Devin Townsend – Z2: Sky Blue (2014) – This first offering from the Canadian musical wizard actually has nothing to do with the Ziltoid storyline, but it seems to be even stronger than the main course! You see, Accelerated Evolution, Terria and Addicted! seem to have come together to form this disc, which begins with the modern electronic meets slight middle-eastern elements of “Rejoice” as the Accelerated Evolution style takes flight in “Fallout” which is definitely a highlight in my book. “Midnight Sun” could be compared to “Rain” although it adds a mesmerizing solo section in addition to Anneke’s vocal touches, which come forth as simply magical. “A New Reign” seems like it could have been on Synchestra, while “Universal Flame” takes the electronic pop-rock approach utilized in Epicloud, making for an ultimately catchy piece that will be reverberating around in your head for days, or even weeks to come. “Warrior” continues the electronics, but adds a bit more metallic muscle to the piece as it unleashes an overall atmosphere. There’s a chorus, but it’s wrapped up in a great deal of mist and keys, which makes it more of a soundscape than anything else. But if you were looking for a catchier and more danceable (and yes, I do mean danceable) chorus, then the album’s title cut will certainly provide that little treat, as you find yourself also enraptured by dance club beats. This is really the first time that I’ve ever heard Devin Townsend’s music so dance floor friendly, but it’s definitely something you wouldn’t mind hearing at the club (you know, besides all that “butt music” they play nowadays.) “Silent Militia” continues to show that Devin Townsend has somehow become influenced by this dance-pop stuff that is on the radio, TV and internet, but it seems like he’s given it muscle, harsh vocals and rock riffs. Yet, I’d much prefer this to acts like Imagine Dragons and Fallout Boy. “Rain City” is the longest track here, as it rolls into thick atmospheres that almost sound like the soundtrack to a holiday commercial for a corporation of some sort. Albeit there are also some Indian elements and total psych-out moments to the piece as well. “Forever” has a certain air of maturity about it, showing that Devin Townsend’s musical range is far more than just that of progressive and extreme heavy metal, as this piece sounds like Danny Elfman being sucked into a black hole. “Before We Die” comes next, pushing its way out of that black hole as a major heavy hitter. This one also features (like several other tracks) the Universal Choir, which is composed of multitudes of sound clips from nearly everyone on the planet. I don’t think it’s humanly possible to discern every one of them, but just consider it the collective of “we” and leave it at that. This is the voice of the Earth itself backing Devin Townsend, on a song speaks for itself. More atmospheres are observed, right before the album’s misty ballad, “The Ones We Love.” It almost sounds like a hymn, bringing a sense of love and passion to the entire disc. This is definitely the sound of a man matured, far from the days of Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing (although I’ll never forget that album) and moving towards something more enlightened and passionate. I recall Devin Townsend saying in a recent interview that if there’s a moment in his career that he would look back on, then Z2 would certainly be it. Yet with an album as monumental as this, I can certainly see why. Sky Blue might not have gotten the recognition that it deserves as being a mere side offering to the Ziltoid story, but this is absolutely no kind of silly little bonus disc. It’s a fulfilling meal that you’ll certainly be going back to for many years to come. If for some reason you thought that Z2: Dark Matter was a wee bit childish, then the real meat of the package is certainly lodged within the confines of this misty masterpiece. Devin Townsend has certainly done it again!
(12 Tracks, 57:00)