without Internet Explorer,
in 1280 x 960 resolution
The mad scientist of metal is at it again with this humorous and satirical delve into what can only be described as a form of comedic Space Operatic prog. Devin Townsend weaves a tale in 'Ziltoid The Omniscient' of a self-conceited alien being that seeks coffee to fulfill his time-travelling desires. In taking over earth (with his virtuosic guitar skills) a rebellion is formed, led by Ziltoid's nemesis, Captain Spectacular. While the plot is obviously not meant to be taken seriously, the music (at points) can be extremely beautiful and powerful.
The music is best described as a heavier version of the typical Devin Townsend band work, mixed with a dose of Devin's extreme metal band, Strapping Young Lad. There is some very heavy material on this record. 'Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!' is bone-shattering, to say the least, and Devin's screams have never sounded better in any of his work then on 'Ziltoid.'
The ironic thing about this album is despite its considerably high rating, it was recorded in Devin Townsend's living room! There's a real sign of talent when someone doesn't even have to leave the confines of their house to write something so entertaining. However, it is this fact in which the albums suffers the most. For the most part, the production quality is fine; while it doesn't match up to the Devin Townsend Band material in terms of sound quality, all things considered, it's very good. The thing that bothers me about this album though is the fact that all of the percussion is played by a drum machine, and not a living, breathing human being. While purely musically, things are fine and the compositions are great, the album would have just that much more power if it used real musicians. Drum machines should be left as a jam tool, not a band member.
One song that really seems to stand out is the laid-back 'Hyperdrive.' Despite it being consisting of a pretty simple guitar riff, and garbled vocals, it creates such an amazing atmosphere and feeling of loneliness, as if the listener really is travelling through the coldness of space.
While releases like 'Terria' and 'Ocean Machine' have more of an immortal quality about them, 'Ziltoid The Omniscient' is actually one of my most initially enjoyed albums, and demonstrates that you don't have to write serious music, to be serious about music.
Sometimes an album kicks your ass from start to finish. For example, Master of Puppets doesn't take much of a break. Just when you think you can rest, Damage, Inc. rides in to finish you off. Ziltoid the Omniscient is not one of those albums. There are peaks and valleys: from sing-songy chanting to Devin's harshest growls, ambient sections that make you forget what you're listening to and the unmistakable tone of Townsend's guitar that brings you back. Like most concept albums, it relies on an appreciation for the subject. If an alien warlord venturing to Earth to secure the universe's finest cup of coffee strikes you as ridiculous, it might be wise to take a pass. Just know you will be missing possibly the most inspired work of Hevy Devy's prolific career.
I remember seeing Devin open for Symphony X when I was in high school. I couldn't decide whether to be impressed by the mind-blowing performance of "Away" or disgusted by his lengthy diatribes on sweaty balls. That combination of ideas has remained his calling card and is on display here. Impeccable musicianship meets a ridiculous intergalactic soap opera.
Ziltoid is my favorite of Townsend's work, and it reminds me every time I listen to it again why I've been following him for almost ten years now. In fact, despite the weird content and complete lack of a coherent musical theme (and I mean that in a good way), this would be the album I'd recommend to someone curious about Mr. Townsend's sound. If you like this album, which contains a sample of pretty much everything from relaxed Devin Townsend Band to the heaviest Strapping Young Lad fare, you will probably become a big fan.
The only minor gripe I've had with this release is that the cornball antics sometimes overwhelm what is truly an impressive collection of music. One track where this does not occur is the hauntingly beautiful "Hyperdrive." Hearing Anneke van Giersbergen sing the shit out of this song on Devin Townsend Project's Addicted recently reminded me of how incredible a song it truly is. Every time the initial welling of distorted guitar meets the simple repeated chord, I know I'm in for a treat. Certain songs stick with you for one reason or another; I've always gone back to "Disposable Heroes," "Black Sabbath," and basically the entirety of Rust In Peace, and "Hyperdrive" broke into that tier. I credit Townsend's unique vision, as this is a track I could only imagine hearing from him.
Another standout: "Solar Winds." It serves as a microcosm of the entire album, succinctly combining the reports of one of Ziltoid's lieutenants (with a comically alien voice) and some of Townsend's trademark guitar work. This is a song you can return to and listen to on its own every so often, for a reminder of what a fantastic album Ziltoid surely is.
The latest offering from Devin Townsend is “interesting” to say the least. Although concept albums are nothing new to the genre of progressive metal, this particular concept is, dare I say, crazy. Only Townsend could possibly come up with the idea for an fourth-dimensional alien to come to Earth in search of the best coffee in the omniverse to fuel his time machine so that he can become “cool” by being the greatest guitar player to ever have lived. But the thing is that this humorous plot is only the advertised part of the album. What’s left for the listener to discover is the true treat. From the moment Ziltoid is denied assistance by the Planet Smasher, he has an epiphany of sorts, sending him on a journey to search for something more than just coffee. In his travels, he even meets up with the Omnisdimensional Creator, naturally a spaced-out hippy, who just tells him to “chill out, man”. In the end, it is revealed that this is just a dream of a worker in a Starbucks-like coffee shop. The beauty of this album is that it blends humor, a good plot, as well as excellent musicianship all into one album. As for the music, Devin does everything on his own and programmed the drums. At first, they sound very artificial, but after repeated listens, they seem like a better fit than a real drummer (although Gene Hoglan, his SYL drummer would have done an excellent job here). This is Devin’s heaviest solo work, but also his best–no question.
1. ZTO–The short opener immediately brings forth images of a sci-fi thriller, followed by an introduction by Ziltoid himself, stating his demand to the universe. It’s very heavy, yet does its job of setting up the story.
