Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Devin Townsend - Dark Matters (Z² Disc Two) (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 27/10/2014
Label: HevyDevy Records/InsideOut

“Dark Matters” (Z² Disc Two) track list:

01. Z² (03:59)
02. From Sleep Awake (03:00)
03. Ziltoidian Empire (06:25)
04. War Princess (08:17)
05. Deathray (04:43)
06. March Of The Poozers (04:43)
07. Wandering Eye (03:40)
08. Earth (07:38)
09. Ziltoid Goes Home (06:20)
10. Through The Wormhole (03:43)
11. Dimension Z (06:13)

Ziltoid Band is:

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
Marina Bennett | additional voices
Adyson King | voices on "Warrior"
Maria Werner & Jazz-A-Faire | voices on "Z²" (as "excited women on Earth")
Randy Slaugh | orchestrations, string arranging
Florian Magnus Maier | orchestrations
Eric Severinson | choir and orchestra conducting, additional voices
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra | orchestra
The audience at Utrecht Tivoli, August 5th 2014 | backing vocals on "Z²" and "March of the Poozers"
Universal Choir | additional vocals on "Before We Die", "Z²" and "Dimension Z


It is the sheer daftness of ‘Dark Matters’, the sequel to that ingenious smash that was ‘Ziltoid the Omniscient’, that saves this disc. A project that has been awaited with baited breath and fizzing anticipation, most people expected the best of Townsend. While it is hardly a poor record, it has to be said that any gripping quality the record should possess is blindingly apparent. Lost in the moment of the music, it is entertaining, amusing and brimming with talented compositional dexterity and gun slinging revelry.  But when that moment passes, there is no itching desire to return to the album. As good a record as it is, it just isn’t captivating.

It’s as if he’s got too caught up in producing this pristine, gleaning masterpiece of towering grandiosity, with filling every millisecond of space with layers and layers of tracks that he’s forgotten the key principle in all this: The songs themselves.

It’s the dialogue sections – of which there is a version of the record with these moments omitted – that give the record the humour and fun madness that has defined Devin Townsend. These are the moments that seem to grab you the most, that make you crack a smile.

As much as there are great riffs, surging vocal performances, boisterous trance synths and a rhythm section capable of maxing out the Richter scale, it just isn’t anything special. The songs are too buried within overly complex arrangements that they have no room to breathe and unveil their unique sense of character. It’s a bit like the follow up to a blockbuster spectacular where the producers rely too much on CGI explosions and visual eccentricity instead of a strong, gripping script that can invigorate you and tug on your heart strings all the same.

‘War Princess’ has some great musicianship within its depths but fails to utilize it, while ‘Wandering Eye’ momentarily lifts things with a muscly, marching rhythm. Here and there, such as on ‘Wandering Eye’, a riff, rhythm, melody or hook comes hurling out of the mix, your ears prick up and we see, fleetingly, the brilliance Townsend is capable of. Then it’s swallowed back up again, lost in a busy see of tracks.

‘Deathray’ is the only really defining song on ‘Dark Matters’. Crazy, emphatic, hell bent, it is a thrilling listen. On ‘Deathray’, he has found the perfect ingredients for his maniacal potion, but for the rest of the record there are merely bubbling test tubes of experimentation that bare no fruitful results. Perhaps the pressure to deliver, the anticipation and excitement really has crushed him, his proud shoulders unable to take the weight. A disappointing record and one that, for me at least, draws attention to his next release, where maybe this mad genius will make a more fitting return.

Words by: Phil Weller

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