Music / Devin Townsend
Yeah, kinda like that.
"Music? Well, it's just entertainment, folks!"

Devin Garrett Townsend (born May 5, 1972) is a Canadian musician and producer, arguably most famous for his extreme metal band Strapping Young Lad - although he is a very prolific solo artist as well. His solo stuff is far more melodic and tends towards all kinds of genres, particularly Industrial Metal and Progressive Metal.

He is also completely bonkers in a Mad Artist sort of way and has a real affinity for the Rule of Funny, qualities that have earned him comparisons to Frank Zappa.

Discography with Strapping Young Lad:

Discography as a solo artist (including The Devin Townsend Band and The Devin Townsend Project):

  • Punky Brüster: Cooked on Phonics (1996)
  • Ocean Machine: Biomech (1997)
  • Infinity (1998)
  • Official Bootleg (1999)
  • Physicist (2000)
  • Terria (2001)
  • Accelerated Evolution (2003)
  • Devlab (2004)
  • Synchestra (2006)
  • The Hummer (2006)
  • Ziltoid the Omniscient (2007)
  • Ki (2009)
  • Addicted (2009) (guest starring Anneke van Giersbergen)
  • Deconstruction (2011)
  • Ghost (2011)
  • Contain Us (2011, collection of the above four albums plus two bonus discs of outtakes/demos and, in some editions, an additional bonus 10" EP; Deconstruction and Ghost are also remastered)
  • Unplugged (2011)
  • By a Thread - Live in London 2011 (2012, five-CD/four-DVD live album)
  • Epicloud (2012) (also guest starring Anneke van Giersbergen)
  • The Retinal Circus (2013) (Live album)
  • Z2 (2014) (Distinct Double Album consisting of Sky Blue and Dark Matters; the album title is actually intended to be written with a superscript 2 and is pronounced Zed squared, but using the superscript 2 character currently causes a glitch in the wiki)
  • Ziltoid Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2015)
  • Transcendence (2016)

He's also a guest vocalist on the Ayreon album The Human Equation, voicing "Rage," and is one half of Casualties of Cool.

No relation to Pete, by the way.

  • Adorable Abomination: Look at the cover to Dark Matters. See that furry rabbit-like creature on Ziltoid's left? That's the Planet Smasher. Ziltoid insists that he is not cute.
  • Adorkable: His fun loving, child-like personality on stage is almost "D'awwwww" worthy at times. He can also come across as a nerdy and rather shy person in interviews and off the stage. Plus, how could you not love that face?
  • Album Intro Track: Quite a few albums have these, such as City ("Velvet Kevorkian"), Strapping Young Lad ("Dire"), Ziltoid the Omniscient ("ZTO"), and so on.
  • All Just a Dream: At the end of Ziltoid the Omniscient, Ziltoid turns out to be a daydreaming Starbucks employee.
  • Art Evolution: Ziltoid went from looking like a goofy puppet to looking like an actual alien (who happens to be a puppet)
  • Atomic F-Bomb:
    I fu-cking hate you
    I fu-cking hate you
    I fu-cking hate you
    • The song "Fucker" from The New Black.
    • On "Praise the Lowered", where Devin belts out "SMOKE THAT FUCKING... WEED!!!" right before one of the heaviest drops on Deconstruction.
    • The iconic Velvet Kevorkian intro. "FUCK SLEEP! FUCK ALL OF YOU!!!".
    • "Oh My FUCKING God".
    • An absurdly high-pitched one occurs about halfway through "Shitstorm" on Alien.
  • Bald of Awesome: He's awesome and has no hair. What more do you need?
  • Bald of Evil: Played for laughs with Ziltoid.
  • Berserk Button: Averted COMPLETELY when the fans asked about the return of SYL.
    • Invoked in both Ziltoid the Omniscient and Z2 with the character of the Planet Smasher. He hates musicals.
  • Book Ends: Epicloud begins and ends with a gospel choir singing these words:
    Everyone into forever
    Everything a part of me
    Dancing on into forever
    Effervescent quality.
