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Devin Townsend

Experimental/Post Metal

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Devin Townsend Z² album cover
3.69 | 186 ratings | 11 reviews | 20% 5 stars

Excellent addition to any
prog rock music collection

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Studio Album, released in 2014

Songs / Tracks Listing

CD 1 - Sky Blue (56:32)
1. Rejoice (4:16)
2. Fallout (4:30)
3. Midnight Sun (4:58)
4. A New Reign (4:52)
5. Universal Flame (4:39)
6. Warrior (3:31)
7. Sky Blue (3:52)
8. Silent Militia (4:28)
9. Rain City (7:45)
10. Forever (3:45)
11. Before We Die (8:24)
12. The Ones Who Love (1:32)

CD 2 - Dark Matters (57:08)
1. Z² (3:59)
2. From Sleep Awake (3:00)
3. Ziltoidian Empire (6:25)
4. War Princess (8:17)
5. Deathray (4:43)
6. March of the Poozers (4:43)
7. Wandering Eye (3:40)
8. Earth (7:38)
9. Ziltoid Goes Home (6:20)
10. Through the Wormhole (2:10)
11. Dimension Z (6:13)

Total Time 113:40

Line-up / Musicians

- Devin Townsend / vocals, guitars, keyboards, programming, producer

- Anneke van Giersbergen / vocals
- Dave Young / guitars, keyboards
- Mike St-Jean / keyboards, synth, programming
- Kat Epple / flute
- Brian Waddell / bass
- Ryan Van Poederooyen / drums
- Morgan Agren / drums & percussion (2.2)
- Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
- Eric Severinson / choir & orchestra conductor, voices
- Florian Magnus Maier / orchestrations
- Randy Slaugh / orchestrations, string arrangements
- The Universal Choir / chorus vocals (11,2.1,2.11)
- Chris Jericho / voice actor (as "Captain Spectacular")
- Dominique Lenore Persi / voice actor (as "War Princess")
- Mark Cimino / voice actor (as "Poozer")
- Chris Devitt / voice actor (as "Planet Smasher")
- Jasmin Kramer ("Jazz-a-Fire") & Maria Werner / voice actor (as "Excited Women on Earth")
- Marina Bennett / voice actor
- Adyson King / voices (6)
- Bill Courage / spoken voice (narrator)
- Utrecht Tivoli audience (August 5, 2014) / backing vocals (2.1,2.6)

Releases information

Artwork: Anthony Clarkson

2CD Inside Out Music ‎- IOMCD 410 (2014, Europe)
2CD Century Media ‎- 0686-2 (2014, North America)

Thanks to mbzr48 for the addition
and to projeKct for the last updates
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DEVIN TOWNSEND Z² ratings distribution

(186 ratings)
Essential: a masterpiece of progressive rock music(20%)
Excellent addition to any prog rock music collection(40%)
Good, but non-essential (26%)
Collectors/fans only (9%)
Poor. Only for completionists (5%)


Showing all collaborators reviews and last reviews preview | Show all reviews/ratings

Collaborators/Experts Reviews

Review by FragileKings
4 stars The original Ziltoid album, "Ziltoid the Omniscient" was a one-man show. Devin Townsend recorded the whole thing at home, playing all instruments except for drums, for which he used Drum Kit from Hell to program the drums. He did nearly all the voices: vocals, Ziltoid and his crew, Captain Spectacular, narrator, Planet Smasher and others. There are only two other names credited as guests (one called The Beav) who provided a small contribution. The story was wacky, cheesy, silly. The music sincere, loud, fun, and sometimes really good. Whether you liked it or not, it was an album that showed what one person's imagination could do and get away with. It was crazy. It was cool because it was so crazy.

"Zed Squared", as it is called (written as Z to the power of 2), is the sequel, and like many sequels to original movies, the budget was way bigger this time. No longer a one- man show, this album features a band, a choir, and an orchestra along with guests playing the main characters (Chris Jericho as Captain Spectacular, Dominique Lenore Persi as Blataria the War Princess, and famous broadcaster Bill Courage as the narrator). You could compare the two albums to "Terminator" and "T2" for budget or "Alien" and "Aliens" for a boost in the cast. The album is big and loud, the story cheesier and sillier, the music over the top, and the voices and sound effects will make you feel like some 50's B sci-fi movie has been remade into a heavy metal musical.

