Taking the Plunge

I’ve always wanted to get into the weird and wonderful music of Devin Townsend, but for some reason I’ve never listened to a complete album of his. Towards the end of last year he released a double album entitled Z2 (pronounced zed squared for the musically pedantic) and I took it as a sign to give Devin Townsend a proper chance.

It may have taken a further six months from this moment of clarity, but finally I have a copy of the double album sitting beside me as I write this blog post. The album consists of one Devin Townsend Project record, entitled Sky Blue and a second disc entitled Dark Matters, which is the sequel to the infamous Devin Townsend solo album Ziltoid the Omniscient. As a relatively new fan to the world of Devin, I shall be saving the Ziltoid experience for another time, focussing instead on the slightly less indulgent first disc.

Like predecessor Epicloud (intended to be read both ways), Sky Blue encompasses a whole spectrum of styles, rather than sticking to a specific sound like the original four DTP records set out to do. However the overarching theme to the album is beauty. Nowhere is this more apparent than with second track Fallout, where Devin’s operatic vocals combine with Anneke van Giersbergen’s (of The Gathering fame, as well as from her frequent collaborations) soaring voice, producing a blanket of gorgeous aural pleasure. The same technique is used for both Midnight Sun and The Ones Who Love, which are soft and gentle songs that transport you through layers of melodic waves and subtle melodic hooks.

Less subtle, yet equally addictive, are Sky Blue and Silent Militia. Both of which take inspiration from pop, the former from Usher’s DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love and the latter from Will.I.Am’s music and Dead or Alive’s You Spin Me Round (Like a Record), creating some kind of musical equivalent to homeopathy. Universal Flame also incorporates elements of pop, having a catchy chorus and a standard pop structure, whilst utilising dynamics to build an all-consuming wall of sound in the chorus, creating a real sense of euphoria. This is a feeling that is continued with the epic Before We Die, which after a droning instrumental section flows into the short outro The Ones Who Love.

Much of the album manages to incorporate metal into the beauty formula. A New Reign begins where Midnight Sun left off, before turning, in an instant, into a metal track with harmonic minor intervals and unsettling atmospheres. Rejoice also uses the juxtaposition between the two styles, except it mixes a heavy instrumental backdrop and a raw Devin vocal style with Anneke’s catchy vocal refrain, similar to the way that Anneke’s voice glides on top of Warrior’s rougher musical foundation. Rain City is a lengthy track that once again shifts focuses with each new section, cycling between crunching chords and segments that float like a light summer breeze, which then transform into the relaxed atmosphere’s of Forever.

Sky Blue is an invitation into the inner workings of Devin Townsend’s mind and provides a chance to sample many of his different personal styles, ranging from the immediate pop track, through grandiose operatic moments and into the dark metallic tones that lurk sporadically across the record. As a first true taste of Devin Townsend, I can honestly say that I’m hooked and can’t wait to delve even deeper into his already vast discography.

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– James


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