Strapping Young Lad
Alien


4.5
superb

Review

by Shattered_Future USER (50 Reviews)
March 10th, 2006 | 23 replies


Release Date: 2005 | Tracklist


Being bipolar is (Iím assuming) not a fun thing. One would think you would be absolutely submittive to your feelings, feeling fine one minute and wanting to throw yourself out a window the next. Since parents canít bear to have their children imperfect in any way, it is usually treated with a ridiculous amount of medication, which may or may not be beneficial to the user.

However, being bipolar CAN have its advantages. Such is the case of Strapping Young Lad.

A project of everybodyís favorite Canadian, the mastermind Devin Townsend, Strapping Young Lad is basically balls out metal. While Townsendís normal music is enough to strike the listener with a ďeau de what the fuck" attitude, he evidently wanted something more. Strapping Young Lad was formed with the intention to just let out all his anger and rage into a project, maybe writing some music along the way or not. Whatever the case may be, it worked, and Strapping Young Lad has enjoyed as much success as a band of their ilk can achieve.

Strapping Young Lad - Alien

Released: March 22, 2005 on Century Media Records

Members:
Devin Townsend: Lead Vocals/Guitars/Programming
Jed Simon - Guitars
Byron Stroud - Bass
Gene Hoglan - Drums

As the sticker on the CD states, Alien is ďThe Soundtrack To Our Impending Armageddon". Tis a rather fitting title, really...although some records donít really deserve the labels that are put onto them, this one certainly does.

At first glance, SYL may appear to be your standard, run of the mill metalcore band. However, it takes a deeper glance to truly see the genius of this band.

As usual, anything with Devin Townsend in it is bound to be weird as hell, and absolutely terrifying. And he does NOT disappoint here. One wonders how he can talk the next day after you hear his vocals. He can sing some (and does it decently enough) but the real treat are his screams. He has the range of a bull crossed with a castrated seal, and everything in between. Itís (as was stated before) flat out terrifying. Chaotic, unrestrained, and one of the harshest things youíll ever hear, youíll enjoy it. Really.

The instrumental portion, excepting Hoglan (more on that later) is good enough . Itís not too complicated, tis your basic Drop C riffing patterns with a few harmonic minor scales and a couple of solos thrown in for good measure. Tremolo picking and heaviness are abound in this release. Townsend is actually a better guitarist then he lets on to be in here (I saw him live, he pulled off some crazy crap), and this release shows them branching out a bit. Whereas their earlier albums were solid heaviness, there are a few moments here where there are notes NOT played on the bottom 3 strings.

So, you may be wondering...sure, the guy can sing, but it sounds like the music youíre describing is boring as hell. What gives? Why is this so good?

Iíll tell you.

Yes, there is your standardish metalcore crossed with evil sounding riffs on here. Boring. It works, but you may want something more. What takes a while to sink in is HOW FAST the music is actually going. Looking at some SYL tabs, I thought it would be a piece of cake. It truly isnít. The guitars are FAST. AS. HELL. Trempicking at 185 beats per minute takes some skill, ladies and gentlemen. While they may not be the most technical musicians out there, the guitars and bass DO play pretty damn fast. Which is no small feat.

Beastly guitar riffs need a beastly drummer. Aside from being as big as his drumset (he has earned the title ďThe Grand Walrus" among me and my friends), Gene Hoglan is also one of the greatest drummers I have ever heard. This dude is FAST, and can more than keep up with Townsend and tow. He is living proof of the theory that fat people make good musicians. His double pedal work is impeccable, and while he only has one speed (hyperdrive) he somehow makes it work. Think the guy from Dragonforce, except knowing more than 2 drumbeats.

There is also programming scattered throughout the music. A lot of programming. A lot of it is quite unsettling, from the cries of children on Possessions to the xylophone riffage on Skeksis. Townsend has a knack for programming, not only for his solo stuff, but for this as well. I tried to cover a SYL song, and aside from it being nigh impossible to play because of the speed, there is a lot of stuff that you donít really notice (synth parts, weird little doodads and whatnot) that makes the music sound much fuller.

So, recipe for a Strapping Young Lad album: make 7 songs in essentially the same vein (balls out, fast as hell, pure fucking mayhem metal), add an acoustic track, 2 somewhat experimental, yet still ungodly heavy songs, and close with an 11 minute synth/sample instrumental, in the vein of drone greats such as Earth or Sunn O))), except without the G standard guitars. Did I mention the band was a bit weird?

Strapping Young Lad have a rather ingenious formula to making their music though. They have enough angst and heaviness for the mallcore and nu-metal crowd, yet they have enough talent for the actual metalheads, and they have stuff for everybody in between as well. Itís remarkable that they are just starting to become successful now.