Devin himself has stated in interviews that even he can't say what the true meaning behind it all is. He won't know for a while. For now, more than anything, he hopes that someday in the future people will look back on this album and think that it was incredible that anyone could do this. Not just him. This entire project with so many people involved to make the vision come true. About the story he has also said that many ideas were given to him by children and that he sucks at writing stories. But he loves theater and entertainment and puppets ("The Dark Crystal" left an indelible mark on him as a child) and he really wanted this to be a huge production. In fact, it was so demanding that numerous times he wanted to just quit. But he didn't and that's one big reason why he's so proud of it. In addition, the schools were on strike while he was working on wrapping up the album and kids were tearing up the place.

Keeping the big impossible production theme in mind, you'll find that the story and voices drive the album along as much as or perhaps even more than the music. I find myself paying more attention to the story and voice acting than many of the songs. Bill Courage is excellent and a familiar voice to me, having grown up in Canada with Bill's voice often on television programs. Some of the lines in the script are so silly and Bill hits the delivery right on. There is so much that is cliché in this story and so much ham, cheese, and corn that you'll wish you had some bread to go with it except that Devin spent all the bread on making an animatronic Ziltoid puppet (search for Ziltoid ZTV on YouTube).

As everything is so big and loud, I find that my visual impression of the music is not of a 3-D array of instruments and voices where I can move between the sounds and pick out the individual instruments but rather like a wall with a raised-relief surface in which the instruments are carved. It can be a little too solid, dense, and massive at times. If you can get past the theatrical aspects, there are song great songs here. I really like "War Princess" and the catchier single, "Death Ray", which is full of clichés both in composition style and voice acting lines. It is so brilliant like that though, and I love it! "People of Earth! We are your Poozonian overlords. You cannot run. Resistance is futile. Hand over your coffee!"

If there are any real disappoints for me, they are in changes made to the story. In particular, after so much was made about the Planet Smasher (a.k.a. Herman) coming to earth, it was a let down to hear him described as being a cute furry little creature the size of a football, whose voice could destroy entire galaxies. In the CD booklet that came with "Ziltoid the Omniscient", the Planet Smasher is said to be so huge that he can't help but destroy planets when he moves about. But perhaps in his sixth dimensional nature he is as such. In his three dimensional form his only appears to be so small and cuddly. There are a few other small misses in attention to scientific and language detail that irk me a touch but I can let them go. In the end I think the album really is an incredible product. However, Devin warns us not to say that you love it or you hate it so soon. It'll take time before any of us can really understand what it really is. Well, for me it's more than an album of songs. It is an audio movie, or like those old radio dramas.

I purchased the limited edition, 3 CD set in the digipak with the extra artwork and it really looks spectacular. One disc is the Ziltoid disc without the between-song dialogue and most of the narration. As some of the songs contain music meant to be background music for the narration and dialogues, the extended instrumental sections that don't move anywhere can seem to drag on. Listening to the album proper is actually more entertaining and enjoyable in those moments. But because the dialogue is removed between songs, it's possible to enjoy just the songs themselves.

The third disc, which is actually the first disc, is the sixth installment in the Devin Townsend Project series, called "Sky Blue". The music here is very poppy until near the end but with the loud guitars and wall of sound that you'd expect from Mr. Townsend. Most of the music is not particularly complex but the melodies are very catchy and beautiful and Anneke van Giersbergen from the DTP album "Addicted" is back. The combination of her vocals with Devin's make the music sometimes sound like Enya meets melodic pop metal turned full blast. I'm enjoying "Sky Blue" quite a bit and have picked out a few favourite tracks already despite the heavy pop flavour (or perhaps because of?). Devin warns though that the songs are not so cheerful like those on "Epicloud". Prior to writing the songs, some people he knew passed away and his cat was eaten. But I find the songs are infused with hope. One line in "Universal Flame" optimistically claims, "Look for hope and it will find you," and the song ends with "The sun will rise again." Having recently acquired "Ghost" I think there are some elements of "Ghost" in the music here with the loud pop of "Epicloud".

