the album and the strongest.

Ziltoid has transmogrified.

Ziltoid has transmogrified.

The second disc, Dark Matters, is a story about an alien invasion of Earth. I guess this is a concept album, but why pick a Muppet-like alien character to sing about? I’m aware that Ziltoid is a character from a previous work but is this a device intended to appeal to pre-adolescent boys? Sky Blue appears to address a deep awareness of the human condition only to be juxtaposed to this cartoonish sounding “Orphan Annie” like radio show. Said show does address current events, but I didn’t find it as tongue-in-cheek as Mr. Townsend intended. It is quite possible I’m missing the subtext, but the ignorance and fear-mongering of your average human in the face of an alien visitor strikes me as obvious.

I would prefer Z2 to be just Sky Blue. I’m grateful the two discs are separate, that I could distinguish between Sky Blue and Dark Matters rather than having to combine them. They are two distinctly different pieces of work. One is a musical composition and the other is a narrative. The combination of the two is experimental, but I’m not convinced that these two pieces work seamlessly together.  There is a dissonance to Dark Matters that overshadows the atmospheric lushness of Sky Blue.

The album drops on Tuesday, October 28th via Inside Out Music/Century Media.

Rating: 3.5/5

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dvntownsend

What do you think of concept albums? Tell us in the comments below.

ioI.O. Kirkwood is a Metal Descent contributor. You can view her personal blog at iokirkwood.com.


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Olli October 27, 2014 at 2:09 pm

The reason behind singing about “muppet” is because Devin wrote the first “Ziltoid the Omniscient” record as a metaphor of his life and career, from drug using bipolar heavy-metal prodigy to becoming a father, quiting heavy drugs and quiting both SYL and DTB. *Spoiler* In the end of the original “Ziltoid”, Ziltoid finds out that he is not an omniscient fourth dimensional guitar-hero, but that he is a puppet!

When you see it from that perspective, it’s quite deep s***! Instead of music for “pre-adolescent boys”.

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