There are few records that have been anticipated as keenly as the sequel to Devin Townsend's completely unexpected, utterly hilarious interstellar rock opera Ziltoid The Omniscient, about the power mad (and secretly devastatingly nerdy) titular alien overlord and his quest for universal domination (and coffee). Word of a sequel has been batted around for years now, as the character of Ziltoid has evolved and his mystique increased via epic live performances, a radio show and, most recently, ZTV (complete with fully articulated puppet). After the PledgeMusic campaign to fund Townsend's most recent project, Casualties of Cool, the abundant surplus funds were devoted to that long-awaited sequel.
Z² is more than fans were expecting — almost exactly twice more, in fact. It's a double record, composed of Sky Blue (a classic Devin Townsend Project record in line with Addicted or Ki) and Dark Matters, the true sequel to the 2007 rock opera, the original Ziltoid. Sky Blue is profoundly accessible, replete with hooks and featuring some truly exquisite duets between Townsend and Anneke van Giersbergen, especially "A New Reign." But Dark Matters is the real star of this show, even more vast and theatrical that fans could have hoped for. The density, the bombast, and the midway-level performativity of "From Sleep Awake" set the stage perfectly, while "War Princess" has a depth and ferocity that the first Ziltoid record merely gestured towards. The richness of the sound is so complex it can be difficult to process, in the very best way; it's a record painted in shades of sublimity.
As wonderful as it sounds recorded, there is no doubt that Dark Matters is meant to exist on stage, making 2015's planned live extravaganza at the Royal Albert Theatre in London even more exciting. As Townsend's vision develops, it's clear the composer and multi-instrumentalist is no longer thinking in terms of the unit of the record, and more in conceptual universes, which Z² is proof of. It's a record that clearly can't be contained by its own boundaries. (Hevy Devy)