Upon repeat listens, I can get used to the wall of sound if I listen from start to finish; however, when listening to a mixed playlist of Devin's music, "Sky Blue" sounds too dense even when compared to "Addicted" or Strapping Young Lad. I really feel that there are some beautiful melodies that are carried not as a stream of individual notes but a nebula of coloured sound with the flow of notes somewhere inside. When the album turns more atmospheric near the end it seems that even subtly has been pumped up to 10!

Overall quite a lot of music to digest but enjoyable. Perhaps I just have to get used to the massive sound that Devin likes to use. I give three stars to "Sky Blue" only because the music is simpler and four to "Ziltoid Dark Matters". The Ziltoid album has more complex music in places, and with the choir and orchestra Devin has really put something remarkable together. I can think of no other album quite like it, though at times I am reminded of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".

Review by siLLy puPPy
3 stars Z² (short for Ziltoid 2; pronounced "Zed squared" or alternately Zee Two) is a combo pack from Mr DEVIN TOWNSEND but has been released in three different editions.

The jewel case edition (which i have) contains the two main albums: SKY BLUE and DARK MATTERS. The limited digipak edition contains the two main albums, a third CD that is DARK MATTERS without dialogue and extra artwork. The Japanese limited edition contains all of the above with a bonus "Loud Park" concert on DVD which was taken from a show in Saitama, Japan on October 2013.

OK. Let's get to the music. The two discs basically are sequels of previous albums. SKY BLUE is a collection of metallic dance pop tunes that basically continues the ideas that are presented on "Epicloud" only not quite as well IMHO. While all is pleasantly delivered in a trancy dancy fashion, it doesn't really expand the ideas in any particular way. This portion of the album is nice and all but really makes me just want to go back on listen to "Epicloud" which i found to be a very nice dance pop take in the metal world.

DARK MATTERS is the sequel for "Ziltoid The Omnisicient" which i believe is one of the best TOWNSEND projects he has yet put out. While the original was a one-man show (for the most part) this is a major production under the DEVIN TOWNSEND PROJECT. I very rarely like sequels and i have to say that this one seems particularly unnecessary. The whole thing feels forced and reminds me of one trick ponies that milk it for everything that can be milked. I feel the original ZILTOID idea was brilliant but really needed no further expansion. While the original was a really cute over-the-top musical production by DEVIN alone, this one seems like it was tweaked and stuffed with so many sounds and ideas that it explodes on itself. I mean, really what's the fascination with a Therion style symphonic embellishment complete with full choirs with a majorly unsatisfying expansion of the story around which the musical ideas gravitate. There is lots of borrowing of North American cartoons going on here. The narration reminds me of Rocky & Bullwinkle while the whole production reminds me of Dr Seuss' "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" goes Broadway. Their is a showtune approach to a whimsical idea that is devoid of enough substance for my gleeful consumption.

This is a bit disappointing as i was expecting a ZILTOID experience that delivered at least a partial experience of the first but the contrast between the over-production and weakness of the plot which dictates any musical development just leaves me wanting to go back and listen to the original which was surprisingly balanced. The Who's down in Who-ville liked Ziltoid a lot but the Grinch who loved Ziltoid, the sequel does not. It all feels contrived and forced and parts go on and on. Like Saturday Night Live sketches that were excellent for a one-time skit of whimsy, so was ZILTOID, but for such a project to be able to expand beyond its initial parameters requires more substance than what i find going on here. Overall, this isn't a horrible combo package but it doesn't feel like a necessary one either and i really hope there isn't a ZILTOID franchise in the making after hearing this. Heavy Devvy has many hits and misses of his career and in my world this one just feels lost and contrived by adding bombast without any substance to back it up.

Review by Wicket
5 stars The main criticism behind this album seems to be an overall agreement in bombast over substance.

And I strongly disagree, because in all honesty, there wasn't a whole lot of substance on the first album.

I won't knock it, I enjoy the humor of the first Ziltoid album, but eventually the album morphed from telling an incomprehensible story about an alien invasion and coffee to just the ending of "Biomech", length and bombast with no substance or continuation of plot. The ending of the album frankly fell on its face.