  • Brick Joke: The Planet Smasher's hatred of musicals is a brief "Oh, by the way" moment when first brought up in Ziltoid the Omniscient. In Z2, meanwhile, this comes back in "Through the Wormhole" as Ziltoid starts singing "Memory".
  • Calling Your Bathroom Breaks: Ziltoid does this after signing a contract with Captain Spectacular, secretly intending to soliloquize about a later Face–Heel Turn. Judging by the sound effects, though, he still needed to go.
  • Captain Space, Defender of Earth!: Captain Spectacular, especially in Z2.
  • Cherubic Choir: An interesting example comes in the form of the hook from "Rejoice" on Z2. On its own, the hook can be interpreted as uplifting, positive and angelic. The thing is, the track its playing over is the discordant, heavy sound that people would expect from Devin Townsend Project, making for an appealingly-bizarre effect of contrast.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: See Atomic F-Bomb and the song "You Suck" and "Fucker".
    • The less intelligible parts of "Happy Camper" are actually this.
    • Happens a lot with the song "Shitstorm" from Alien.
    • "S.Y.L.". The lead-in to the chorus is a grind-stomping "I fucking hate you I fucking hate you I fucking hate you..."
  • Common Music Video Concepts: Garage Rock, for Strapping Young Lad's "Detox", "Relentless" and "Love?".
  • Cool Train: A hellish variant on this trope serves as the setting for the music video for "Juular".
  • Cover Version: Strapping Young Lad has done a few. "Exciter", "Zodiac", and Cop Shoot Cop's "Room 429" as examples.
    • "Far Beyond Metal" was a song written back during 1997-8 as a live track only, but when it came time to record The New Black Gene Hoglan suggested using the track.
      • In short, "Far Beyond Metal" is a cover of their own song.
    • Badger badger badger...
    • Devin provided a cover of New York, New York for the SIN-Atra compilation.
    • Transcendence features a cover of Ween's "Transdermal Celebration".
  • Cute Little Fangs: Well, the "cute" part is debatable, but he has them either way.
  • Deconstruction: Magnificently averted with the album of the same name. You would expect that the title and Townsend's statement about being the heaviest album he's ever made since SYL (after the lighthearted, poppy nature of the previous Ki and Addicted) would have him playing some of the darkest tunes he's ever come to mind (since this album is Exactly What It Says on the Tin to the other two). By listening to the music you realize since track 1 the score is made of guitar riffs, circus organs and other bizarre comedic sounds. And the lyrics? A dead man talking with Satan about his past life on a Crap Saccharine World like they were Heterosexual Life-Partners since the beginning of times. Comedic Sociopathy ensues of course. Really, this album's concept and sound is like the Deconstruction OF the Deconstruction itself.
  • Deadpan Snarker: The ENTIRE Lucky Animals video (unofficial), in which Devin does a stupid silly dance without even cracking a smile!
  • Dethroning Moment of Suck: Invoked in-universe twice on Cooked on Phonics.
    • At a Cryptic Coroner gig, at the start of the album, the lead guitarist breaks a string. They turn this into an Origin Story.
    • At the end of the album, Punky Brüster performs their hit song live on the Granny Awards, and mid-song, they revert to their Death Metal origins, utterly destroying their ill-gotten success.
  • Digital Piracy Is Okay: Has said on his Twitter feed that he's not really bothered by people pirating his music because he still gets support from people who want him to continue performing music, which he regards as "a good job we're damn lucky to have. Ultimately, at the end of the day, I write music for ME because it's what I LOVE. And if it ever turns around financially, great... Why the hell would you want to be a musician if having people listen is so conditional? Support if you want, it costs a lot, but I luv it." See also here.
    • Additionally, when Z2 leaked, the only thing he was concerned about was that some of the songs may not have been their final mixes.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The reason why the title character of Ziltoid the Omniscient let loose an invasion fleet on Earth? The cup of coffee he requested from them was "fetid" to him.