Recommended Tracks, anybody?

Imperial/Skeksis: The first two tracks on the album, the first being an intro of sorts, it immediately plunges you into what the group is all about. Fast, heavy, insanity, samples, and Townsend, basically. The second song, while still fast and ungodly heavy, is the longest, and maybe the best, on the album. Musically, this song rips. Hoglanís versatility is immense here; even though he doesnít stray much from fast, his beats and fills are crazy. The guitar riffing is terrific, the added programming enhances the music (shred xylophone, anyone?), and there are some guitar things in the vein of Behold...The Arctopus, almost.

Shitstorm: THIS shows your marketability factor in the band. The lyrics are standard self hating, I hate myself and everyone around me fare, but they are delivered with the intent of causing unholy night terrors. Surely Townsendís best vocal effort on the album, his range and insanity are brought full circle here, truly, as the song puts it, ďshowing you whoís crazy".

Love: The single from the album, it comes in three flavors: single version, album version, and weird crazy extended version (which I have no idea where it comes from). Many dislike this song, as itís MUCH more radio-friendly than the rest of the bandís stuff...tis CATCHY, almost. Itís quite good, though, the drums are, as usual, excellent, and Townsend manages to squeeze in some 15 second or so screams.

We Ride: Oddly enough, it really DOES give you the impression of being a crazy motorcycler. Does not relent for any of its 2 minutes and 37 seconds, it stays the same tempo (700 miles per hour), and shows the bandís first attempt at a solo section. The solos are the same as the music: chaotic, basically. It also shows more of Townsendís insanity (and humor) with some rather ďinteresting" lyrical content.

Overall: Donít drug your kids. Bipolar disorder is good for the metal community, though parents and the general population may not agree. Strapping Young Lad deliver one of their most chaotic releases to date in this 11 track package. Oddly enough, itís good as well.

Final Rating: 9.5/10

*Note*: If you ever get to see this band, or Townsendís solo project live, youíre in for a treat. Itís a concert and a comedy show wrapped together. Townsendís sense of humor is impeccable, and he delivers jokes better than most comedians around today. Also, the band makes their nonserious approach to their music work, almost. Itís filled with a bunch of quirky moments.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Thor
March 10th 2006


10202 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Eh, I'm not so big on this band, but good review anyways.

Jawaharal
March 10th 2006


1832 Comments


I don't like these guys. But your review was really good.

Storm In A Teacup
March 10th 2006


13191 Comments


C0OL REVIEW.

Music Nerd
March 10th 2006


95 Comments


I congratulate you on the review. Very well done. I am getting this album right now, I've heard too many good things about SYL to ignore.

Aakon_Keetreh
March 10th 2006


448 Comments


I have heard about this band. Never bothered to check them out.

Mass Murder Machine
March 11th 2006


3 Comments


Amazingly brilliant. The drumming is with out question a step up from 90% of everything out there these days. Please retract the "metalcore" reference as it does not fit SYL.

Shattered_Future
March 11th 2006


1541 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I didn't say they were metalcore. I said most people would dismiss them as sounding like metalcore, when in reality, they aren't at all.

Mass Murder Machine
March 11th 2006


3 Comments


oops

whatduffhuck7
March 11th 2006


163 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

townsend's solo work is pretty damn good as well, bit slower but still good

Cravinov13
March 11th 2006


3854 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

this CD kicks major azz

GuitaristPaul
March 11th 2006


51 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

love this cd

FR33L0RD
November 1st 2007


1464 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Interesting brutal/prog. metal

KILL
February 5th 2009


72090 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

This album is face rape

Digging: Steve Hackett - Out of the Tunnel's Mouth

Hawks
February 5th 2009


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah it is.

jrowa001
February 5th 2009


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

i remember when i saw SYL live and Devin was talking before they were going to play Zen, and he asked the crowd, "What state are we in right now?" and all the dumbies said, "California!" but i said "ZEN!!" then he screamed while looking at me (i was very close to the stage), "THATS RIGHT MOTHERFUCKER, WE ARE IN THE STATE OF PURE MOTHERFUCKING ZEN!" then they starting playing the song. probably the most awesome concert moments in my life

Hawks
February 5th 2009


35838 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Thats pretty fucking cool.

jrowa001
February 5th 2009


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah it was so awesome. he is probably the coolest, funniest, weirdest man on the planet. you would think hed be a jerk to people but when i met him after the show he joked around and was having a good time. my friend has played guitar with him at NAMM a few times.

gaslightanthem
February 5th 2009


5209 Comments


he's fucking ugly though

jrowa001
February 5th 2009


8750 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

so. the skullet is win

gaslightanthem
February 5th 2009


5209 Comments


oh the man is win



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