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Music / Devin Townsend

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"Music? Well, it's just entertainment, folks!"

Devin Garrett Townsend (born May 5, 1972) is a Canadian musician and producer. He got his official start after years of toiling in the Pacific Northwest with Steve Vai in the 1993 album Sex and Religion, where he was the vocalist, and as a touring guitarist with The Wildhearts. However, he struggled mightily to get any of his own work put together and pressed onto records, and was becoming increasingly furious with how the music industry was treating him, which coalesced into the first Strapping Young Lad album. The album sold poorly, but was enough to get Devin work for Century Media Records. In this time, he managed to put together a more stable lineup and go on tour, while pushing the limits of Death Metal, Industrial Metal, and Progressive Metal all at the same time. But each record would come at a price, as Devin would routinely do mentally toxic things to himself in order to stay in the right frame of mind to keep making records that angry, and in 2006 SYL ended, as a combination of burnout and a belief that SYL had served its purpose.

At the same time, Townsend had years worth of written material he wasn't able to publish before, and finally was able to put a solo record together that kickstarted the style of music he's been more personally inclined towards in the record Ocean Machine: Biomech, which was intended to be its own project, but eventually became what he'd consider an "aspect" of his work, and has since made most of his solo work under his name or a band holding his name. He first started with The Devin Townsend Band, which essentially was a prototype for what would become his first thematic quadrilogy; The Devin Townsend Project, starting in 2009. The Project concluded in 2018, when Devin felt he had done everything he needed to with it. He decided to continue on his own (and with guest artists) with his March 2019 release; Empath.

He is known for two things: 1) his epic, sweeping prog metal walls of sound that both crush, inspire, and in general set a mood for his compositions, and 2) being completely bonkers in a Mad Artist sort of way, with a real affinity for the Rule of Funny, qualities that have earned him comparisons to Frank Zappa.

     Discography with Strapping Young Lad 
Studio Albums
  • Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing (1995)
  • City (1997)
  • Strapping Young Lad (2003)
  • Alien (2005)
  • The New Black (2006)

Other Releases

    Discography as a Solo Artist (Devin Townsend Band, Devin Townsend Project, and beyond) 
Studio Albums
  • Punky Brüster: Cooked on Phonics (1996)
  • Ocean Machine: Biomech (1997)
  • Infinity (1998)
  • 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)
  • Epicloud (2012) (also guest starring Anneke van Giersbergen)
  • Z2 (2014)note  (A double album produced as two different albums packaged together)
  • Transcendence (2016)
  • Empath (2019)
  • The_Puzzle/Snuggles (2021) (Less an album and more an enormous multimedia project, including a Graphic Novel, an actual novel, a short film, and a pair of soundtracks on top of it.)
  • Lightwork (2022)

Live Albums

  • Official Bootleg (1999)
  • Unplugged (2011)
  • By a Thread - Live in London 2011 (2012, five-CD/four-DVD live album)
  • The Retinal Circus (2013) - A live album and also Live-DVD release with a..."loose" story attached.
  • Ziltoid Live at the Royal Albert Hall (2015)
  • Ocean Machine in Plovdiv (2018)
  • Devolution Series - A periodic set of Live Albums released during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
    • 1: Acoustically Inclined - 2021, recordings of Devin's acoustic set in Leeds from 2019.
    • 2: Galactic Quarantine - 2021, only very technically a Live Album, as it was recorded with individual musicians against a green screen and turned into an online concert, and then later released officially.
    • 3: Empath in North America - 2023, a selection of recordings of the 2020 Empath Tour just before the COVID-19 Pandemic hit. Notably, this was a tour played without backing tracks or setlists like he'd done before.

Other Releases

  • Contain Us (2011, collection of the 2009-2011 Devin Townsend Project albums plus two bonus discs of outtakes/demos and, in some editions, an additional bonus 10" EP; Deconstruction and Ghost are also remastered)
  • Quarantine Project (2020) - An online series of songs that was designed to help keep the musicians he paid for the North American Empath tour stay busy and to help folks take their mind off of the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic. All of them uploaded to his youtube account.

