Review: Z2 part 2

Ian Crane

Now that you’ve seen the light side of Townsend, how about we get into the dark side of HevyDevy?

In the first part of my review of Devin Townsend’s most recent solo album, “Z2,” I looked at the first disc, titled “Sky Blue,” which features uplifting, danceable, yet quirky hard rock. The second disc, “Dark Matters,” is the musical flipside of “Sky Blue,” featuring less danceable melodies and more pumping guitar riffage and searing, almost annoying, solos.

Now for those that aren’t in the know, or Townsend fan boys, the first Ziltoid album was very heavy with guttural vocals, fast double bass drum and crushing seven-string guitar riffs.  It was not, however, serious. 

In fact the concept is rather silly. Ziltoid invades and destroys Earth to obtain the universe’s ultimate cup of coffee.  While the story is different in “Z2,” the ridiculous feel of the album, which is only furthered by comical narration and dialogue between characters, is very much the same. 

For those that prefer just music, a version without narration and dialogue can be purchased.

The Universal Choir, which is made up of thousands of fans that volunteered to be recorded for the album, is utilized to great effect. 

On tracks such as “Z2” and “Dimension Z,” brilliant, complicated vocal melodies lay on top of atmospheric synth parts, which are layered over the crushing, but off-kilter rhythm parts, creating a thick wall of sound.

The album likes to change from rising melody lines sung by the Universal Choir to Townsend’s own signature voice with female vocal parts and harmonies sung by Anneke van Giersbergen, former vocalist of Dutch rock band, The Gathering. 

Townsend shows off his musical virtuosity not with guitar solos, which he certainly could do, but through the arrangement of music.  Many times he will simplify the music to make room for the choir and when they back off, the music increases in intensity, such as on the tracks “Wandering Eye” and “Ziltoidian Empire.”

However, the dialogue and narration of the story sometimes obscures the very interesting music to the point of being inaudible. 

Also, the album’s lyrical content sometimes seemed detached from the overall story and without the spoken word narration, the story would be unfollowable.

Lyrically, “Dark Matters” features some of Townsend’s typical tongue-in-cheek humor, such as when Ziltoid finds out he is Captain Spectacular’s brother, where he makes a comment that “this is all so unbelievably cheesy.”

With the strange mixed with the extreme, “Dark Matters” is a listening experience much like a heavy metal Frank Zappa. 

Tie it together with “Sky Blue” and you get an album that is probably the best introduction to Devin Townsend you           could get. With light and dark coming together, “Z2” is truly as bipolar as Townsend himself.