  • Distinct Double Album: Z2 is two VERY different albums: Sky Blue, which is the Devin Townsend Project that fans are more familiar with, and Dark Matters, which is another goofy rock opera about Ziltoid.
  • Dreadlock Rasta: Combining this with Bald of Awesome gives you Townsend's most iconic hairstyle, the almighty Skullet.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Dark Matters, and by proxy, the whole of Z2 ends with one of these with those exact words. See the related Gainax Ending example.
  • Epic Rocking: Mostly in his solo projects. In particular, Deconstruction, which has a song ("The Mighty Masturbator") that's over 16 minutes - and that's not all. The B-side "Traestorz", an alternate version of the same song, is even longer at 19:21.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: "Dire" from the self titled SYL album.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Ziltoid.
    • The War Princess in the sequel, Dark Matters.
  • Excited Show Title!: Every track on Addicted.
    • "More!" from Epicloud.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Too many to count for Devin.
    • Most well known is the almighty skullet to shaven bald.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Ziltoid betrays his peaceful negotiations with the humans later on in Dark Matters on Z2. While it is true that he signed a legal, binding contract, Ziltoid feels legally within his rights to betray it, since he signed it in pencil. With his left hand.
  • Fading into the Next Song: Very nearly all of the songs on many of the Devin Townsend Project albums do this, and much of his solo work does as well.
  • Fake Band: The main characters of Cooked on Phonics.
  • Fartillery: In "Ziltoidian Empire" on Z2, it's strongly implied that this is how Poozers get around, as evidenced by the sound of one Poozer making its way home.
  • Five-Man Band: His solo band
  • Flashback Fail: When trying to re-start SYL after (the failure at the time) Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, Townsend wound up meeting with Gene Hoglan of Death fame at a concert. Hoglan agreed to track some drums for the second record, but the next day when Townsend brings this up, Gene denies agreeing to this.
    • To be fair, he was pretty loaded during that night.
  • Fluffy the Terrible: The Planet Smasher from Ziltoid the Omniscient. He says at the very end that his name is Herman.
    • Taken Up to Eleven on the cover of Dark Matters from Z2. The Planet Smasher is that furry blue rabbit-like creature near Ziltoid.
  • Follow the Leader and Fountain of Expies: Discussed/In-Universe example in "Planet of the Apes", in which Devin mentions, "We all rip off Meshuggah."
  • Fun with Acronyms: The song "S.Y.L." from Strapping Young Lad's first album Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing and their self-titled album which is also referred to as SYL.
  • Gainax Ending: Ziltoid the Omniscient starts off as a straightforward tale of the titular alien overlord invading Earth after their coffee didn't live up to his standards. Around "Omnidimensional Creator", Ziltoid becomes more and more aware of his insecurities to the point where he gets in touch with the titular Creator, and experiences the true nature of his reality within the context of the whole universe over the course of three tracks. Then, the final track, "Tall Latte" reveals that the whole thing was all in the mind of a bored Starbucks employee. According to Devin himself, this sudden Genre Shift was a Take That! at fans who misinterpret the meanings of his lyrics.
    • Dark Matters, the sequel to Ziltoid the Omniscient that forms the second half of Z2, ends in a strange way as well. After the celebrations of Ziltoid saving the world using the Planet Smasher, it is revealed that through the wormhole, Ziltoid is sitting on a moon made of dust alongside the war princess, and in between them is a bag of coffee.
  • Gosh Darn It to Heck!: At the end of "S.Y.L.":
    Hi, welcome to A&W. My name's Devin, can I take your stinkin' order?
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Ziltoid found out that he's one when Captain Spectacular revealed that they share the same mother.
  • I Am the Band: Usually played straight, and lampshaded with the Egocentric Team Naming of many of his projects. Strapping Young Lad began to avert this somewhat on the last few albums, with more writing input from the other members, and Casualties of Cool averts it completely, being a 50-50 collaboration between Townsend and Che Aimee Dorval. Also averted on Transcendence, where most of the songs were co-written with other people.
