Strapping Young Lad

Picture of Strapping Young Lad

Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing

Strapping Young Lad - Heavy As A Really Heavy Thing ©1995 Century Media
1. S.Y.L.
2. In The Rainy Season
3. Goat
4. Cod Metal King
5. Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)
6. Critic
7. The Filler - Sweet City Jesus
8. Skin Me
9. Drizzlehell

The first explosion of Devin Townsend's irrational angst project, Strapping Young Lad, is an example of good intentions (well, in this particular case, bad) not quite being fulfilled by the end result. While Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing does indeed adhere to the title's promise, a lot of the songs are not quite as devastating as Townsend might intend. He has the ability to put completely and totally corrosive emotions to a musical soundtrack but somewhere along the line a bit of the over the top crankiness is lost here. The opening track "S.Y.L." does indeed set the stage for what has become the "classic" Strapping Young Sound, a boundless, largescale and nearly oppressive attack that uses dense, blunt guitars, raging drums and a somewhat orchestrated, multilayered vocal approach. It is that thick yet echoing sound that gives SYL its identity. But while he has the sound darned near down pat (it would come to fruition on the second SYL album, City), the actual songwriting isn't quite enough to make this album more than a passable display of modern heaviness. A dense, powerful sound does not necessarily have the ability to carry an entire album. With most of the songs lacking the full impact needed, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing is a bit more a novelty than a truly destructive piece that completely conveys the intention of putting every negative emotion to music.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 06/2000

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City

Strapping Young Lad - City ©1997 Century Media
1. Velvet Kevorkian
2. All Hail The New Flesh
3. Oh My Fucking God
4. Detox
5. Home Nucleonics
6. AAA
7. Underneath The Waves
8. Room 429
9. Spirituality

Oh hell yeah, motherfucker! If you're looking for some hyperkinetic, crushingly brutal tunes, then stop right here and look no further, for Strapping Young Lad's City has got all the answers for your heavy metal needs! A cross between industrial metal and grindcore is a somewhat imprecise description of the sound, but for our purposes, it is satisfactory. Imagine Fear Factory on speed, and you have SYL.

There are nine tracks on the CD, and all of them are solid, for what its worth. And despite its ferocity, the music is neatly arranged with discernable songwriting; Strapping Young Lad is organized, systematized chaos on record. Highlights include "All Hail the New Flesh", one of the fastest, heaviest songs ever written, and a praiseworthy cover of Cop Shoot Cop's "Room 429". City is aggressive to the core, but has enough variation and distinction between songs to remain sounding fresh, even by the end of the album.

Much of the band's success lies with Devin Townsend who, unlike most brutal metal vocalists, screams like a seriously pissed-off human being instead of grunting like a male orangutan searching desperately for his mate. His vocal style gives more nuance and intensity to the music than the typical ooga-booga guttural, and besides, you can also make out what he's saying. He even whispers and sings on a couple tracks. Devin can be a really angry guy, if you read his lyrics. Then again, angry may be an understatement; schizophrenic and manic-depressive are more fitting descriptions of him. Remind me to not get on his bad side. Umm, what else? Gene Hoglan's inhuman drumming gives the music an extra shot of adrenaline, not like the songs needed it in the first place. Strapping Young Lad's City demands your attention immediately, or Devin will beat you up.

Review by Jeffrey Shyu

Review date: 08/1999

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Review #2

The actual appeal of Strapping Young Lad's music is that band leader Devin Townsend has the ability to take every irrational bit of anger, hate and angst that one might feel in life and set it to an appropriately destructive musical soundtrack. City is precisely what you should be playing the next time you have a pissy day and aren't sure why. Every so often it is very healthy and cathartic to simply scream "I hate you!" at the top of your lungs and at no one in particular. City is that perfect album just to enhance that moment. Better yet, the anger here comes across both honestly and not forced, unlike many of the so-called "angry" bands of today.

Much more realized and honed than 1995's Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing, City's sound is what Fear Factory could be if they weren't trying to hard to put on a drum clinic and bests anything Ministry was trying to accomplish in 1989. The sound is immensely dense and acts an aural ramrod that immediately crushes the listener in waves of packed aggression, but the production is able to still retain clarity, which is a neat little trick. Gene Hoglan, one of metal's finest high speed drummers, adds a lot to the album with his deft kickdrumming. The songs rarely let up in sheer intensity throughout, but still sneaking in a subtle melody that causes the songs to remain in your head well after you are done listening. "Detox" and "All Hail the New Flesh" are prime examples of Townsend using his angst-ridden vocals properly, with the choruses actually elevating the song to a higher plateau. "AAA" is both dirty, tinged with industrial edges and another great vocal showing from Townsend. Also included is a cover of Cop Shoot Cop's "Room 429", which happens to be that band's best number and done very accurately by Strapping Young Lad.