2. By Your Command–After such a short opener, we are hit with an 8 minute epic. This starts on a very heavy not, with Devin mixing frightening shouting vocals mixed with melodic clean vocals. Ziltoid emphatically states his greatness, in that “I am so omniscient, that if there were two omnisciences, I would be both!”. At about three minutes in, some nice guitar work adds a really nice “outer space travel” effect. After four and a half minutes, the song fades into a spoken-word part by Ziltoid, who is preparing his attack. The drums get louder and louder as the song progresses, getting more and more epic every few seconds. After a few rounds of this, , a spoken word part from an Earth general shows that Earth is getting ready for battle. Then the drums continue their epic acceleration, until about seven and three-quarters minutes in, where they get heavier and heavier, ominous of the impending clash between Ziltoid and planet Earth. This track is stellar, especially the drum programming.
3. Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!–Is this the moive Mars Attacks? Maybe not, but this sounds like it came right out of that movie. This is an all-out alien invasion right here. The heavy, but insanely catchy drums are quite memorable, and Devin’s harsh singing sets the mood perfectly. Here, the fact that the drums are programmed is more obvious here than anywhere else on the album when the drums get really fast at multiple points. Devin’s high-pitched vocals contrast the harsh ones very well, despite the fact that they’re probably there only for humor. “Ziltoid’s” guitar solo fits the story nicely, full of tasteless “guitar wankery”. This song continues on the perfect atmosphere created by the first two songs, and brings to a higher level. Even though the drums are programmed, they are outstanding here, and the guitar follows suit nicely.
4. Solar Winds–Here, we have the longest track on the album, clocking in at almost ten minutes. It opens with a narration by Devin, explaining that Captain Spectacular, fighting to defend Earth, has seen through Ziltoid’s facade and found out what he truly is–a nerd! After the extreme nature of the first three songs, we are treated to a very peaceful song here. Devin’s melodic clean vocals here are just beautiful. The guitar in the background is perfect–it plays a really simple set of a few notes, but it continues to create an excellent atmosphere. Devin’s vocals are progressively get louder and louder, in the role of Captain Spectacular, and then the drums kick in, building up for a nice segue to another beautiful melodic section. The guitar, drums and synth are all pretty heavy in the background, but the focus here are the vocals. Thing speed up soon, but quickly revert back to the slow tempo used before. A great shriek leads us into a dialog between Ziltoid and one of his “troops”, but then we get back to the slower part. One thing notable is that nothing gets repetitive–the instruments all do different things each time we are brough back to a softer section. Another shriek bring the song to silence, but then the instruments fade back in and get progressively faster–especially the drums. The track ends with Ziltoid being told that the human forces accelerated into “Hyperdrive” on their space ship. “Phooey,” Ziltoid states, “Phooey indeed.” It must have been difficult to fit a softer song in here, but this maintained the atmosphere, moved along the plot, and most importantly had great music.
5. Hyperdrive–This song sounds like a song from some of his other solo-works, in that it is a very melodic, mid-paced song that is veyr peaceful, but that still isn’t out of place on an album like this. The drums take a back seat here, and the guitar place a simple set of chords during the verses, and the chorus is very melodic. It’s heavier than “Solar Winds”, but not nearly as heavy as the other previous songs. Occasionally, the guitar and drum take the spotlight, with a nice riff as it nears the two minute part, but it then reverts back to the same pattern as before. This is not a humorous song, but instead a song following the humans’ attempted escape, where they eventually get to Nebulow Nine, but they don’t know that Ziltoid has already caught up. This is the least spectacular of the album so far, but this track serves its purpose–not to develop plot, but to simply create the atmosphere of a journey.
6. N9–This one opens with a great salvo of drums and vocals, in a high pitch shouting “Nine!” multiple times. The drums sound very similar to “Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!”, but that’s not a bad thing, as Devin’s melodic vocals work very well with this drum pattern too. The guitar is much heavier now, back to the style of the first three songs. An important plot twist is revealed here–Ziltoid states that he feels “vulnerable”, which does set the scene for the rest of the album. The synth in the background adds an extra “outer space feel” throughout the entire song, especially in the last minute, where it progressively speeds up, until it abruptly changes to a slower, chunkier riff that fades out. The humans have escaped, but what now for Ziltoid? This is also more of an atmospheric track along the lines of “Hyperdrive” than a plot-driven track, but the heavier sound makes it much more interesting.
7. Planet Smasher–I might be a bit biased here (I am planetsmasher!), but this is probably the best track on the album. It starts off with a little guitar section of slowly ascending volume, and while this is going on, Ziltoid is discussing with his crew that he will summon the sixth-dimensional Planet Smasher. The riff gets progressively chunkier and better as it ascends to the main section. Here, we are introduced to the first purely death metal-style harsh vocals, used for the Planet Smasher. They are excellent! The sounds very much like Johan Hegg’s vocals for Amon Amarth on their latest album, and that is quite a compliment. The lyrics are a bit odd, but very metal as well. This track alternates between the Planet Smasher singing the verse, and Ziltoid singing the chorus. The chorus is quite revealing of Ziltoid’s true scheme, but that’s not the main focus–it’s the performance itself. It is also excellent! It is very similar to “Namaste” (from Physicist) , except less harsh and more melodic, and the drums supporting it are excellent. Eventually, there is a short section alternating between the purely death metal vocals and Devin’s SYL-style harsh vocals that is very impressive. The synth is also very successful in it’s supporting role here. In the end, the Planet Smasher denies Ziltoid, and then reveals that his name is Herman and that he doesn’t like musicals, as the songs fades out with a heavy riff. There are many excellent tracks on this album, but this has everything at its best–guitars, drums, and vocals–all pushing along the plot and advancing this epic story.
