Devin Townsend – Dark Matters (2014)
If you ask me, Dark Matters is a big budget re-imagining of its illustrious predecessor. It’s probably musically closer to Deconstruction than the first Ziltoid album, and within the context of Devin Townsend’s musical approach, it has a stronger narrative. I’d say that in these various regards it’s a pretty typical sequel. We’d still best take a look at what this means for Dark Matters, because otherwise all those optimistic people who read about Ziltoid #1, or even just Sky Blue (the other half of Z²) would end up somewhere else, somewhere distinctively not written by me. We can’t have that, can we?
Like Deconstruction before it, Z² is an album of guests held together by its main creative personality. It contains a couple of guest vocalists, although none of them seem to have the fame of Anneke van Giersbergen. Devin Townsend still acts as our main vocalist, using a variety of techniques to perform all sorts of characters. His narrations, in particular, are particularly useful in this regard, perhaps too useful! Remove them (as the alternate dialogue free version of Dark Matters does), and you lose a lot of the conceptual unity that makes this a Ziltoid album. Given that this is more story driven than any of its predecessors… well, let’s hope you don’t find the dialogue interludes annoying. I personally didn’t, but anyone who does is getting their experience gutted.
Perhaps the only thing we haven’t heard on prior Devin Townsend albums is the “Universal Choir” – mass fan vocal participation that appears on a couple of these tracks. Otherwise, this is a formula we’ve heard before, even if the actual recombinations are different. Tracks here are more compact than they were in the past, although there’s a few outliers – “War Princess” and “Earth” come to mind pretty quickly if you look at the tracklist. I suppose nobody involved in the project really wanted to change up the formula too much. Personally, I can’t complain, because Devin does this sort of thing pretty well, and massive genre shifts are not without their potential pitfalls.
Given what I thought about the other half of Z², it might be reasonable to say the entirety of it is a “safe” album, suitable for anyone who enjoyed previous efforts by its creator. As a reimagining, Dark Matters is unique enough to stand on its own, and without the sheer aggression at all costs of other aspects of the Devyverse (like Strapping Young Lad), it’s certainly easier to acclimate to. Anything else on this subject is redundant at best.
Highlights: “Ziltoidian Empire”, “War Princess”, “Ziltoid Goes Home”