Sunday, February 16, 2014

Devin Townsend, Ziltoid the Omniscient

As with movies, most sequels in music should never be made. But I'm excited to see that the relentless Devin Townsend is recording a follow-up to 2007's Ziltoid the Omniscient. It will be convenient to have something, anything else to compare to the original.

Townsend, Canada's most prominent metalhead who isn't in Rush, could be considered death metal's Les Claypool--irreverent, constantly hopping in and out of projects, almost comically prolific but inarguably talented. He may be the only figure in history to make proficient death metal sound tossed off, maybe because he writes lyrics like this. If Ziltoid is any indication, Heavy Devy probably spent most of his formative years reading Mad and Heavy Metal.

Ziltoid the Omniscient, which made more metalheads reach for a dictionary than any record since Carcass' Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious, tells the story of an alien visiting earth in search of the ultimate cup of coffee. The skits and sound effects are laugh out loud funny, but of course the real draw is the music, a hypermelodic set of death metal that feels more fleshed out than Townsend's work in Strapping Young Lad but just as unpredictable. Nearly all of the music here is Townsend, programmed in part with Drumkit from Hell (Meshuggah's Fredrik Thordendal's software) and with prodigiously laid out industrial-tinged guitars, bass and keyboards. As far as death metal rock operas go, it's even pretty accessible, with discernible, clean-sung hooks in abundance.

When it first arrived, Ziltoid felt like a diversion from Strapping Young Lad, a fun project from a musician with more ideas than he could handle. But seven years on, Ziltoid plays like a major harbinger in a genre that had gone stale, a re-imagining of what death metal could be and the first big step in the solo career of metal's skulleted mad scientist.

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