8. Omnisdimensional Creator–This is just a spoken-word track, consisting of narration, and a dialog between Ziltoid and the Omnisdimensional Creator. Ziltoid’s quest has drastically altered at his point, going from a coffee hunt, to the point where he says that he sees “Modular forms and elliptic curves! Infinite fire revolving around infinite parallels fractals of infinite reality, each cascading, gliding in an infinite wheel. Tell me the true nature of my reality!”. The Creator, a hippy (as I said before in the intro), just tells him to chill out. How helpful. This is an entertaining track, but this part of the story could have been presented in song-format. That part about infinite fire would have been incredibly great as a song-lyric, but is instead put in this small interlude. A small break was needed, but this reveals so much about Ziltoid that it deserved it’s own song. Entertaining, but semi-disappointing.
9. Color Your World–This starts with a great drum intro, and gets right to the heavy part. This melodic vocal part reminds me slightly of the SYL song “Wrong Side” (from “The New Black”) at points and is very good. Devin alternates between his harsh and melodic vocals very nicely here, and the really deep vocals for about ten or fifteen seconds is very impressive. then, some synth comes in and continues the supportive atmosphere-setting role it has been playing for the whole album. It fits so well! Then we get a part that might as well be from an SYL album, with the guitars, drums bass, etc. all at their fastest and heaviest with Devin doing his trademark SYL scream. The song then goes into a softer section that is really beautiful. There is really no other word to describe it. Devin’s vocals are at their softest here, and the guitar is very atmospheric here. This continues on for awhile, and the, very death-metal-ish vocals also come in (not as death metal-ish as in “Planet Smasher”), and the contrast is excellent. The song slowly plods on in a tranquil manner. even when all of they synth stops, Devin sing peacefully over the guitar riff. That changes abruptly into some extreme, SYL-like screaming and heavy instrumentation. This song, also nearing ten minutes, is simply excellent. This is also more atmosphere-setting than plot driven, but still great.
10. The Greys–This is another song in the vein of “Hyperdrive”. Devin’s vocals are very peaceful, while the guitar takes the forefront. There are points where the song feels like it will hit a high climax, but it sticks to the main riff and vocals until the middle, where it changes for a second, goes back to the riffs, and then plays a very short solo. On it’s own, this is a very good song, but right after the extreme ending to “Color Your World”, this song is made even better, just by how simple the song structure is.
11. Tall Latte–This is the outro. It brings us into a conversation between two employees at a coffee shop, and one of them is waking the other up and telling them to make coffee. The employee who was sleeping was actually dreaming this entire story. The “frappe…shit” line makes me laugh each time. Simple, but fitting.
What makes this album so special is the creativity (coffee and aliens?!?!?), how well the plot moves along, and the great atmosphere created by the vocals, the instruments, and lastly, the lyrics. Although there might not be too much instrumental complexity, as I said, the atmosphere makes up for it. This is not a casual-listening album, and is best enjoyed in one full sitting, but thats not to say that any of the songs can’t stand on their own. This is an exceptional album, one of the best in progressive metal.
Maybe it's the cheap $30 scotch coursing through my veins at 5am, or the lingering remanents of Stuvyasent cigarettes smoke scorching whatever is remaining of my already corroded lungs but personally I find Devin Townsend's latest 'masterpiece' only entertaining at the very least. Don't get me wrong, I find myself giggling and enjoying the hybridisation of science fiction and utterly ludicrous situationality but that which is redeeming is lacking. No doubt Devin Townsend has become something of a cult figure in the metal scene with his polarising image that mirrors his very own bipoplar personality disorder; there are those who deem his 'progressive' works as being more profound than the prolific works of our millenia's greatest philosophers and scientists whilst others have something of a massive boner for his more uncomplicated and frankly, batshit insane songs of misanthropy and teenage-esque alienation. "Ziltoid the Omniscient" is a rather odd amalgamation of the the two 'sides' of Devin; at times it fucks around with his more progressive and ambient side such as within the track 'Hyperspeed' but it also flirts unabashedly with his desire to bash chords mindlessly and overlay the section with keyboards and industrial style samples ala Strapping Young Lad presented in tracks such as 'By Your Command' and 'Planet Smasher'. It tries to please many a crowd, appealing to both by offering sections time and time again to get their attention. It works because people are fucking idiots overall, but even my jaded self am rather smitten with this album... at times anyways.
The album quite obviously centres around an alien, Ziltoid who is seeking the perfect cup of coffee. He comes upon Earth and is taken aback by their shitty brew, something I can agree with at the very least and decides destruction is the most rational course of action. To be honest the whole album comes to together sounding more or less like a combination of a Futurama script forcibly merged with a metal album, albeit with no amusing jokes and gags peddled by Bender. Thank god he has the self-respect to not peddle out a Bender-esque character. Regardless the story is mostly enjoyable and provided you have more sense of humour than a hermit crab living in a the remains of a Pepsi Max can, it's rather easy to enjoy this surrealistic and ridiculous plot for what it's worth. Despite which is isn't much but it has enthralled me far more than any 'serious' plot perpetuated by the hordes of progressive bands, Symphony X anyone?
