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Devin Townsend - Zē CD (album) cover

Devin Townsend

 

Experimental/Post Metal

3.81 | 133 ratings

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TCat
Prog Reviewer
4 stars What we have here is not necessarily a double album as much as it is two albums together in one package. The first album is titled "Sky Blue" and it is the 6th in a series of albums under the moniker of The Devin Townsend Project. This is a series of releases where each album was supposed to have a distinct feel and style. So this one does have another style, but it harkens back somewhat to earlier albums in the series. Many have compared it to "Addicted" which was the usual Devin sound but in a more pop sounding vein than usual. So, you got some driving, danceable beats behind the usual multi-layered guitars, keyboards and vocals that create the distinct wall of sound Devin is famous for. "Sky Blue" however, while it seems to lean towards this direction, is not as poppy. It may seem like it is going that way at first, with the very upbeat yet heavy "Rejoice", the perfect way to open the album. But, as the album progresses, it becomes more progressive. By the time you get to track 4, "A New Reign", you notice that there is nothing very poppy about it anymore. But, the real beauty of a song actually comes right before this one, "Midnight Sun". This song is simply beautiful, strong, atmospheric and spacey. Because it is more of a ballad than a rock song, it makes the real differences in this album sneak up on you. You will start to notice that this album is more ambient sounding than what "Addicted" was, but the real terms to describe this is atmospheric, spacious and lush. Unfortunately, the shortcoming for the album is that Devin's vocals are not as emotional as "Addicted" or other albums. Anneke also sings on this album on most tracks, but not as much as a soloist as someone singing in tandem with Devin. So this does bring some texture to Devin's lower register, which he tends to stay in more often. As you move closer to the middle of the album, this tends to get a little monotonous, and you start to actually lose interest. The one highlight in this part of the album is "Silent Militia", which is a welcome hard rock relief to what was becoming mundane. This is one where Devin starts to show his emotion, and you get a little more screaming here, which actually is the dynamic I was craving for at this point. Once you get to "Forever", things get better, because this is actually part of a suite that comprises the last three songs. The beauty returns, even if this is a quieter track, you start to hear some interesting harmonies, and you feel things building to what will be an amazing climax in the middle of "Before We Die". By now, you have an excellent use of the multi layered vocals on the part of both Devin and Anneke, so you have what actually sounds like full choir, and also by now, you feel that amazing uplifting feeling that you get with many DT songs. The first and the last part of this album saves the entire collection. Only the middle part of the album tends to lag, but the rest is definitely worth it.

The second album in this double set is called "Dark Matters" and it serves as a sequel to the "Ziltoid" album. On the Ziltoid album, DT played all of the instruments and sang all the vocals. This time, you get a lot of vocalists playing parts of the characters. This is a much louder album, pretty much all the way through, with only breaks here and there that serve to advance the story through narration and characterization. Now you get even more progressive rock, heavy metal and emotional vocals that you are more accustomed to with Devin. The story itself is quite hilarious. It is an over the top, satirical take on Science Fiction. The songs here are definitely louder than the first disc, but they are also more dramatic because of the nature of the story. Almost cinematic. You'll be listening to parts that sound like black metal with screaming vocals and suddenly you have a choir of voices singing. And even with such a silly story, you still get that "uplifted" feeling that you get when listening to emotional music. The best way to listen to this is with the lyrics, because you won't be able to follow the story any other way. The narration is easy enough to understand usually, but the parts that are sung by the characters will be hard to understand. Once you have heard it a few times though, you might tire of hearing the story and just listen to the music. DT thought about this and made a dialog free version of Z2 which is available in the Collector's Edition of the album.

Overall, there are some weak points, but it's still a great pair of albums. Not necessarily to masterpiece status, both together sporting many strong songs and aspects, but also having some weak parts too, but not enough to give the package a status of less than 4 stars. Not the best way to enter the DT discography, but great enough for those that are familiar with his music already.

TCat | 4/5 |

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