  • Individuality Is Illegal: In these three ZTV episodes, The Collective, a council of Ziltoidian leaders, condemn Ziltoid for his aptitude for individuality, as Ziltoidians are a subordinate race by nature, so they put Ziltoid under constant surveillance. Ziltoid... doesn't take it kindly.
  • Large Ham: Most of his spoken lines are overly dramatic and theatrical, specially on his solo albums. He's even known for Chewing the Scenery frequently during live concerts. During shows he'll also often throw in random monologues in character as Ziltoid, who, if possible, is even more of a Large Ham.
  • Last Note Hilarity: The final track on City, "Spirituality", fades out and then a robotic voice is heard saying "Strapping Young Lad rocks my hairy anus".
    • The song "Deconstruction" ends with Devin burping into the microphone.
  • Last Note Nightmare: The lengthy scream from the ending of "Thing Beyond Things", the final track on Ocean Machine: Biomech. Especially disheartening, as this comes after a ten-second silence after one of the much more relaxing songs on the album.
  • Lighter and Softer: Going from Strapping Young Lad, a Death/Thrash Metal band with industrial influences, to the Devin Townsend Project, playing genres that don't even come close to SYL.
    • Despite the above, averted with Ziltoid the Omniscient and Deconstruction, which are both Progressive Metal.
    • To a certain extent, The New Black is this compared to the rest of Strapping Young Lad's output.
  • Limited Lyrics Song: "Winter" only contains one line, repeated several times. Also qualifies as Broken Record.
  • Loudness War: Strapping Young Lad was a deliberate offender, invoking the trope to create as harsh and unrelenting a sound as possible. This has carried over to Townsend's solo work some as well; although he said around the release of Ki, "I officially pull my hat out of the Loudness Wars", the material has still been somewhat clipped (although his releases are nowhere near the worst offenders anymore). He finally actually averted the Loudness War with Casualties of Cool, which is a DR10 master and sounds great.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Velvet Kevorkian" from City.
  • Madness Mantra: From "S.Y.L" on Strapping Young Lad's debut album:
    Fucking hate you! I fucking hate you! I fucking hate you! I fucking hate you! I fucking hate you!
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: One of few metal vocalists to achieve this status, along with Kyo, Mike Patton, and Roughton Reynolds.
    • Those voices you hear on Ziltoid the Omniscient? They're all him.
    • He goes from a heavy death metal growl to a pop-punk vocal style in Punky Brüster: Cooked On Phonics.
  • Metal Scream: ALL. TYPES.
  • Mind Screw: The tail end of Ziltoid the Omniscient. The reason why the album moves from a comedic Space Opera to Ziltoid questioning the state of the universe before being revealed to be a figment of a coffee shop worker's imagination is supposedly, according to Word of God, symbolic of how his fans misinterpret his songs.
  • Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Devin Townsend has made music that covers every possible degree. Most of Ki is 1-3 (reaching about 8 in a song or two) while most of SYL's songs could easily qualify as 10 ("Rape Song", "Detox", "All Hail The New Flesh") or 11 ("Shitstorm", "Oh My Fucking God").
    • Rule of thumb: Devin Townsend Band is 7-8, Strapping Young Lad is 10 to 11. Ziltoid, which is best described as a fusion of the two styles, falls at about a 9 depending on the song. The Devin Townsend Project is all over the scale - Ki is mostly 1-3 with a few moments reaching as high as 7 or 8, Addicted is mostly 6-7, Ghost is a 1, and Deconstruction ramps up from a 2 in its opening moments to much higher scores fairly quickly, with the last song being a solid 10. Epicloud, Sky Blue, and Transcendence are probably mostly in 6-7 territory as well, but can vary - in particular, "Lessons" is probably a 1.
    • The last verse of "Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)"
  • Must Have Caffeine: In the track "ZTO", Ziltoid orders the humans to make to him the ultimate cup of black coffee in five minutes, or he will destroy the Earth.
    • Further explored in Z2. Supposedly coffee has an unlimited energy potential that the Ziltoidians would love to claim as their own.
