Devin Townsend / Aeon Zen

Academy 2, Manchester on Sun 6th Mar 2011

Aeon Zen are the most enthusiastic band I have seen in a while. Every one of them seemed so excited to be playing Manchester's Academy 2 that I couldn't help but develop a soft spot for them. It's just a shame that their music was so cringe worthy. The instruments played extremely generic prog metal, occasionally piquing my interest with some interesting rhythms, but mainly just ticking boxes. Over this, the vocals (this time provided by Sweden's Andi Kravljaca) were not unlike those of James LaBrie of Dream Theatre, both in their style, and in their negative impact on the music. What made things worse was that the screens behind them, mostly just showing windows media player standard visuals, occaisionally flashed up with some of what I imagine were meant to be profound lyrics - the words 'Fire', and 'Truth' floating up did nothing to help me take them seriously. I would not be surprised it Aeon Zen's amps went up to eleven.

I think Devin Townsend, the man we were all waiting to see, had something to do with the choice of songs played between bands: classics such as 'Barbie Girl' reeked of his shameless and charmingly juvenile sense of humour. The show began in much the same vein. The infamous Ziltoid - an alien puppet who is the focus of his May 2007 album 'Ziltoid the Omniscient' - appeared on the two screens hanging at the back of the stage and immediately, from what I could hear, began described a four inch wide and two inch long penis before throwing some shapes to 'Vengabus' by the Vengaboys. This was, by far, the strangest beginnings to a metal concert I have witnessed, and despite myself, I was tickled into laughter.

Once the band had taken stage and the man himself had made introductions, they launched into a few tracks from the latest album 'Adicted'. Devin Towsnend's infamous "wall of sound" production was instantly evident in what I could hear, and what I could not. The bass was rich and deep, and was felt head to toe, making the drop on tracks like 'Truth' incredibly powerful and face-scrunchingly satisfying. The high end, however, was entirely lacking. The dense tapestry of synths and vocals was not as full as it should have been, and sometimes barely audible above the impenetrable low end chugging; and there were none of the female vocals heard on the new record. This absence was most tragic in the bouncy number 'Bad Devil', which lost much of its motivating force without its vibrant brass section. A comment towards the end of the show suggests an explanation for this, however. Townsend said apologetically that one day they would be able to tour with choirs and orchestras etc., and the humility with which he said it makes me think I may have expected too much from a band playing the venue's second room.

Unrealistic expectations aside, then, Devin Townsed and co. played a great set. The sheer variety of his sound was represented, from thunderous metal anthems like 'By Your Command' to prog inspired hippy trips like 'Deep Peace', which wrapped up his second encore. Townsend is also a pleasure to watch on stage. His face contorts in impossible ways as he wags his tongue, or bares his teeth at the audience, all the while bashing out power chords, or massaging out ridiculous solos from his flying v. Still, even if he just had a pre recorded track with the female vocals or brass playing behind them, something needed to be done to give their live sound the nuanced feel it has on record.

article by: Robert Knowles

published: 08/03/2011 15:32


sorry, we currently have no gigs listed for this act.