By 1995, Devin Townsend was at a weird place in his life. Having been abandoned by Steve Vai after touring for the album Sex and Religion
, he had attempted to start up some other projects which all failed. As a result, Devin was left in California without even enough money to return to his home in Canada. All of this made Devy an angry man.
So what does an angry man do? Go on a murderous rampage? Center one-self by becoming a monk? Well the answer for Devin was release his aggression with his new project under the moniker, Strapping Young Lad
with its first album, Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing
. Devin took the reins of this project, for a recording process that according to Devin took only about a week, playing a majority of the instrumentals. He used a drum machine and session musicians on occasion aw well but this project, was mostly Devin.
The title says it all with this album. From start to finish the album strikes the listener with heaviness, but such that is in no way brooding or heavy-handed. The opening track, S.Y.L.
begins with, strangely enough, a child discussing a bear who “ate the kids,” a repetitive clunking news, and, most surprising of all, some techno? This techno-esque music continues through the first verse and chorus but eventually gives way to the more industrial-esque sound SYL fans know and love. This track is one of the highlights of the album and of SYL in general combining menacing verses, all-out insanity, and a surprisingly powerful chorus due to the atmospheric keyboard play.
Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing
continues in this vein throughout the album. The riffs, though mostly chugging, never really get boring and always compliment and push the intensity. The drumming, because it is done by machine, gives the album a strangely robotic feel that actually makes the guitars, keys, and vocals even more intense and menacing. The vocals, well, it’s Devin Townsend. Next to Mike Patton, there is no vocalist that is at the same time terrifying and strangely appealing to the ear. Every second of this album is a vocal highlight so no song can really be pointed at as a true shining moment. Singing, screeching, screaming, cackling, and growling are all utilized by Devin to marvelous effects. The bass is nowhere to be found.
Samples are also prevalent accentuating the music perfectly such in the destruction that is Happy Camper (Carpe B.U.M.)
. The track's mood ranges from face-crushing intensity to head-exploding intensity. The listener receives an oral bludgeoning of vocals that are so fast it seems like scat rather than actual words being sung. The sample at the end states “What a miserable guy!” in a deep voice that lightens the intensity of what was just heard and iterates what the listener is no doubt thinking.
The title of this album also displays another key theme of the music. Metal can be intense AND funny. Tracks like Goat
, The Filler-Sweet City Jesus
and the bonus track Satan’s Ice Cream Truck
are all targeted more at tickling the listener's funny bone and succeed. They are all funny, but at the same time, intense and strong listens. Especially with Satan’s Ice Cream Truck
which combines clown-like crooning in the verses and the most intense growls of the album in the chorus. The song is encouraging the “little kiddies” to hop “inside my van” and get their ice cream, alluding to a pedophile but in the most comedic and innocent of ways (I guess). The only solo to be found on this album is on this track and is so catchy and clean and familiar, it may have the listener get the feeling of squeezing a teddy bear.
It’s hard to see the negatives of an album you truly love but they are there. The production is nowhere near as good as with later SYL releases. The chug, chug, chug riffs could cause technicality-seekers to laugh this off as bad. The bass (if there even is one) is inaudible. The music, however, is not meant to be a showing of virtuoso-ism or technicality. To quote Devin, "Songs didn't really matter; it was just the intensity and the vibe plus lots of humor." That is really what the album is all about.
Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing
sold 143 copies in its first six monthes. Now it’s reissue has been said to be the “rebirth of a genre-defying classic.” Though not a classic it is still a must have for any fan of Devin Townsend, SYL, or Metal in general. It set the groundwork that would eventually lead to the release of City
, a classic. In and of itself, however, it is an album that combines industrial, death metal, and adds some comedy for good measure. It is what death metal should be, intense, angry, and most of all, an enjoyable listen.