As previously mentioned the overall sound of the album straddles a line between SYL and Devin's personal progressive works. There is a clear element of keyboards and industrial effects throughout most, if not all tracks as a means to represent the intergalactic theme of the entire album. It works but at times the riffs themselves fall rather flat on their face. They're unimaginative and lack any real balls to them, simply filling the void in between and behind the dialogue, a device to ensure 'noise' is being made. We're listening to a metal album right? Noise is a PREREQUISITE motherfuckers! Or something like that... It also mamages to mention multiple dimensions, which again seems something that helps it attain some sort of science fiction status. Fuck logic or explanation to their appearance or signifigance within such an album, THAT'S FUCKING UNNECESSARY!!!!
Of course one could argue the whole comedical and non-serious nature of the album, and it's frequently considered to be an attribute that allows for this album to escape any sort of 'serious' review scores or analysis. Well fuck that I say, a review is a review redardless of the album, and right now the reviewer happens to be very drunk on vodka (please not that HALF of this review was written on a completely different day and thus the drink's menu 'changed'). All I can say is that the album leans far too heavily on it's comedic base and expects that all shall be forgiven because it can illicit laughter from your retarded husk of a form.
Despite all these flaws however, the album works to a degree. Whilst the guitars are rather cack except for an exceptionally wankish solo, that is a parody of itself really, everything else makes up for where they fail. All the instruments come together well in the song constructions and the music manages to suit the mood of the story rather exceptionally. At this point it's questionable to whether the story was molded to the music or the music was molded to the music, but that's beyond me since right now I'm finding it hard enough to actually type properly as it is. In fact the keyboards tend to be the far more adeptly constructed instrument out of the lot, then again with the sci-fi theme firmly at it's side there's little doubt that synths/keyboards wouldn't be a major part of the storytelling process really. Of course thanks to the overt SYL influences the drums are ball-busting loud and well, really fucking loud. I suppose drum-fetishists will be ready to wank themselves raw but the rest of us a left out in the cold dealing with a blizzard of double bass and blast beats. But yet again, it all works. It's terrible to admit that an album with piss poor guitar work is good, it feels as if though I should be preparing for Sepukku since I will quite readily shit all over a black metal album with poor guitar work but will let Mr.Townsend run rampant whilst smacking his guitar against a class of six-year olds. Maybe it's his rather fucking awesome skullet, being a man who will no doubt go bald like his father, I can't help but admire Devin's tenacity in maintaining long hair despite his well-developed chrome dome.
At this point I should really end the review and conclude that despite some of the failings in the instrumentation departments, Devin Townsend has managed to use song construction and themes to his advantage that salvage this potential wreckage. What you will take away from this album is varied since no doubt everyone will have their own approach and honestly there is an amusing little story and some rather talented tracks to enjoy. Personally I'd like to see Townsend keep his two musical projects seperate in the future as the juxtaposition between the two stylings is jarring to the point of hurting my neck. Still for you misty-eyed prog hippies you will eat this up for sure, the rest of us; proceed with caution.
Just when you thought the use of jazz instruments on The New Black was getting a bit zany, Hevy Devy comes back with a concept album so ridiculous, I don't blame anyone for writing it off.
I however would suggest against because this is one of the more interesting records I have heard in some time. From the broad vocal range to the ludicrous story, all weaved in a multi-layered musical extravaganza make this record for the least a difficult one to forget.
There are no standout tracks per say, rather it is the record inits entirety which constitutes the valor of this piece of work. "By Your Command" starts things off in a huge way, with epic industrial riffs Townsend has been known for making over the years. However my favorite track has to be "Solar Winds" which has a much calmer beginning than most of the other tracks with some very nice clean singing which once again gets layered with a multitude of harmonies and samples.
The music itself is very much what you would expect from a metal musical, or at least one that isn't power metal (Avantasia anyone?). The riffs are catchy and not so devastating, however have a rocking quality that keeps you entrenched. However it's Townsend's aura that really makes the magic happen. His vocal delivery is superb. The man ranges from cleans to high and low growls as well as the occasional pitched falsetto. Hell, he even has a great narration voice.
This record is fun. Musically it's worthy of the man's discography to date, and on top of that it's packed with ridicule and the usual omniscience Townsend has displayed throughout his storied career.
It's nice to see that such a respected artist doesn't necessarily have to always take himself so seriously. Horns up!
One look at my past reviews will tell you I love Devin Townsend. He's a gisgustingly prolific artist yet maintains a golden standard of quality like no other artist. He also sounds like no other artist or band out there, and yet his albums sound nothing alike. Not surprisingly, this album sounds nothing like his others, but has a problem this time. This album is pretty inconsistent, stemming from a bad mix of SYL and DTB solo stuff.
Don't get me wrong, there are times where the mix of SYL and DTB works, but it also throws in there a different kind of sound, close to SYL but with the angry passion turned into something else. Color Your World is one of the heaviest songs on the album, but actually works without really sounding like pure SYL. Besides the middle of course, which is a heavenly DTB-styled interlude. But these mixes work because the SYL stuff sounds like Alien or City more than anything else.
In terms of what SYL and DTB sounds he's taking, the Devin Townsend solo parts stuff sound like a mix of Infinity and Ocean Machine. This is a very good mix, let me tell you, and the soft parts work. Hyperdrive and The Greys sound like pure Ocean Machine with some Infinity thrown in. It sounds great.
The SYL-sounding stuff sounds like The New Black. Which is a problem. The New Black wasn't bad per se, but when combined with DTB-styled stuff, it just sounds messy and retarded. So when Devin combines his Alien and Infinity sounds a la Color Your World (mostly because Alien and Infinity really aren't that far away from each other), it works, but when he combines The New Black with his solo stuff, it sounds bad. N9 is one of the worst Devin Townsend songs ever, Ziltodia Attaxx has no power and sounds like a cheap SYL imitation, and the first four minutes of By Your Command are all over the place.