  • My Species Doth Protest Too Much: Ziltoid in Z2. He's an individual that came out of the Ziltoidian collective, and is not very good at hiding his disdain or general unwillingness for working for the collective.
  • Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: Strapping Young Lad was definitely this, containing elements of Death Metal, Thrash Metal, Industrial Metal, and Progressive Metal. Many of his solo albums qualify as well.
  • The Omniscient: Subverted by Ziltoid. He may be powerful, but if he was truly omniscient, he would not have run into the troubles he did.
    • Played straight by the Omnidimensional Creator. He sees everything. He also understands what Ziltoid must do when Ziltoid does not.
  • Piss-Take Rap: "Two Turntables and a Mike St-Jean"
  • Precision F-Strike: Plenty of them.
    • Ziltoid the Omniscient: I'M ZILTOID! I DON'T GIVE A SHIT! The only other curse words on the album are a barely audible use of the word "shitstorm" by the commander of Earth's troops and a muttered "shit" at 0:35 into "Tall Latte".
    • Ki: BE A GODDAMN MAN, BOY! One of his calmer examples.
    • Deconstruction: "SMOKE THAT FUCKING WEED, BOY!"
  • Punny Name: The album Epicloud.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "OH! MY! FUCK! ING! GOD!"
  • Putting the Band Back Together: Subverted during The Retinal Circus. By having Jed Simon play "Detox" and "Love?" with the DTP.
  • Rape Is a Special Kind of Evil: "Rape Song" very explicitly states this. In a case particularly likely to cause people to question their faith in humanity, it earned a Misaimed Fandom anyway.
  • Religion Rant Song: For a metal musician, he doesn't engage in these much, but "Heaven's End" takes a firm stance against organised religion. Townsend commented:
    The lyrics in "Heaven's End" I found (to my surprise) were very against religion. Not against the sense of infinity or spiritual connection, definitely not atheist, but angry at organized religion. The cruelty and divisiveness of it. Seeing the environment and life from a sense of unity stemming from my experiences recently with different perspectives really made me surprise myself at how bitter I'd become towards it all. I have always been kind of "on the fence" about religion, so when Ki finally lets it rip on "Heaven's End", I found myself shocked that a lot of my anger was actually directed towards THAT as a theme. It was so typical, yet it seemed understandable… that anyone or any organization can claim ownership of the things that I've always felt profoundly attracted to, yet more than anything, just happy to be a part of, seemed the height of arrogance, and above all…exclusionary and really mean spirited. The experience made me realize during the process that 'perhaps the anger within me is not directed at anything other than a misdirection of spiritual intensity'… people had been born and had died in my life, I had hurt my friends and band mates, I was confused, but it seemed that through the purging of this I was coming to some conclusions, and purging some baggage was necessary. Religion was first on the list.
    • "More" also attacks both materialism and organised religion. On the other hand, some of Epicloud also comes across as sincerely spiritual.
  • Re-release the Song: "Kingdom", taken from 2001's Physicist for 2012's Epicloud. Compared, the Epicloud version is pretty much a Large Ham.
    • The same thing happens with the song "Hyperdrive", which started on Ziltoid the Omniscient and got an Anneke-led, pumped-up and happier-sounding update on Addicted.
  • The Reveal: The Gainax Ending to Ziltoid the Omniscient reveals that the whole thing was taking place in the mind of a bored Starbucks employee.
    • In "Through the Wormhole" on Z2, it's revealed that Captain Spectacular is Ziltoid's half-brother.
  • Rule of Funny: Punky Brüster: Cooked on Phonics and Ziltoid the Omniscient are fueled by these. The songs on Strapping Young Lad's The New Black that aren't completely serious tend to fall towards this.
  • Scare Chord: Two songs from Strapping Young Lad's self-titled, "Dire Consequences" and "Bring On the Young"
  • Self-Backing Vocalist: Often does this to achieve a choir-like effect, can be heard on Ocean Machine: Biomech and Infinity, amongst others.