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 Townshend (with an "H"), by the way.

Devin Townsend and his works contain examples of:

  • The Ace: Much like Frank Zappa and Brian Wilson before him, Devin just seems to have a gift for creating music. His huge vocal range, song writing ability and being a multi instrumentalist definitely proves that.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • All There in the Manual: Devin's website gives in-depth looks into how his releases were made and what he was going through mentally to create them.
  • Anti-Love Song: "Love?" all but states that love is just a way to avoid loneliness and get sex.
  • Art Evolution: Ziltoid went from looking like a goofy puppet to looking like an actual alien (who happens to be a puppet)
  • Ass Shove: Around the time he was still working with Steve Vai, Devin infamously took Jay Leno's phone, got naked and shoved it up his own ass. A quick google search will get you photographic evidence.
  • Atomic F-Bomb:
    I fucking hate you
    I fucking hate you
    I fucking 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.
  • 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.
  • Boléro Effect: A big fan of this. "Praise the Lowered" is a particularly vicious example. "Info Dump" is another one based largely around Harsh Noise; it's arguably the heaviest track in his discography.
  • 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".
  • Breather Episode: Snuggles is intended to be one for The_Puzzle.
  • 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.
  • Careful with That Axe: A particularly startling example at the end of "Things Beyond Things" considering how soft and gentle the song is.
  • 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.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: While it shows in some of his music (the album Deconstruction comes to mind), his eccentricity and oddball remarks are major part of his appeal as a live performer, with Deadpan Snarker tendencies mixed in for good measure. Generally Played for Laughs, especially when Ziltoid is involved.
    • Seems to be invoked. He has admitted to having cripping social anxiety and that "making a jackass of himself" helps deal with it... Note that this was said on-stage whilst wearing a hat that looked a Thanksgiving turkey dinner
  • 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?".
  • Concept Album:
    • For Devin, Ki, Addicted, Deconstruction and Ghost is a thematic suite based on delirious excess, facing the past, and release, with Deconstruction being the most "story" driven.
    • Ziltoid the Omniscient and Dark Matters (from Z2) tell a more literal story, though quite loosely in the former.
    • Cooked on Phonics also tells a story about a metal band that sells out and starts performing Punk Rock, with the message essentially being "to thine own self be true".
    • Casualties of Cool has a story about a traveler lured to a sentient planet that feeds off his fear. He finds solace in an old radio and an old phonograph. Ultimately, he confronts his own fear, and his willpower ultimately frees a woman who had been held inside the planet; this also frees his own soul.
    • Even the albums that (probably) weren't consciously intended as examples often feel like concept albums due to their structure and the lyrical themes that link some of their songs. For instance, Empath, although not explicitly a concept album, can still be interpreted as one; it's "a statement about not only pursuing creative freedom in a conservative scene, but also trying to show that heavy music is truly a valid musical tool," according to the official press release for the album. That Other Wiki's page for the album (as of this writing) actually claims it's his first album since 2006's The Hummer not to qualify as one, but it's not clear what their reasoning is.
  • 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".
    • The Quarantine Project features a cover of the Vengaboys of all things.
  • Cute Little Fangs: Well, the "cute" part is debatable, but he has them either way.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Has an ironic sense of humor and tends to be rather sarcastic in interviews and live performances, often at his own expense.
    • The ENTIRE "Lucky Animals" video (unofficial), in which Devin does a stupid silly dance without even cracking a smile!
  • 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.
    • Digital Piracy Is Evil: Prior to the release of Empath, Townsend retracted this statement stating that piracy could force him to retire from making music if the album does not break even.
  • 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: Combines this with a half-shaved head to make his 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. The Hummer has several songs that are also notable examples, although given that it's an ambient/noise album, the "rocking" part is debatable: "The Hummer" (15:55), "Arc" (23:04), and "Cosmic Surf" (16:27). His longest song as of 2019 is "Singularity", which is some 23:32 long, but divided into six tracks.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: "Dire" from the self titled SYL album, and "Truth" from Infinity