The real problem is that the stuff combining TNB with Infinity or Ocean Machine lacks the passion of SYL and the intimate presence of OM and Infinity. You're left with a rather vacant bland-sounding metal song which doesn't have a true direction, it's so torn. N9 is terribly written too, so that doesn't help it.When the album shines though, is when it takes Alien and Infinity and meshes them coherently into Devin's new sound. Or if he just takes one of the sounds of those albums.
The humor is ok the first time, but irritating after. It's detracting to have a one-minute build up to Planet Smasher, delaying and holding back a really good song. For what? For a crappy narrative. The story isn't even interesting. Whatever. It's inconsistent and suffers from too many different Devin Townsend sounds thrown together, but when eh actually finds the right mix, look out.
Songs to look for: Color Your World, Hyperdrive, The Greys, Planet Smasher
What can be said about Devin Townsend that hasn't been said a thousand times before? The kooky Canadian has made some of the most brilliant, insane, and memorable metal and prog of the last decade. The man is undoubtedly a genius, but sometimes genius permits fallibility. Such seems the case with his new entirely solo full-length (written, performed, recorded, mixed, and produced by Devy).
The ideas all seem to be in place for what would make a classic Devin Townsend release: a massive range of vocals starting at a King Diamond falsetto and running through brutal death growls, a concept about an alien coming to Earth to secure the Omniverse's finest cup of coffee, characters named Ziltoid and Captain Spectacular, spacey acid rock guitar noodling, and Lombardo-worship drumming.
The problem is Devin's desire to take the album completely over the top, and succeeding a little too well. Everything is mega-amplified. Gang choir vocals, silly spoken parts in every song, and esoteric Canuck humor don't serve to enhance the recording; they merely hinder what are great basic song ideas by dressing them up with too much pretense. If Devin had stripped this album down to its core, it would have been one of the best prog metal releases of all time; the writing is that good. Unfortunately, he became so wrapped up in his Ziltoid character that the final product suffered.
Don't get me wrong, this space opera is good for more than just a few laughs, and will definitely have you banging your head and introspectively pondering at times. But it's just too over-the-top to listen to very often, and isn't relistening value the most important thing for an album? This is ultimately novelty metal, best enjoyed with a friend and/or a brew.
A greenish humanoid of a wiry, thin physique, body shrouded in a visibly oversized cape, long strands of thick hair flowing from the sides of his otherwise bald, wormlike head. Despite his puny exterior, no doubt of his magnificance, let alone his willpower, is left in one's mind once he see the stern, decided look in his eyes as he looks on into the distance, one finger risen in proclamation of what goes on in his all-knowing mind. He is the ruler of many, the commander and subjugator of much of the ever-growing universe, confident in his untouchability. Yes, this is a paradoxal creature, one that has gained such awesome power through his cunning, influence and persistence. His name is Ziltoid the Omniscient. In his hand he holds a coffee mug.
Instead of taking a break from music to spend time with his newborn child like he announced after the release of Sychnestra with The Devin Townsend Band, everyone's favourite skullet-sporting megalomaniac has been working on another release under his initial solo name, Devin Townsend. This time he decided to bring to life a concept he made up in his childhood. As usual, he presents to us a whole new approach to his special brand of progressive metal. Much like the tragically misunderstood Physicist that most people view as a fall-between, Ziltoid The Omniscient is much heavier than what we're used to hearing from him under his various solo names, especially on ”By Your Command”, ”Ziltoidia Attaxx!” and ”Planet Smasher”. Compared to his previous works, tangents can be drawn between it and Infinity (though here the vocals are much higher in the mix), as the production and the heavy wall-of-sound layering that Devin Townsend is known for is very 'noisy' and loud unlike most of his releases. The themes are quite similiar, both being spacey albums, even though the approach each album takes couldn't be further apart. This makes the overall feeling constantly remind the listener of Infinity. Songs like ”Hyperdrive” and ”Solar Winds”, however are much more reminiscent of the Accelerated Evolution album due to their quite lofty nature, clear and simple guitar riffs and clear, soaring vocals with plenty of hooks. They are, however, a little more atmospheric and drawn out than most songs on that album.
The story of the alien lord Ziltoid begins as he demands Earth to hand over its finest bean to produce the ultimate cup of coffee for him to enjoy. Earth is the only place in the universe that can produce the highest quality of coffee, and Ziltoid needs this black nectar as fuel in order to bend time. The insolent humans however aren't willing to co-operate in a way that would appease Ziltoid, instead providing insufficient coffee and preparing to defend their planet to the last man. Their attempts are futile as the resulting war completely devastates Earth, leaving it in burning rubble. Earth's noble defender and hero, Captain Spectacular along with the remaining humans, decide to avenge the destruction of their home planet by exposing the fact that Ziltoid is a nerd. The plan backfires and the humans are forced to escape via hyperdrive.
