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(Inside Out)
Release Date: 27th October 2014

Ian Sutherland

ian sutherland

devin townsend project

Canadian musician Devin Townsend is another example of the kind of wacky creativity which can come out of that seemingly conservative (with a small c) country.

Following in the footsteps of Kim Mitchell/Max Webster he ploughs his own musical furrow, each project seemingly a bit crazier than the last. Unlike his forbears though he has had some international success which allows him to produce albums at a remarkable rate. 'Z²' takes his total of album releases to around the thirty mark.

In the past, with his Strapping Young Lad, project he explored the very heavy, extreme Metal side of his thinking but in recent years under the Devin Townsend Project banner he has mellowed somewhat and created a signature sound which is big and heavy and has a dense almost Phil Spector goes Metal wall of sound while adding lots of melody and harmony to the mix.

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I thought 'Addicted' was a real highlight from this period making great use of the vocal talents of the likes of the mercurial Anneke van Giersbergen combined with some genuinely good songs but the follow up 'Epicloud' didn't manage to scale the same heights. Disc one in this two disc set is the next release in the DTP mould subtitled 'Sky Blue'.

Once again the album features vocals from Ms van Giersbergen as well as Devin himself and I have to confess to being a huge fan of the Dutch songstress. It's hard for her strong, melodic tones not to raise songs to a new level and there are many examples here. Opener 'Rejoice' is a typical DTP song with it's big sound and chunky guitar driven rhythms and the Devin/Anneke dual vocal style works really well.

There is more of the same in 'Silent Militia' with it's mix of heavy guitar and almost electronic style groove and 'Universal Flame' takes the idea and makes a glorious sing along epic of a song complete with choirs.

Elsewhere you get the epic vocal, guitar and rhythms mixture that is 'Warrior' with fantastic stuttering guitar lines flowing through the big chorus and 'Midnight Sun' strays into label mates Transatlantic's epic progressive rock territory with it's combination of sweeping melody, grandeur and complex time signatures.

devin townsend project

The album takes a strange turn however from 'Rain City' onwards. It is an understated very electronic sounding song and is followed by 'Forever' which sounds almost like Pink Floyd in introspective mode. 'Before We Die' starts like it's going back to the big guitar driven sound we started the album hearing but quickly mellows out into an almost dreamy pop song before fading into just some quiet atmospherics for the last couple of minutes. The album ends with the almost hymn like 'The Ones Who Love'.

I actually don't have a problem with any of those last four individual songs but the sequencing is very strange and it makes 'Sky Blue' feel like an album of two halves.

The second disc in this set is subtitled 'Dark Matters' and has excited the many people keen on all thing Devin in that it's a sequel to his 2007 concept album 'Ziltoid The Omnsicient'. Musically it features all the usual Townsend signature stuff, focusing more on the miltaristic beats he often uses but with all that epic sound and melody described before.

To be honest I found it a difficult listen though as the story is carried along by a lot of voice over work done in a faux Saturday afternoon serial style along with some scenes featuring deliberately cheesy dialogue. If listening to irritating voices saying lines like "Through the colds and mists of space" and "Aye aye Captain Poopy Pants" is your thing then fine but for me all that dialogue spoiled listening to what is some pretty interesting music in 'March Of The Poozers', 'War Princess' and others.

This two disc set is defnintely two distinct albums packaged together. To be fair to the Ziltoid based music here the three disc release of 'Z²' features a dialogue free version of 'Dark Matters' which I'm sure I would feel different about but in the meantime I have to say that the 'Sky Blue' half here is well worth a listen while 'Dark Matters' is for the Townsend cognescenti only.

Line up:
Devin Townsend – vocals, guitars, keyboards, programming
Dave Young – guitars, keyboards
Brian Waddell – bass
Ryan Van Poederooyen – drums
Mike St-Jean – keyboards, programming
Morgan Ågren – additional percussion
Kat Epple – flute
Anneke van Giersbergen – vocals
Chris Jericho – vocals (as "Captain Spectacular")
Dominique Lenore Persi – vocals (as "War Princess")
Mark Cimino – vocals (as "Poozer")
Chris Devitt – vocals (as "Planet Smasher")
Bill Courage – narrator
Randy Slaugh – live symphony, string arranging
Florian Magnus Maier – orchestrations
Eric Severinson – choir and orchestra conducting
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – orchestra


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