Satire in the Age of Letters and Technology- more than just a pinch of it.
By: Ramya Patnaik
My exams are over but certain enterprising members of The Saltlist have decided to go on a ‘pre-exam assignment submission’ flashback. This is I presume, the first article under the music section of The Saltlist. To make life easier for myself, I’ve decided to do a little introduction-to-artist kind of piece. It also helps of course that I’ve recently started listening to a hitherto ‘kept in deep freeze for future consumption’ artist. Wussa everybody! Say hello to DEVIN TOWNSEND.
Those familiar with extreme metal outfit Strapping Young Lad probably know this sharp Canadian chap for his moody atmospheric riffing and versatile vocal style. He’s also a curiously funny guy with his unique brand of humour flowing naturally into his lyrics and song concepts. He’s also worked on the recording and subsequent tour of Vai’s ‘Sex &Religion’ album.
I randomly selected an album from his solo work titled, ‘Ziltoid the Omniscient’ from 2007. A look at the cover art convinced me to shun all instinctive laziness and actually check it out.
From what I gathered in the first 40 seconds, ‘Hyperdrive’ wasn’t doing anything for me in terms of building a new interest over previously established musical sensibilities. However, I didn’t have to wait for long to find out that this guy was aiming to dig deeper under my layers to recall a familiar sound from way, way back; back in the days of combined heavy duty MTV Headbanger’s Ball replays and contemplative, radical song-writing. Soon, I found myself replaying the song over and over, till it became absolutely imperative that I hear the others on the album.
I love concept albums. ‘Ziltoid the Omniscient’ is an album about an alien who travels to Earth in search of the ultimate cup of coffee. He hates what we bring him so he decides to attack us with a little help from his warlord friends. Of course, the concept of an alien story is so far out yet familiar to us that I doubt it wouldn’t rouse even the most sceptical listener. For those blessed with the patience to sit through songs before making their minds up, the album is a treat to own. The exciting edge of its storyline, the fanciful, child-like humour of its lyrics and the warmth of its production all make for an extremely enjoyable listen.
Townsend’s style is identifiably a mixture of all his combined heavy metal, rock and pop influences. The use of chunky power chords along with layers of multiple tracks, use of effects such as reverb and techniques like tapping and sweep-picking are tastefully and instinctively produced as a collective ‘wall of sound’, a production technique in rock music, developed in the 1960s and used by artists like The Beatles on the album ‘Let It Be’, Queen on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ and The Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy in the UK’. This element is EPIC as it’s a personal favourite. The vocals are a well-performed combination of screams, the clean and operatic and ‘spoken word’. He uses the ‘Drumkit from Hell’ pack in the EZdrummer software to program all the drums heard on the album.
With lyrics like “you shall fetch me your universe’s ultimate cup of coffee…Black! You have five Earth minutes, make it perfect!” and, “Have the humans delivered their ultimate cup of coffee? (I have it right here, sir) FETID! How dare they present this to me…! Prepare the attack!” is a sure entertainer as well as a work of very individualistic and idiosyncratic art. In other words, it kicks pig rump!
I know I’m going to follow Devin Townsend’s work closely from now. Are you? Do you like what you’ve been dished out? Do you absolutely hate it? Feel free to troll in the comments section. I also urge bigger and more informed fans of Devin to add to or correct the facts presented here. Picture, courtesy Wikimedia.
Here are some links to help you. The first is the song ‘By Your Command’ off ‘Ziltoid the Omniscient’.
the second is a video of Devin Townsend Project performing ‘Deep Peace’ from the album ‘Terria’. It has a divine solo.