The tracks are usually either began or ended with some short narrative dialogue to carry the story forward. I have to admit, when I first heard the first track, ”ZTO”, which is just a small intro that explains the beginnings of the story I thought it was quite awkward and cheesy. I also had the same feeling about the second entirely narrative track, ”Omnisdimensional Creator”. I was most likely not ready to accept a Devin Townsend record that would have such over-the-top humour. Once I got into the story I understood that they are important in the storytelling and the grand scale of things, even if they are not so in the purely musical aspects of the album. Beyond the two mentioned earlier, merely a few tracks (once again: ”By Your Command”, ”Ziltoidia Attaxx!” and ”Planet Smasher”) are really telling the story in their entirety. The rest have spoken parts to aid in storytelling and they mostly support the music very well, for example Captain Spectacular's monologue in ”Solar Winds”, and especially later in the same song Ziltoid's discussion with his underling after the long atmospheric instrumental break. It manages to come by surprise and pull the listener back into the story from that hypnotized state the later half of the song creates. This is what makes the narration important; the actual lyrics do not contain much of the actual storytelling, but are moreso the character's introspection (and thus probably Devin's) and the usual intricate streams-of-thought that we've come to expect on every Townsend release. Without the spoken parts, the story simply would not come through. The way it works now is that the story conveyed by the narration wraps the more serious issues in a protective foam. As such, this album is much more profound than what it initially appears to be, and sort of hides its many facets beneath the fantastical sci-fi themes.
With hyperdrive the humans make their way to the Nebulo 9, only to be ambushed by Ziltoid's forces. An epic battle ensues, but is left undecided with Ziltoid having to go out for extra backup. He then goes on to awake the 6th dimensional planet smasher in order to ”have a bit of fun”, and defeat the foul humans and to bring the conflict to an end in his favour. Alas, he is rejected by the planet smasher, who does not deem him worthy of his allegiance. Left dumbfounded by the two defeats he has suffered in such a short period of time Ziltoid, who thought himself to be an infallible being, developes an identity crisis and goes to see the Omnisdimensional Creator for answers. The Creator happens to be a pothead.
Though classable as progressive metal, this album (like all other Devin Townsend records) shows very few signs of the usual prog rockish technical wankery. To compensate a lot of changes in time signatures are to be found here, as well as complex song structures. The instrumental styles on this album are highly expressive, which is an obvious result of the fact that the album is entirely written, played and produced by Devin Townsend himself. He is much more in touch with how he wants to album to play out, so to speak, than he was on the The Devin Townsend Band records, and even his previous solo works on this name. The guitarwork in general is very reminiscent of the 'dreamy', drawn out passages of the Accelerated Evolution album. There is some traces of his Strapping Young Lad material in ”Ziltoidia Attaxx!” and ”Planet Smasher”, in the sense that they are unmistakably heavier than the rest, though especially the latter has much more ambience present underneath the surface to be mistaken for the Lad. The drumming, even in the absence of Devin's usual henchman Gene Hoglan, is especially heavy and the fact that it is made with Drumkit From Hell isn't too obvious or irritating though some corners have audibly been cut in places, as often is the case when drum machines are used. Synths, as always, are used merely to paint the background and not to draw any attention to themselves. It's probably quite redundant to mention the fact that Devin Townsend is an amazing vocalist at this point, but I suppose it has to be pointed out once again. He sings, screams and growls his way through the album in an inimitable manner and the main attraction (if it weren't for the combined awesomeness of various things) are his vocals. Even the narrated parts sound distinguishable as he changes his tone for each character.
From this point onwards the story becomes a little hazy and hard to get. One thing is clear though, Ziltoid comes to the realization that he is just a puppet. Same thing applies to the music, ”Color Your World” and ”The Greys” very much remind me of the latter half of the Synchestra album, specifically ”Judgement” and ”A Simple Lullaby”, though less repetitive and more like the rest of the stuff on this album. That said they're long, still quite repetitive and kind of directionless and all over the place. ”Color Your World” is easily the worst track on the album, even though it could easily have been saved by cutting the middle part down a little as this song really suffers due to its length. ”The Greys” is much better and serves as a perfect ending track for the album in pretty much every way, only to be brought down a little by the ”Tall Latte” outro which seems a bit too much like an easy way out. Such grandiose storyline could've done better with an ending that met its standards. That said, I won't complain too hard as it works just fine this way too and I guess strenghtens the point I made earlier about the sci-fi story of this album only being allegerorical, and actually carrying a real life lesson for all the people who make the same mistake as Ziltoid: take themselves too seriously and get caught up in the illusion that they're some kind of an infallible being. In that situation, one might just find themselves being exposed as who they really are and get knocked out of balance. Whether I make any sense at all or am even close to the mark with this, there is one important lesson this album teaches for sure.
"You gotta chill man."
The crazy metal man, the musical genius embraces us with his new sick, complicated music. Ziltoid introduces himself to us in the intro and gives us five earth minutes to make him a decent cup of coffee. After that, the unearthly progressive, atmospheric, atonal yet powerful and mechanic music takes charge.
The guitar tone is very bight and typical of industrial metal. They are sometimes reinforced with echo effects. The bass guitar is not especially significant. Keyboards are widely used in almost all songs to create the typical Devin atmosphere. Space effects are used pretty often just as in Nocturnus – Thresholds album, but surely more than that. This album is like an audio portion of a space movie. The tempo fluctuates throughout the album and even within the songs. A heavy song can have a catchy ballad part within (see: Solar Winds). In N9 there is an oriental melody as well.
It’s no doubt that Devin’s singing is as smashing as his musicianship. Devin’s vocals have a very wide range again. The story parts are told in clean speaking tones and in dialogs which make it easier to follow. He sings in hardly audible whispers, speaking tone, screams, heavy metal style clean vocals and anger driven aggressive tones. You can sometimes recall King Diamond’s vocals. Each character in the story is vocalized in a different tone. One you start listening to the songs, they follow each other and you don’t understand how time passes by.
