Rejoice, the opening track off of Sky Blue

There are very few individuals these days in any genre of music who could wear the title of 'mad genius' and do it justice, but Devin Townsend has been doing that since before he dissolved Strapping Young Lad. He's always done everything with a smile and a sense of slightly ironic and self-deprecating humor but the music speaks for itself. He is an artist who is constantly pushing his own boundaries and experimenting with the merging of different genres. On his last album, Casualties of Cool (featuring Ché Aimee), Devy departed from the glorious, futuristic gospel-choir laden pop-metal of Epicloud and gave us a... classic country-western album? Wait, what? At least it starts that way and then gets amazingly weird and atmospheric... but, let's just say it's another case of Devin mashing things together that shouldn't make sense but, with him at the helm, it somehow works.

Devin embraced crowdfunding to do Casualties of Cool, and he exceeded his target by, well, lots, and any remaining money, he decided, would go to a long-awaited sequel to 2007's Ziltoid the Omniscient. That first Ziltoid album was sort of an exorcism of SYL from his system, sort of a strange chaotic catharsis born of new sobriety and impending fatherhood. The reality of a sequel didn't come into play until after his success with the funding of Casualties of Cool, though it was often asked about, and Devin seemed to waffle on whether or not it would happen. And yet, with everything, there is a give and take. There was demand for a follow-up to Epicloud as well, and so, long story short, Devin and the Project agreed to make it a double album, one being a DTP record and the other the sequel to Ziltoid.

The first disc, Sky Blue, could be considered a sequel of sorts to Epicloud. It's definitely in that same vein of majestic pop-based prog metal that's full of hooks and driving rhythms, but it is a bit more diverse than its predecessor. It's a journey that is best started at the very beginning and listened to, without interruption, till the end (but you can jump in mid-stream on this if you prefer). The music is all over the place, from pop-inspired metal of Fallout to the Pink Floyd sounding Midnight Sun to the Rob Zombie-ish pounding of Silent Militia, to the slow-drowning feel of Rain City. Yet it's coherent and flowing, like a trip from the origin of a river down to the point where it meets the ocean. And if that's not enough, the album itself dovetails nicely with the second disc, Dark Matters... but that's getting ahead of ourselves for the moment.

Anneke von Giersbergen lends her angelic voice to the DTP once again, providing soaring backing vocals and contrasting leads to Devin's operatic tenor. Not enough good things can be said about her voice, it's one of the best in any style of music. The rest of the band is, as usual, tip-top, and while the albums are overproduced, they're kind of meant to be. If Glee didn't suck and the cast did metal songs, this would be pretty close.

Sky Blue is a very accessible album that has many songs on there that will stick in your head, laced through with dreamy passages and interludes that will leave you floating. The album ends that way, trailing off into the ether with a mostly a capella duet that seems to effortlessly lead into Dark Matters.


March of the Poozers, the second stage of the invasion of Earth by the War Princess from Dark Matters

I know what you're thinking.

HERE is where it gets weird? Well, yeah. See, Ziltoid began as a figment of the imagination of an overworked barista. Ziltoid, who started life as a puppet that literally has hair from Devin's shorn skullet, is an alien from the fourth dimension intially bent on attacking Earth and plundering it for coffee. He was ultimately foiled by the efforts of Captain Spectacular (who returns here voiced by Chris Jericho). This time, however, Ziltoid has a budget and there is a new arch-nemesis- Blattaria, the War Princess, leader of the Army of Poozers. Earth is once again the battleground between the humans, Ziltoid, and now the War Princess, whose army of Poozers invades after Ziltoid kidnaps one of them.

See, if you are lost on this right now, you probably won't like this. Dark Matters is not a collection of songs the way Sky Blue is, it is one giant song that listens the way a sci-fi movie plays, kind of like an inversion of Repo: The Genetic Opera, but not as cheesy. Cheesier in some ways, though. There are breaks for dialogue and plot turns and narration but it's meant to be heard as a whole. While you can pick a track or two out and enjoy it, it's much more enjoyable to hear the whole way through and it makes far more sense. In fact, the best way to hear this is to start with Sky Blue and work all the way through to the end of Dark Matters.

There's not much else I can say. There aren't a lot of artists who reach like this and somehow make it work. This is to metal what The Wall is to classic rock- ambitious, daring, imaginative, and most of all.., really fucking good. If I can't sum it up, I'll just let Devin do it.