  • Evil Is Hammy: Ziltoid and the War Princess.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Usually happened once every 5 years up until the release of Ki.
    • His first one was going from a dredlocked ponytail to a mohawk, and then to the almighty skullet.
    • 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, especially Ocean Machine. Ziltoid is another conspicuous example. One strange aversion is the demos on the Epicloud bonus disc Epiclouder, which were intended to be examples of this, but have conspicuous gaps between them due to an apparent error in mastering. This can be fixed in an audio editor.
    • He's still at it with Empath, where at no point until the end of the disc does the music fade entirely out (though it comes close at a couple of points). The same goes for the demos on the bonus disc, though the transition between "Middle Aged Man" and "Total Collapse" is so faint that you might need to have the volume turned up to ridiculous levels to hear it (it fades to about -60 dB, but doesn't fade out entirely).
  • 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.
  • Fiery Redhead: Back when he was still fronting Strapping Young Lad, he was well-known for his glorious ginger "skullet" and energetic, aggressive and eccentric demeanor. Not to mention how anger-driven much of his work in SYL tended to be.
    • It's actually zig zagged considering how he tended to be calmer and more cheerful in interviews and was making slower, more progressive metal music during the same time period.
    • Outright subverted these days since he's still a very energetic Large Ham performer but his musical output is far lighter than his pre-New Black work. Also he's been keeping his head bald these days.
  • 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 that "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.
  • Genre Mashup: Strapping Young Lad was definitely this, containing elements of Death Metal, Thrash Metal, Industrial Metal, and Progressive Metal. His solo output takes this much further, with even his heavier albums not necessarily falling into a single category. Ocean Machine features very prominent shoegaze/dream pop elements especially in the production; Infinity was more avant-garde and psychedelic; Addicted, Epicloud, and Sky Blue are very pop-influenced; Deconstruction harkens back to SYL with even more bizarreness; yet it was all still within his sound. Then there's the extremely eclectic Ki, and of course Ghost and Casualties of Cool which are his unique experiments with New Age and country music, respectively. Come Empath, he's begun changing genres mid-song and still have it work.
  • 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?
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: The interviewer's questions in "Don't Know Why" are in some foreign language. Various lyric sites claim they are Swedish, though it sounds like Japanese (someone who actually speaks either language may wish to confirm which it is).
  • Half-Human Hybrid: Ziltoid found out that he's one when Captain Spectacular revealed that they share the same mother.
  • Hot-Blooded: Strapping Young Lad. Much of their output is comprised of Devin bitterly ranting like a madman or screaming at the top of his lungs out of rage while accompanied by unrelenting, noisy instrumentals. Devin's solo work is also often incredibly bombastic and emotional.
    • Devin himself qualifies during live performances, especially if Strapping Young Lad songs are involved. That said he's a lot more mellow off the stage.
    • Fittingly enough Devin portrays the character Rage for the band Ayreon in the song "Loser".
  • Hypocritical Humour: "By the way, the name's Herman, and I hate musicals!" This after having just sung his own song ("Planet Smasher").
  • 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.
  • I Was Young and Needed the Money: Ziltoid gives this excuse in "Don't Know Why".
  • 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: Pops up here and there.
    • "S.Y.L." from Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing is a vicious, hate-filled tirade against his previous employers in the music industry and ends with Devin casually speaking “Howdy, welcome to A&W. My name's Devin. Can I take your stinkin' order?”. There's also "Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)" from the same album which is another brutal, rage-driven song that ends with "What a miserable guy".
    • 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" from the album of the same name 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.
    • "Sprite" on Empath ends with an eerie, discordant section with menacing whispering that leads directly into the much heavier "Hear Me".
  • 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 quite heavy overall and the latter features some pretty brutal tracks..
    • 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.