The downsides of the album for me are the use of a drum machine instead of mighty Hoglan (who I believe is a machine, too) and the lack of guitar solos. The drumming is actually good and not irritating. However, Gene could have made it better. Devin must have added some guitar solos to the album, too. There’s not a single decent guitar solo. In fact, the dialogs, atmosphere, and everchanging tempo keeps your concentration up without the need of a guitar lead. But, I believe that it would just spice up the album.
In conclusion, I believe that this is the best Dev album I have listened to so far, both in terms of songwriting and musicianship. It improves more over several listenings. Producing a concept album takes a good story and a good way of narration aside from meaningful musical integration among the tracks. This album is where you can find them all. Absolutely a must for each metaller’s collection.
I had very high hopes for this album. Its got a stab of humour and it's Devin Townsend, who is probably the funniest man in metal without being a dick and to me is a certified genius. This latest opus though is worryingly middle of the road in most ways. This album, a concept work based around a puppet show he's devised whereby an alien named Ziltoid (the omniscient) arrives at earth and demands coffee to... well that's not immediately clear on the album, although on his Myspace Ziltoid states he uses it to bend time.
The first problem is that here is a brilliant idea for a story. A seemingly endless supply of ideas for amusing dialogue and jokes on the album like on the Punky Brewster album 'Cooked on Phonics', and Devin said that 'Ziltoid...' would be in a similar style, mixed with SYL. 'Cooked on Phonics' is a hilarious album, parodying pop-punk, death metal and the fickle nature of mainstream music business. This album is weak on the humour side. Worryingly weak. For a man of Devin's immagination and wit this is very moderate indeed. There are some good bits that make you laugh the first time you hear them but that's it. The story itself is very difficult to follow and throws in characters with hardly any explanation. You're not even sure if the earth is destroyed following track 3, and someone pops up called 'Captain Spectacular' who then promptly disappears again. The 'planet smasher', who appears on the track of the same name, is equally difficult to hear in the song and at this point in the story it's not even clear where in the Universe this stuff is taking place.
Putting the story to one side, the music itself is fair but the words I would use are again the same; 'average', 'mediocre', 'middle of the road', basically think the recent SYL album 'The New Black' and remove the edgey bits and you have what this album roughly resembles. Dev is a musician who I, rightly or wrongly, as well as a fair number of people, have high expectations of and it does mean that I'm a difficult guy to please when it comes to anything he makes. His music in the past has been marked by nearly insane levels of creativity, immagination, ingenuity, variety and extremnity. Nothing he has done can be said to be done half way or down the middle, and I have found his music to be at his best when it's the most extreme. No, that doesn't mean that I think this album should be heavy as hell from start to finish. It does mean that I like his work because it's done with maximum fuckyeah-itude. If he's gonna do a peaceful ambient album ('Synchestra', 'the Hummer') he'll take it to the ultimate conclusion. If he wants to do an album mentally crumbling apart and sounds like the universe going into supernova ('Alien') or just plain celestial bonkers ('Infinity') likewise he will excel.
This album though is the only one of his that is sounding like something I didn't think I'd ever say of a Devin Townsend album; mild. The album starts off fun with 'ZTO' and "Ziltoidia Attakks!!!' which is bouncy and thankfully not too long like 'color your world' (that should be spelt 'colour' but let the Americans slaughter english if they need to) and songs like 'by your command' which are in excess of 8 mins. Despite this meant to be being a humourous album the majority of tracks are quite sober and before long you get a gentle lengthy introspective track like 'Solar Winds'. 'Solar Winds' is probably the best track on the album to use as a yardstick for most of the record, which is a benevolent, gentle sort of sound, with some slight 'spacey' atmospherics thrown in. It is cool. It is groovy. But it's not amazing, not by a long shot.
The guitar tone is too thin, the dialogue is difficult to hear, and the drums have an unpleasant rubbery-like sound about them which overpowers the guitar parts. There's good use of effects but I can't help feeling that it should sound some how thicker as a sound overall.
Personally I think I'm being a bastard, but I want Dev to be the bi-polar crazy man because that's when he makes his best and most dizzying music. It seems he's calming down following the birth of his new son and the mental exhaustion that must have followed the creation of 'Alien' (for which he stayed off his medication). Unfortunately it seems that we may end up with calmer, milder more sane albums as a result, and whilst I'm pleased for him because bi-polar is a crap condition to be afflicted with, I can't help but wonder if it's going to make his music sound tamer.
'Ziltoid the Omnisicent' should be approached as light hearted fun. It's not hilarious like Punky Brewster, nor is it breath-taking or his best work like Ocean Machine. It is, however, pleasant and fun with undemanding easy-going music for a lazy afternoon. It's laid back, philosophical in atmosphere and is implied at the album's conclusion to be the day dream of an employee working in a coffee shop; that should tell you something. Don't listen to this expecting wonders or astounding hilarity. Just listen, relax and think of coffee...although personally I'm a tea man.
It is interesting how difficult one would find it to actually get into this album and take it seriously. Every time the flow of the music grabs me and forces me to pay attention for fear of missing one of Devin’s subtle accentuations, he chimes in with a “You have not convinced mighty Ziltoid…” or “Phooey! Indeed… phooey!!!” But nevermind that. This is a puppet show soundtrack, kind of like Diabolical Masquerade’s “Death’s Design” except this album seems to have been formulated under a state of mind of Devin now having a child to entertain. Something tells me Townsend used to be a huge fan of Thunderbirds, but anyway. “Ziltoid the Omniscient” is an incredibly refreshing album in that we now have evidence of Devin truly not needing anyone other than himself to generate an album of significant quality comparative to everything else he’s ever done.
