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Devin Townsend - Ziltoid The Omniscient CD (album) cover

ZILTOID THE OMNISCIENT

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

4.14 | 552 ratings

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Wicket
Prog Reviewer
4 stars This is album is essentially the epitome of Devin Townsend's madness and genius working in conjunction.

It's not my favorite album of his, almost because I'm trying to focus TOO much on the story and the story doesn't quite make sense because, well, it's not? And also the songs individually are fantastic, together there's still a lack of cohesiveness to the album as a whole.

And amazingly, Devin decides NOT to bludgeon you to death with reverb at the beginning of "By Your Command". In fact, the sound, especially the drums, have a deadened, punchier sound. Fair enough, as it essentially is Ziltoid's "Imperial March" if you will, designed to strike fear to those who disrespect the wonders that coffee can bring to the masses, who will be subsequently executed by barrage of noise during "Ziltoidia Attaxx!" The concept makes absolute sense, but I don't get the kind of epicness from a movie trailer during this big climactic event, not nearly as much of a spectacle that the "overture" "ZTO" introduces.

Perhaps I'm looking too much into it from an analytical perspective. If you sit down and imagine a Ziltoid movie and place this album as the accompanying soundtrack, it makes perfect sense. The image that's conjured up during "Solar Winds" and the narration telling the story (behind reverbed guitars, of course) is chilling, and Devin's mid-range vocals in the beginning here work spectacularly well. As a song, it's one of the highlights off the album, I just preferably prefer a version without the narration, some of the segues from track to track just aren't entirely convincing, methinks.

The tracks in of themselves though are fantastic. "Hyperdrive" is exactly what you think it is, essentially a radio rock tune from outer space, and that's not to mock DT at all (in this instance, I prefer the version of this song from "Addicted!", as Devin's lower-range singing just doesn't have the kind of energy this track is propelled by). "N9", by contrast, has its own surging energy galloping along before arpeggiated dissonant scales conjure up, I don't know, traveling through a mysterious nebula? It's a fairly heavy piece, though, brutal blastbeats pummel their way before cutting down to half tempo and trudging its way to the end behind a brass choir that's very evocative of Middle Eastern themes (potentially an homage to "Pixillate" from "Synchestra"? I hear a lot of that in there).

But that's not all the heavy devy that, well, Hevy Devy, brings. "Planet Smasher" is the most barbaric off perhaps all his songs. A solid minute of distorted chords behind narration builds tension and angst before the Planet Smasher is summoned, and from there it's just straight up brutality. Not my favorite, but it's a fun meat-head song if you don't like losing a few brain cells.

An interlude discussing Ziltoid's failure at everything and questioning his purpose leads to "Color Your World", another 9 minute brute of a piece, double bass drums furiously pounding, spewing noise and screams, rhythmically pounding away like a mechanized war machine. Eventually, though, by 4 minutes in, all the loud stuff fades out, while Townsend, um, goes to town, arpeggiating up and down mystical scales and chords in an ethereal lullaby. The drums here sound out of place, the cymbal crashes don't mesh with the subtlety of the guitars. Once the action picks back up, though, it's all well and good, but just the first instance sounds conflicted. With a minute left, then, the heavy comes back and pounds its way into the closing track, "The Greys". As a summary, the track really feels like two songs in one, and the last minute outro just feels tacked on, with no real symmetry from the first section or the second.

So by this point I have no idea what's going on in the story, and "The Greys" sounds like a concluding finale to... something, I don't even remember anymore. However, taken from face value, it's a nice sounding track. I just personally believe it would be better if it was on another album. From a conceptual story point of view, it doesn't quite work. Then again, I may be taking that point too seriously, and, well, Devin doesn't really do serious, as we know.

What I do know is that I applaud the first half of the album more then I do the second. From "Color Your World" to the end, the point is lost to me and my ear, and I just can't be bothered anymore. The rest of the album, though, is fantastic, and I do applaud Townsend's either bravery or insanity from devising an idea like this, but considering I expect 90000% from concept albums, this album kinda bummed me out in terms of the epic, cartoonish scale I was hoping. Then again, maybe that's what Townsend wanted to make, I don't know.

So if that is, then all I can say is, bravo, Devin, well done!

Now get me a grande cappuccino, slacker.

Wicket | 4/5 |

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