    • Did this with Anneke Van Giersbergen for Epicloud because she was going to be more or less unavailable for touring, making her parts on the album fairly repititous and quick. Van Giersbergen herself does this a lot with her parts on Addicted.
  • Self-Deprecation: Frequently throughout his live performances. Regularly introduces the solo from "Life" as "The shittiest guitar solo I ever wrote."
    • Gloriously done in this video. Interviewer Devin's constant "Get a load of this guy"-style points and wank gestures just make it.
  • Sell-Out: The whole plot of Punky Brüster - Cooked on Phonics is built around a Polish Death Metal band selling out their metal sound for something more Punk Rock.
  • Shout-Out:
    • One directly to Meshuggah in "Planet of the Apes". Not to mention, well, the title of the song itself.
    • "Radial Highway" borrows its first few lines from Golden Earring's "Radar Love", and the entire song is something of a tribute to it.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: "Polyphony" -> "The New Black", "Velvet Kevorkian" -> "All Hail the New Flesh", "Dire" -> "Consequence", probably others.
  • Skeletons in the Coat Closet / Spandex, Latex, or Leather: Played for laughs in the video for Vampira.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Ziltoid himself. A big part of his character is his denial at how he's not all he's cracked up to be. Or, as Captain Spectacular puts it, "a nerd".
  • The Something Song: "Babysong" and Strapping Young Lad's "Rape Song".
  • Something Completely Different: Noted in The Retinal Circus due to its eclectic songlist
  • Soprano and Gravel: All over the place. The best example is "Planet Smasher" from Ziltoid the Omniscient.
  • Suddenly Voiced: Inverted in the case of the Planet Smasher. In Ziltoid the Omniscient, he has his own song and lines of dialogue. Fast-forward 14 years later to Dark Matters, and his only line written in the album's booklet is, "ROOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRR!"
  • Surprisingly Gentle Song: Strapping Young Lad's "Almost Again" and "Two Weeks" are way less heavy than the surrounding material. "Polyphony" too, although that's really more of an intro.
    • Subverted with "Bring On the Young".
  • Stylistic Suck: Cryptic Coroner (from Cooked on Phonics) is not only a piss-poor, laughable Death Metal band, you can barely hear their song over the sound of the cackling audience.
  • Take That!: Devin's not averse to doing a few when needs be.
    • The whole of Cooked On Phonics to bands who change to a more accessible style to make more money.
    • The line "We all rip off Meshuggah" from "Planet of the Apes" is generally interpreted as a Take That! towards djent. It's misaimed though, as Devin absolutely loves a lot of the bands that fit within that style and is even close friends with a few of them. Devin later explained that it was because he thought the main riff sounded too much like a Meshuggah rip-off and he felt like he needed to call himself out on it.
    • "Juno", a B-side from the Contain Us boxset, is one to the Canadian music industry, who failed to recognise him or give him any credit for many years.
  • Take This Job and Shove It: "S.Y.L."
  • To Be Continued: Dark Matters, and by extension, the whole of Z2, closes on this.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: A lot of Strapping Young Lad songs boil down to this. "Rape Song", for example, is a furious tirade against a rapist, while "S.Y.L." is a long list of all the reasons his old job sucked and how much better his life will be now that he isn't doing it anymore. And "Shitstorm"... Good lord, "Shitstorm"!
    • Parodied with "You Suck". There's no particular reason why you suck, you just do.
  • Title Track: "The New Black", for Strapping Young Lad.
    • For Devin Townsend works: "The Hummer", "Ki", "Addicted!", "Deconstruction", "Ghost".
      • Despite being a vinyl-only bonus track, "Epicloud".
  • Uncommon Time: As is pretty much mandatory for Progressive Metal, this is used liberally on some songs.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Cooked on Phonics is an entire diss album aiming at a real band known to Devin as one that switched from metal to punk in order to chase popularity, and the album's moral is basically "to thine own self be true."
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Especially the DTP.

Alternative Title(s): Strapping Young Lad