I like this album for two main reasons. Firstly, this album serves as a big middle finger pointed right in the face of Strapping Young Lad and Century Media. I seriously hope SYL disbands, I mean, Devin and his crew had everything together on “City” and then not only started going downhill on their self-titled, but smashed canonically into rock bottom as soon as the intro was over. Man that was disappointing. The rest of the SYL discography had only a handful of good songs sparsely distributed throughout, which accurately demonstrates that Devin is an album writer, not a song writer. Somebody should have told him that one should never sacrifice raw punky, thrash riffs for bullshit “core” stylings. So now with the Ahmish Rumble in shambles, Ziltoid comes in to play. Its epic, its clever, its fucking funny, its anthemic, its diverse… its everything that dumbass SYL fanboys hate, and if SYL fanboys hate it, so does Century. All of that being said, I must interject now with another charming aspect of Ziltoid: there are only two tracks on the album that could be considered SYL material. The first being the opener that is too funny not to like, and the other, “Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!” This particular song is interesting because with the synthesized drum blastbeats, Devin’s high-pitched screaching and the theme, this song almost, almost, ALMOST sounds like Gigantic Brain. I say almost because, among other things, Giganitc Brain has better riffs. People probably won’t like this GB namedrop, but hey, “Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!” really made me feel like aliens were invading.
The second reason why I like this album is that similar to much good cinema, literature and conceptual music, the ending puts everything in perfect perspective, and leaves a lingering interest by substantiating why the album was written. It isn’t a mystery or anything, those who actually understand Townsend’s music will be able to put two and two together. The final track, which isn’t even a song, unveils how Devin establishes himself as Joe Everyman (he did this on “Terria” too), and further illuminates that the epic story, the characters, the enormous wealth of music and layered synthetics were all one vivid daydream designed to distract him from how shitty and redundant his job is; a coffee vendor! Canada is owned by Tim Horton’s, so it really doesn’t surprise me that the whole point behind “Ziltoid the Omniscient” is simply that there is no direct enlightenment or sumation, its about a guy who hates his job. And when all is said and done, serving coffee to a bunch of snobby, caffine-deficient pricks all day really makes a guy wish someone would just come along and give the earth the good old fuckstabdeath for an incredibly inane reason.
Now, let’s take a gander at the specific musical content for a second. We have everything that makes Townsend a distinct musician present. He’s gone back to writing long songs, ranging from 8 to 9 minutes in duration, while building up shorter songs to bridge gaps in the album and the plot. The majority of Ziltoid ranges from mid-paced to slow, and is immeasurably dense with atmosphere throughout. The previous point is the reason why I personally don’t consider “Planet Smasher” SYL material, its too ripe with ambience (it even reaches a cadence of layered singing vocals) and the lyrics are far too specific in their story telling. That’s another downside to SYL, they’ve always had shitty lyrics. Which is escpecially annoying seeing as how just one Dark Angel song places Gene Hoglan on a taller lyricism pedistal than Townsend. And that brings us to Gene, man what a drummer. The guy was drumming for Dark Angel in ’86 when some believe thrash was perfected. Why not just use him? He’s the Atomic Fucking Clock!!! No drum machine in the whole world could substitute for him. I give props to “Ziltoidia Attaxx!!!” for reminding me of Gigantic Brain, but using Gene would have not only saved Devin a lot of time and stress, but the album would have sounded much better too.
So yeah, this is one big, fat, green, extraterrestrial monster of an album, but it definitely has its flaws. Though I will admit “By Your Command” and “Solar Winds” are my new favorite songs by Townsend, you die-hard fans can rest assured that the holy trinity of Ocean Machine, Infinity and City still stake the claim for Devin’s best and most awe-inspiring work.
When I heard the first word on this album, my expectations were very, very high. Balding Bipolar Canadian 'Heavy' Devvy Townsend making a concept album about (aboot?) a four dimensional alien threatening to blow up planet Earth unless they provide him with the universes ultimate cup of coffee??
Yes please, thought I. I was further intrigued to discover that Devvy was taking control of all the playing on the album and production duties! Ordinarily this would be a cause for concern, but for Devster it merely gives him the opportunity to totally realise his vision.
Musically, this album is absolutely flawless, showcasing all of Devin's different styles, including some of his heaviest non-SYL material ever (the driving riffs and double bass onslaught of Ziltoidia Attaxx!) right through to some of his most mellow and relaxing pieces at the other end of the spectrum (the quasi ambient Solar Winds), with a perfect mix of heavier songs, atmospheric slower songs and (hilarious) narrative interludes; from a compositional point of view, this is Townsend's most accomplished work. Indeed! The strongest individual song on the album is probably "Planet Smasher", with some excellent riffs and weird otherworldy vocals from Townsend (Please do not release the planet smasher mighty Ziltoid). Devin's vocals are also a major strong point of this album, as the diversity of his music allows him to use his full range, insane shrieks and well delivered clean vocals.
Lyrically this album really comes into its own. The bizarre and amusing storyline is developed and given life with Devvy's unique eccentric style, using a number of different voices to simulate the various characters, and what a bright and colourful cast they are! I don't want to give too much of the story away (The name's Herman...and I hate musicals!), but I will say that judging by the ending, Devin took a few notes from Arjen Lucassen when he was involved with his Human Equation album. I also wonder whether or not the musical Return to the Forbidden Planet influenced Devvy at all - if he's even heard of it, I'm not sure.
Ziltoid The Omniscient is a surreal, heavy, funny, clever and listenable album which IMO is his best yet. You better believe it humans! So yeah, in the words of the trailerpark boys, kick back, roll a six paper joint, get fucking wrecked and listen to this album!