Review Summary: You are now Devin’s bitch. Now you’ll sing for him.
Words cannot describe 2005’s Alien
. Not only is Alien
one of the most outstanding outputs from Strapping Young Lad; this record is insane to the point that it simply cannot be described with the word “insane” alone. Devin and the gang really show that they know how to focus your mind, send it in ten different directions, focus it again, then send it in ten different directions again. Even so, part of what makes this record so special is that it is so consistent in comparison to previous records, such as City
and Heavy as a Really Heavy Thing
, while avoiding the lingering sense of redundancy present on their self-titled release. The band does a good job of keeping this level of consistency steady throughout Alien
. Somehow, Strapping Young Lad manages to follow chaotic tracks such as “Shitstorm” with much more normal – rather, traditionally structured – tracks like “Love?” and still sound excellent.
Townsend has stated many times that he believes Meshuggah is the greatest metal band in existence. There is no denying that Meshuggah has influenced Strapping Young Lad’s music on Alien
. Examples include the track “Shitstorm” with its polyrhythmic riffs and Gene Hoglan’s masterful drumming, as well as “Possessions” and “Skeksis” with their deep guitar tones. It is quite interesting how Strapping Young Lad took a path from City
to Strapping Young Lad
that headed in a more death metal oriented direction after their three year hiatus, then decided to change paths to head towards a much more progressive and extreme sound. Not every moment on the album is rapid-fire, though. “Shine” may be crazy compared to most other metal tracks, but it is nothing compared to other tracks on Alien
. Not a problem, of course; in fact, it is what the album needed after four migraine-invoking songs. On the other hand, “Thalamus” can come across as somewhat unnecessary since it follows “Two Weeks”, an acoustic track backed by spacy ambience and flute-like sounds in which Townsend sings about going to the beach. Crazy, right? “Thalamus” did, however, further prove that Townsend can use his voice to create amazing harmonies similar to one at the end of the song “In the Rainy Season” off of the band’s debut.
also introduces to listeners something they have not heard from Strapping Young Lad before: guitar solos. The majority of the guitar solos are but a few seconds long and do not have much musical structure to them, though there is one solo that really stands out. The thrashy headbanger “We Ride” has a solo that comes in two parts, starting off with some interesting sweeping and finishing with some of the catchiest shredding extreme metal has to offer. The track as a whole is short and keeps a steady rapid pace throughout its entirety, making it the best midpoint Alien
All in all, Alien
is an amazing album. Townsend and his fellow band mates have managed to create an outstanding collection of songs that work well together and may give listeners the desire to either punch through every door they approach instead of opening it, or simply just to yell at it saying how much they hate it. Every song on the disc is individually unique, including the album closer “Info Dump”, a track composed of different sounds that all resemble a radio receiving faulty transmissions. Strapping Young Lad have truly crafted an epic piece of metal music.
is really really fucking insane. It is also really really fucking amazing.