Here I think Devin decided to correct that error. Knowing the Ziltoid plot would eventually just descend into nonsense (as all Townsend stuff does), he decided to focus more on bombast, more orchestral samples, more choirs and backing vocals, more loud, more raw, more everything. The perfect recipe for any soundtrack to a movie (real or otherwise). I understand that this strategy won't appeal to everyone, but frankly, I think it just makes the quality on this album much better. The album transitions much more cleanly from song to song. "Z2" actually sounds like an overture, rather than just the cartoonish 30 seconds of hell from "ZTO", and overture that continues with "From Sleep Awake". Rather then just a few songs stuck together with narration to make it sound like a concept album, the songs actually flow better and connect seamlessly. Overall, the production is just better, and that alone makes this album worthy of the extra star.

And while there may be a hint of humor lacking from the sequel, there's more of a sense of urgency, more drama. "War Princess" signals a forthcoming war, and as such, the tempo chugs along with thick, bassy drums, reverbed guitars and triumphant, echoing string samples and vocals. It's a war march, and it sound like it. "Deathray" is the equivalent to "Ziltoidia Attaxx!" from Z1, but instead of just downtuned guitars, chugging riffs and blastbeasts, it's a bit more sophisticated than that. It sounds more like a battle tune and not just a meat-headed breakdown. It just sounds like Devin put more time into this album than the first Ziltoid (which explains the blog post on his website saying that Z2 took a lot out of him and that he was nearly exhausted when it was all said and done).

Overall, the album doesn't sound like it was recorded in a tin can like Ziltoid 1. Yes, it's also more serious than the first, but that also makes it better, like it or not. It's an album that actually carries my full attention to the very end, an album that actually continues a somewhat follow able plot line to the every end! But honestly, it's not a surprise. I had a feeling if Townsend was going to do a sequel to Ziltoid, he'd make it bigger, badder and better. And by god, did he succeed.

But of course, there is a second album to be had here, which ironically, is the first.

Dubbed "Sky Blue", this is another atmospheric, reverb-tastic album full of catchy melodies and brutal riffs, which "Rejoice" begins with (with Anneke van Giersbergen once again providing some fantastic and haunting vocals). Think the bombast of "Epiclouder" meeting the colossal reverb and noise of "Accelerated Evolution", and you've basically summed up this disc. It's brilliant. Catchy choruses ("Fallout"), beautiful soaring melodies ("Midnight Sun"), and atmospheric ballads ("Rain City"). This disc is nothing to sneeze at either. Although with this disc I might have given just 4 stars, together with Z2, this whole thing is just another big, stupid, loud spectacle, which, in Townsend's world, equals a masterpiece. Just another ruckus, hilarious take on metal and everything else.

Review by Prog Leviathan
4 stars Devin Townsend returns with another face-smashing collection of modern metal that is uplifting, melancholic, poetic, schlocky, and scatological; a combination of adjectives that could only apply to Townsend, yet you'll probably agree that this is a pretty apt description. As always, Townsend has produced a musical package with production values that are off the charts, engaging songs, thoughtful and fun lyrics, and instrumental fireworks. Z2 has a huge sound and tons of variety; it'll appeal immediately to those of us who are on board with Devin's musical projects lately, though this album has the difficult duty of following a string of 5-star releases from Townsend, including the "original" Ziltoid the Omniscient, and well... you know that they say about sequels.

The first disc is crammed with twelve songs, played in a tone and style similar to Townsend's more approachable sound heard in Addicted and especially Epicloud. If you've never heard Townsend's music, you'll probably be struck at once by the density of guitar and effects that come cascading out of your speakers. The guy's a wizard in the studio, and it shows in the complexity and layers of sounds we hear through this first half. Highlights include the fine opener, the insanely empowering "Fallout" (one of the best pump-up songs ever?), "Sky Blue," which features an interesting combination of delicate textures and metal roar, and the musical suite of "Forever" and "Before We Go." These latter songs bring a satisfying end to the first half. I'm especially impressed by the lyrics of these songs, which demonstrate a brilliant level of simplicity and understated class. Yes, class, a word which Devin would probably chortle at if he were to read this. It's a great example of how evocative lyrics that paint images of sensations and emotions are often more effective than narrative and explicitness in music.

Speaking of narrative and explicitness...