City is easily one of most angry yet exciting records I've heard in quite some time. I have a feeling whenever I have to fight Denver's horrendous rush hour traffic, City might just be the perfect audio companion.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 04/2000

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No Sleep Till Bedtime (Live In Australia)

Strapping Young Lad - No Sleep Till Bedtime (Live In Australia) ©1998 Century Media
1. Velvet Kevorkian
2. All Hail The New Flesh
3. Home Nucleonics
4. Oh My Fucking God
5. SYL
6. In The Rainy Season
7. Far Beyond Metal
8. Japan
9. Centipede

Naturally the best reason to give praise to this album is the title, No Sleep Till Bedtime. I'm sure Motorhead was finally getting around to using that title until Devin Townsend bogarted it for his Strapping Young Lad project. This particular release acts as a bookend for the first two studio releases, giving the old songs a run through (with apparent studio trickery later on) with the band that made City a monster. The sound quality is top notch (but that is to be expected with any Devin Townsend project) and the performances are excellent. The two songs from the Strapping Young Lad debut ("SYL" and "In the Rainy Season") are given a real boost of energy and precision while the representatives from City sound accurate and efficient. As a bonus, which this album needs since it's strange to record a live album after only two studio releases, there is a show closing and highly amusing take on classic metal called "Far Beyond Metal". There are also two studio bonus tracks in the form of "Japan" and "Centipede", both of which are good additions to whatever other Strapping Young Lad discs you might have lying around. While No Sleep Till Bedtime is still a bit of a bonus for SYL fans, it's also strong enough to stand on its own and demand a bit of attention.

Review by John Chedsey

Review date: 07/2000

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SYL

Strapping Young Lad - SYL ©2003 Century Media
1. Dire
2. Consequence
3. Relentless
4. Rape Song
5. Aftermath
6. Devour
7. Last Minute
8. Force Fed
9. Dirt Pride
10. Bring On The Young

Up until this album leaked its way onto the internet I was under the impression that Devin Townsend could do absolutely no wrong. Even his highly disliked Physicist project, however ephemeral its staying power, sated my need for another Devy project. The previous SYL album, City, and his Ocean Machine album, Biomech, rank among my top five favorite metal albums ever.

Recent interviews intimated that Devin's interest of expression no longer lay in the SYL idiom, so I was puzzled as to the sudden return to said style. After a few listens, I am now under the impression that this self-titled effort is an entirely forced, boring, and bland affair that was written and released only for the mere sake of releasing an album. Seasoned SYL fans would be surprised to find that little of what made City such a pleasurable, seething, massive, and altogether groundbreaking metal album makes its way onto SYL. Rather, SYL is a half-assed aggregate of some of the less compelling elements of his other projects, with perhaps some latter-day Emperor influences thrown in for good measure. In customary epic Townsend fashion, intro "Dire" sets the tone nicely with a massive wall of guitars and ascendant, majestic keyboards that would make Carl Orff proud. Sadly, the songwriting putters out into a flaccid, heartless, faux-epic quagmire of riffs that have no destination, vocals that lack the ferocity and pure, unadulterated anger and emotion that Townsend exhibited on City, and an altogether forced, cold, and directionless sense of songwriting. In fact, the one word that I think most aptly describes SYL is "impotent". It seems as if SYL needs a healthy dose of musical Viagra!

I suppose that what I am most let down by is the fact that on City (and every other Townsend project, for that matter), Devin Townsend had something to say. The songwriting was spontaneous, fast, and angry because Townsend himself was angry. Now, it is all the more apparent that he is merely going through the ropes of writing another album with reckless abandon without regard for the feel of the songs. It is the same with any form of expressive or interpretive art. What am I feeling on this line, this note, this lyric, this word? That is question that Devin forgot to ask himself before he entered into the studio. On City, there were blastbeats and heavy guitars and ferocious screams because that is what Devin's heart dictated, but on SYL, they are there because, well, they "fit within the style of the previous albums, so in spite of what my heart tells me to write I'm going to slap them together anyway."

Now, you may be gathering from this review that I think that Devin Townsend has lost his integrity. On the contrary, his creative interests merely lie elsewhere. I recommend the seasoned Devin Townsend fan to proceed directly to his new Devin Townsend Band album Accelerated Evolution and skip over this rushed, forced affair. As for the rest, feel free to listen to this album and enjoy it until your heart's content.

Review by Alec A. Head

Review date: 03/2003

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Review #2:,

If the message board activity on and around this site is any indication of how the world feels about Strapping Young Lad's third, self-titled album, Devy has apparently produced (gasp!) a dud. Thankfully, some people (such as yours truly) still have their heads screwed on straight and can tell an excellent album when they hear one

To anyone who has been following Devin Townsend's career, SYL will not have the mind-bending effect Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing had when it first came out, since the overall atmosphere and wall-of-sound production is very much in the same style as SYL's other studio albums. At this stage, Devin seems happy to keep annihilating his listeners with relentless drum/guitar riffing ("Aftermath") peppered with peerless melodic hooks ("Force Fed") and generally excellent, memorable songwriting. In particular, the middle third of this album is simply flawless: the songs are incredibly intense, balanced and melodic (but only when necessary, which is precisely what attracted me to SYL-the-band in the first place), the drumming is mind-blowing, and the riffs and vocals are some of the best Devin has ever written, with Strapping Young Lad or elsewhere.

My guess is that the people who dislike this album haven't played it loud enough, as it only realizes its full skin-peeling effect at high volumes. That's the only explanation I can think of for the disrespect shown by the masses towards this excellent Strapping Young Lad album.

Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier

Review date: 01/2005

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