  • Longest Song Goes Last:
    • "Info Dump" (11:56) from Alien, the longest song on the album by five minutes and change.
    • "Awake!!" (9:44) from Addicted is more than four minutes longer than any other song on the album.
    • The iTunes version of Epicloud ends with "Take My Ego", which at 6:22 just barely edges out "Grace" (6:09) as the longest track on that version of the album.
    • Empath (discounting the bonus disc) ends with "Singularity", which at 23:32 is the longest song Devin has ever done. It's divided into six tracks, however.
  • 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. Empath is also DR10 (the bonus disc is DR9), but many of his other recent releases have played the trope more or less straight.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: "Velvet Kevorkian" from City.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Detox" is a harsh, noisy, upbeat, fast-paced song with aggressive vocals played primarily in the major key, but its lyrics are very personal, delving into emotional vulnerability, social anxiety, and an overall lack of self-control.
  • 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, Travis Ryan, 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.
  • Mood Whiplash: A number of songs, particularly on Ki, Deconstruction, and Ziltoid. Strapping Young Lad songs can be examples of this as well. Devin himself has been diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, which can cause individuals to undergo a version of this trope in real life (though its effects are often misunderstood or exaggerated: in particular, the shifts in mood don't always occur instantaneously, although sufferers of the disorder may also experience mixed affective episodes in which symptoms of both mania and depression occur simultaneously; these episodes are when sufferers are likeliest to experience instantaneous mood whiplash. See the link on the disorder for more information).
    • The last verse of "Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)"
    • "Don't Know Why" takes this up to eleven. It sounds like the recording may have been digitally sped up.
  • Mushroom Samba: "Don't Know Why" ends with a lengthy quote from an Alan Watts essay entitled "The New Alchemy", which he wrote after being asked to take 100 grams of lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and see if it created anything resembling a mystical experience.
  • Musical Pastiche: According to Townsend himself, the chorus of Strapping Young Lad's "Love?" is "ripped off" from the song "City of Love" by the Progressive Rock band Yes (which admittedly is one of their darker songs). Townsend admitted this to Jon Anderson, Yes' vocalist for most of their first 40 years as a band, and "he seemed to find it funny".
    • He also admitted that the riff from "Liberation" is functionally identical to "You Really Got Me" by The Kinks, to the point where he jokingly sings parts of it during the listen-through.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Ocean Machine: "To all the hopeful ones: Nobody gives a fuck what you've got," said in a fairly relaxed manner.
    • Terria: "It's your WORST FUCKING DAY!"
    • 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.
  • Questioning Title?: "Love?", "Why?", probably others.
  • 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/Rearrange 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 as a moody, subdued track in which Devin almost whispers the vocals, and got an Anneke-led, pumped-up and happier-sounding update on Addicted.
    • Transcendence contains remakes of "Truth" from Infinity and (on the bonus disc) "Victim" from Physicist.
  • 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.
  • Rock Opera: Several albums, most notably Cooked on Phonics, Ziltoid, Dark Matters, Deconstruction, and Casualties of Cool.
  • 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.
  • Sad Clown: Devin is always up for a laugh on stage and in interviews and also writes some pretty humorous lyrics when he wants to, but, like many entertainers, he also suffers from depression which has caused several Creator Breakdowns throughout his career.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: The fast-paced, aggressive instrumentation, border-line manic vocals and personal nature of the lyrics in much of SYL's output make it possible to interpret a number of their songs as such, though that likely wasn't the intent. "Detox", "Shitstorm", and "Underneath the Waves" come to mind.
  • Scare Chord: Two songs from Strapping Young Lad's self-titled, "Consequence" 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.
    • Notably in Deconstruction, where he gives attention to the Djent-y riff of "Planet of the Apes" by yelling out "We all rip off Meshuggah!"
    • In the song "Don't Know Why", which leads off the bonus disc to Ziltoid the Omniscient, Devin (as Ziltoid) refers to the subsequent content as "terrible, terrible bonus material".