The star of the show, the mega-cheese space opera of the second disc, is a different beast. It's sort of a reboot of the Ziltoid story, and is filled with noisy metal bombast and numerous "dramatic" interludes. The story is a deliberately weird and stupid musical satire, complete with characters, narrator, and a beginning, middle, and end to the story (sort of). The story is much more coherent than our first Ziltoid experience, and the music may be even more dense. While it's all good, when comparing it to Ziltoid, it doesn't make as much of an impact. This isn't just because it isn't as fresh, or because the joke is old (the narrative is pretty funny), it's that the music and lyrics feel much more locked in to telling the story that reaching out to us with those moments that stick with you and that you can walk away with.

This leads me to my only real criticism with Z2: it's a finely polished record that may not make an emotional impression on you. Townsend's production, writing, and playing are pretty much bullet-proof, but this release doesn't have the spark to place it among his best. That being said, it's still a tremendously epic and successful collection of artistic metal that should be explored by anyone interested in discovering one of the most creative, prolific, and dependably excellent artists on this site (though, maybe after you've listened to his best). Townsend's brand of metal is highly artistic while also refreshingly honest and without pretense; a genuine collection of heavy duty metal and emotion. Recommended.

Songwriting: 4 - Instrumental Performances: 4 - Lyrics/Vocals: 4 - Style/Emotion/Replay: 3

Review by TCat
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
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.

Review by The Crow
3 stars After the successful Epicloud, Devin Townsend released his long awaited Ziltoid the Omniscient sequel with this double album!

The first CD Sky Blue is a follow-up of the style of Addicted! and Epicloud, but sadly not so good this time in terms in songwriting lacking true memorable songs. And worst of all, this album is predictable! And that's the true disappointment here.

Ziltoid 2 is better, mixing the furious and crazy humoristic metal of the first one with the more grandiloquent and pompous style of newer Devin's albums. And although the results are better than in Sky Blue, the album is waaaaay under the first Ziltoid one. The story is ridiculous and apart from a part of songs (Deathray, War Princess, Ziltoid Goes Home) this album is simply not catchy enough.

Best Tracks: Midnight Sun, Universal Flame, Silent Militia, War Princess, Deathray, Ziltoid Goes Home.

Conclusion: my less favorite Townsend album!

My rating: ***

Latest members reviews

3 stars Seemingly bursting with material, Devin Townsend decided to release 2 albums in one package, each under different monikers - 'The Devin Townsend Project' (DTP) and 'Devin Townsend'. But really, what's the difference at this point? DARK MATTERS - THE SEQUEL TO ZILTOID(?) Let's start with Dar ... (read more)

Report this review (#2444917) | Posted by The Genre Spanner | Saturday, September 5, 2020 | Review Permanlink

4 stars Well what can I say about possibly one of the busiest guys in music! I have pretty much most his music including the Strapping Young Lad years, so could this be a biased review or an honest one? Recently I have been following three bands - meaning pretty much getting all their back catalogue. Gl ... (read more)

Report this review (#1388117) | Posted by Alucard Draco | Thursday, March 26, 2015 | Review Permanlink

5 stars If I were you I wouldn't hold back one little bit in order to explore and listen to this wonderful, detailed and creative piece of music that Mr. Devin Townsend has so spectacularly laid out here. It has become very clearly to me that Devin Townsend really uses his creative music guises to repr ... (read more)

Report this review (#1386869) | Posted by progbethyname | Tuesday, March 24, 2015 | Review Permanlink

1 stars This album is a disappointment. Although it is not an entirely unexpected disappointment, it's certaintly a saddening one. Let me explain why you shouldn'tt buy this album, despite whatever fondness or nostalgia you have for Devin's music. Note: this review is pitched at those who have listened to D ... (read more)

Report this review (#1300681) | Posted by sidereal | Wednesday, November 5, 2014 | Review Permanlink

5 stars From ROOTS ROCK to SYMPHONIC PROG METAL , DEVIN TOWNSEND had come a long way, when he started to play for OTHER BANDS, with VARIOUS GENRES, in his early years. Aimed to attract a YOUNGER AUDIENCE, Devin had created a JIM HENSON STYLE, COMEDY VERSION series, of a COGNITIVE REPTILIAN, who's i ... (read more)

Report this review (#1299858) | Posted by Ksol77 | Sunday, November 2, 2014 | Review Permanlink

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