Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Devin Townsend Project - Z² (2014) Part 1: Sky Blue

It feels pretty unreal that it has finally happened. After months of waiting and tons of other media that has led up to this moment, Devin Townsend is finally ready to reveal his biggest album project yet. The double album entitled "Z²" has been super hyped ever since it was announced, and I think it is thanks to the fact that the fans really love the green, coffee drinking alien Ziltoid The Omniscient. I can guarantee that the Casualties of Cool crowd funding campaign became so successful because that the left overs was going to be spent in this double album. I do think the funders were interested in how this Casualties of Cool project would turn out, but just the pure thought of a follow up to the critically acclaimed "Ziltoid The Omniscient" just made my, and probably several other's, mouth so moist. However, I do not think many fans expected this album to be a double sandwich, a album that represents a combat between the DTP and Ziltoid.

Since this album is so huge, I want to do the review like this. This first part will focus on the first album, entitled "Sky Blue", which is the DTP part of "Z²", and then I will release a second part tomorrow focusing on the official follow up album to "Ziltoid The Omniscient", entitled "Dark Matters". I will also summarize "Z²" in the second part and give it a proper rating, instead of rating the two albums separately and give "Z²" the middle value of those two ratings. So let's get to it shall we?

Sky Blue

So first out is the DTP part of the double album, and for those who are well aware of what Devin has previously done in this project will recognize the sound instantly. The sound in "Sky Blue" has several similarities with mostly "Epicloud", but also earlier Devin albums like "Terria" and "Synchestra" have their fair share in "Sky Blue". In other words, it is joyful, almost pop like metal Devin is giving us with a lot of choir. We also get to hear Devin's favourite female partner once again, former The Gathering singer Anneke Van Giersbergen, which just feels right since her soft vocals fits so well with this type of music.

Knowing what to come, it feels good that Devin opens up "Z²" with a album that has its feet on Earth. "Sky Blue" has an overall spiritual feeling that has a high memorability factor and contains a virus that gives you the urge to sing along. And it also feels like this is the type of music Devin wants to write, not because it has become a successful sound, but for the reason that he is in the point of his life where he does not want to go bat shit crazy anymore, he just wants to make himself and people around him happy, which is really reflective in the music.

Let us get into one of the highlights in "Sky Blue", the song "Before We Die". It is not the highlight because it is a beautiful song with an amazing epic chorus, it is a highlight since it is one out of three songs in "Z²" that utilizes the Universal Choir project where fans could send in their sound file of them singing a specific part of a song, and then Devin would bake it in to make a humongous and epic choir to spice up "Z²". I really think it is a fantastic idea by Devin, but unfortunately, It is only fully utilized in the "Dark Matters" track "Dimension Z", which is disappointing. Not saying that the choir goes by unnoticed in both "Before We Die" and "Z²", but it does not stand out as much as in "Dimension Z".

The album's strong point is in the middle where four fantastic songs are gathered together like a big joyful lump. "Universal Flame", "Warrior", "Sky Blue" and "Silent Militia" are all great pieces that are among the best tracks in the album, together with "Fallout" and "Before We Die", and they impress with different strength. The title track is a grand piece without sounding big, which really makes the duet between Devin and Anneke sound so much better. "Silent Militia" is probably the angriest song in the album, but it gets you pumped up and is a perfect song to just scream out the words. "Universal Flame" is incredibly catchy, almost at the edge of being repetitive, but the cool persona of Devin stops it from being annoying. Finally, "Warrior" is the song where Anneke gets the most room for her talent, and she uses that room perfectly in this epic track.

Most of the tracks that I have not mentioned are more or less the same thing. Slow songs that are very close to the ambient style that Devin has nudged so many times before, and they are a good edition to the album so the down to Earth feeling really sinks in, but none of the songs are really memorable at all, so it is easy to look past them. I have never been a fan of ambient music and this addition to "Sky Blue" does lower its quality, especially since some of it is totally unnecessary. For example, the last three minutes of "Before We Die" is more or less silence, which is pretty annoying, and the final track in the album, "The Ones Who Love", are just a dumb way to end the album. A total of 5 minutes of material that could have been utilized in a more efficient way.

The first half of "Z²" is a wonderful and spiritual experience, and it will certainly make lots of Devin's fans happy (especially those who recently discovered the Canadian). This "Terria" / "Epicloud" hybrid is interesting and a good gateway to how Devin is as a person now a days. "Sky Blue" is definitely necessary in this double album, because you could lose your sanity if you just got into "Dark Matters" without any spiritual warm up. The easy part is now over, let us all jump into hyperdrive and once again make a visit to Ziltoid The Omniscient.

Songs worthy of recognition: Fallout, Sky Blue, Silent Militia, Before We Die

Part 2

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