  • 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.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Ziltoid the Omniscient qualifies in a way, given that the whole album is revealed in the final track to have taken place in the mind of a bored Starbucks employee.
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Since forming the Devin Townsend Project he's been doing some of his live performances with more formal clothing. Most notable during the Retinal Circus which also added a top hat while contrasted by his bandmates who are wearing more casual/metal clothing.
  • 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.
    • Very near the beginning of Ziltoid the Omniscient, the eponymous character says, "Resistance is futile," the Catchphrase of the Borg. Given that Ziltoidians are also (apparently) a collective, this is no doubt intentional.
    • "Don't Know Why" has a lengthy quote from the British-American philosopher Alan Watts' essay "The New Alchemy", as mentioned above under Mushroom Samba. The song also features Ziltoid reading quotes from two songs by the band Soilwork, namely "I, Vermin" and "Sick Heart River", both from Sworn to a Great Divide.
    • The music video for "Evermore" features a Vargshroom, the mascot for Vinesauce member Joel, on the cat astronaut's phone. The music video was made by Zeurel, a web animator known for making fan content based on Joel's streams.
  • 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.
  • Slasher Smile: Mostly back when he was still working on SYL but he still has this sort of expression from time to time.
    • The front cover of Infinity is a notable example.
  • 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".
  • Soprano and Gravel: All over the place. The best example is "Planet Smasher" from Ziltoid the Omniscient.
  • 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.
    • On Devin Townsend's YouTube channel, he released "Devin Townsend LUCKY ANIMALS (Unofficial Video) =]", a video of him dancing in his backyard to the song "Lucky Animals". There are no cuts, no special effects and nobody else there with him. It's about as low-budget as a music-video could possibly be.
    • In a video which came the day before, Devin revealed the reason for its creation: his own entry into a crowdsourced video project to make an "Official Video" for Lucky Animals with the fans. If he filled the quota of awful dancing himself, then everyone else would happily jump in!
    Devin: I'm going to do a one-take pass of me "performing" the song. So you'll know, if you choose to contribute to this, there's nowhere to go but up in terms of performance!
  • Success Through Insanity: Oh yes. Having lots of breakdowns during his career and being able to survive through every one of them? Check. Channeling his mental problems torward his music and making them awesome? Check. (Seemingly) getting rid of his drug problems and some mental illnesses and finding out his songs can be even more awesome when his mind is clearer? Check. And showing us that's true? Check. Devin Townsend had a career of 16 albums he produced himself, including Ziltoid the Omniscient, on which he has done almost EVERYTHING, including the 5+ voices featured, and more are on the way. Oh, and he has bipolar disorder.
    • His set up for the Quarantine Concert series takes the cake: Setting up four different cameras, including one strapped to a broken desk fan that shows the entire room, and one that is intended to simulate watching the concert while headbanging by rigging it up to another piece of broken hardware. Oh, and he built all of it himself without much guidance, all to help fund major healthcare initiatives in Canada, the UK, and the US.
  • Suddenly Speaking: 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".
  • 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.
    • "Juno", a B-side from the Contain Us boxset, is one to the Canadian music industry, who failed to recognize 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" is a furious tirade against a rapist.
    • "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.
    • "Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)" seems to be ranting against the people in the music industry and all the things about them that pissed him off.
    • "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."
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Played for Laughs, on the Empath tour. As according to him, Che would only perform in a pink frilly dress on-stage if he did the same, and every concert he played since has had him wearing a skirt.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Especially the DTP, though he insists that the lyrics are carefully chosen.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Strapping Young Lad


Ziltoid the Omniscient

Ziltoid travels to Earth in search of "your universe's ultimate cup of coffee". A cup of coffee is delivered to him and he is promptly appalled by its taste, declaring it "fetid", and summons the Ziltoidian warlords to attack Earth, facing the full might of Earth's army.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / EvilOverlord

Media sources: