Devin Townsend

Ziltoid the Omniscient

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Ziltoid the Omniscient is a rock opera about Ziltoid, an alien who approaches Earth and asks for the planet's "ultimate cup of coffee." Finding it "fetid," he attacks. However, the narrative isn't highly evolved. The humans escape his clutches, Ziltoid suffers a number of setbacks (and resulting existential crises), and the end implies that it was all just a dream. But while Devin Townsend won't win any screenwriting awards, his production and songwriting are peerless. Like his other projects, including metal band Strapping Young Lad, this record carries Townsend's signatures -- bright melodies, heavy guitars, complex composition, clear production, and tongue-in-cheek grandeur. Townsend's work is consistently excellent, but here he fully taps his mad genius for an incredibly compelling experience. On this solo effort, he's responsible for all instruments, a fearsome array of singing voices, and programming "the Drumkit from Hell," a software drum set used on Meshuggah's Catch Thirty-Three. "By Your Command" recasts Pink Floyd as technical death metal; it's an eight-minute behemoth that morphs from pulverizing metal to rich vocal harmonies and luscious arpeggios, interspersed with cinematic dialogue. With its sonorous singing and poppy chords, "Hyperdrive" could be a radio hit on Mars. "Solar Winds" grows from a heavy crawl into a thermonuclear storm of thundering riffs and cascading melodies. The nearly ten-minute "Color Your World" features Townsend's most endearing trademark -- setting up a bed of punishing metal, then pulling the rug out to reveal beautiful, classically influenced arpeggios. This is music as Technicolor, vividly exploding from the mind of modern metal's Frank Zappa.

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