Strapping Young Lad



by Toaster USER (4 Reviews)
September 13th, 2005 | 1516 replies

Release Date: 1997 | Tracklist

At some point in every band’s career, there is a point where vision and accomplishment collide; that is, a point where the pinnacle of a band’s creativity and originality is reached. For Canada’s Strapping Young Lad, this album is without a doubt their 1997 release, City. Although only the band’s second record, City is as focused and energetic an album as you are likely to hear. Fraught with originality, innovation, and confidence, City is SYL’s defining moment. The orchestrated vocals, layered-beyond-belief guitars, jackhammer drums, banshee howls and the enormous amount of sampling and synth work are all part of the musical trademark that Strapping Young Lad established. This album is simultaneously thinking man’s metal and pummelling death/black metal, devastating to the first-time listener but ultimately rewarding to the persistent ear.

Strapping Young Lad:
Vocals, Main Guitar, Samples/Programming: Devin Townsend
Drums: Gene Hoglan
2nd Guitar: Jed Simon
Bass Guitar: Byron Stroud

The track listing for this album is perfect. I’ll list the track, then rate it on a 0-5 scale.

Velvet Kevorkian: The introduction to City starts with an eight count, then plummets directly into a sea of layered vocals, samples, and guitar. The song churns for awhile, while Devin’s harmonized vocals soar over the dense guitar riff, until the tension breaks and the song explodes. The song ends with an open guitar chord, bringing us straight into the next song. An extremely well orchestrated song, perfect mood setter for the rest of the album. 5/5

All Hail the New Flesh: This song is widely considered SYL’s best, ever. The opening riff is pure adrenaline, especially with Mr. Hoglan’s pounding blast beat raging behind it. However, when the song “opens up” and Devin’s scream comes through, the true nature of Strapping Young Lad is revealed to the listener. Through four and a half minutes of extreme rage and magnificence, including a beautifully sung chorus, this song makes it hard for me to give it only a perfect score. 5/5

Oh My F**king God: Following beauty, the beast. Hoglan’s swift drum solo kicks off this track, and he continues to impress with his double bass work throughout. When Devin screams for the first time, I get goosebumps. This song’s main riff is an unstoppable musical steamroller, and put to Townsend’s rapid-fire vocals, beats the listener into submission over and over. The chorus is a highlight, where Devin chants “Oh-My-Fu-*king-God”, and the guitar slashes away on a low, rigid note. Just when the song seems to reach its breaking point, Devin lets out a vicious ten-second gurgle and the song kicks the intensity up another notch. The interlude, featuring Townsend wildly yelping “la la la la” over and over, gives the listener the impression of a man losing his sanity. The song finally ends with a horrific wail, and a strange beeping sample. Frighteningly heavy, severe song. 5/5

Detox: Mainstream singles always tend to be the bands’ best songs, whereas metal singles rarely get across the feel of the band. Not so with City’s single, Detox. A cool riffs starts this one off, and Devy shouts, “I hate that stupid piece of s**t,” one of the many nonsensical quotes that could be taken from this song. The song stays dormant for awhile, until Townsend sings, “I’ve got a feeling, with the wrong people”, where the song rises in mood a little. Actually, overall this song has a very “positive” feel, a great juxtaposition with the previous song. During the bridge, the song gets nearly too happy, with no complex drumming, a major vocal line and an almost joyful guitar riff. The song gets a bit heavier after the bridge, but never really changes its mood. An excellent song, but a bit too monotone. 4.4/5

Home Nucleonics: The most powerfully heavy song I have ever heard. After a brief, ironic-sounding sample (“The beat starts here.”), a huge blast-beat driven guitar riff molests the ears of the listener. The lyrics to the verse are undeniably creepy, and some of the screams that Devin pulls of are just terrifying. The double bass work during the chorus will impress even the most learned death-metal drummer, and at the risk of repeating myself, I must say Townsend shrieks like a demon from the most torturous pits of Satan’s realm. During the bridge section (“Hating, burning, waiting, falling”), the song is taken to new levels of heaviness as Devy roars diabolically and samples add to the thickness of the mix. The end is so bloodcurdling, you need to hear it for yourself. Pure lunacy, from start to finish. 5/5

AAA: A slower song, AAA is a nice break from the prior five songs. A guttural guitar part brings us to Devin reminiscing his teenage years, apparently. (“Devy in the corner of his teen year, born to run away. Children in the middle with the village idiot, so he never made the potty grade.”) This whole song gives a feeling of disgust, somehow. The lyrics and guitar lines seem to just ooze grunginess. However, after the second chorus, the song picks up a bit. The riffs become more heavy, and the mood just seems angrier. A terrifically depressing song, and a SYL classic. 5/5

Underneath The Waves: A generally overlooked song on this album, Underneath The Waves is a solid thrasher, nonetheless. The verse is neat, where the guitar drops out and Devin barks, “On and on, it’s on and on.” The chorus is strangely beautiful, in its own way. Devin’s vocal line fits well over this guitar and synth. However, the song really never does enough to make its mark upon the listener. Probably the weakest song on City, but the quality tells you something about this album as a whole. 4.1/5

Room 429: This is a cover of 90’s industrial/experimental band Cop Shoot Cop. The song is heavily reliant on synths, and Devin’s voice pretty much carries the song. The lyrics are undeniably thought provoking, as well. The chorus is pretty catchy, and the bridge is just awesome in every way. However, the song seems pretty repetitive, and lacks the SYL trademark, for obvious reasons. Still first-rate. 4.7/5

Spirituality: The last song on City. This song, while over six minutes, has minimal guitar or drum work, relying mostly on Devin’s harmonized vocal lines to add colour. With no real structure, Spirituality seems to be more of a gloomy, miserable reflection on the purpose of life. The song starts slowly, with thick, heavily distorted guitar and tons of samples and white noise. After a couple of minutes Devin comes in with some of his best lyrics, (“You’ll never know what you try to be if you want to be it…God help the king of nothing.”) The song really never changes mood, although Townsend’s vocals are truly moving. Spectacular, just be sure to take it in the right context. 5/5

With City, Strapping Young Lad have produced one of the most dense, original and moving works I have heard in my life. While the overall mood is crushingly depressing and ironic, Devin Townsend obviously doesn’t want to be taken too seriously. (The album is “dedicated to pee and poo”, and at the end of Spirituality a computer-generated voice intones, “Strapping Young Lad rocks my hairy anus.”) A masterpiece that all music lovers should hear, if only to hear something truly radical and deviant.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
September 13th 2005


Well, this is certainly a better review than the last one. I really need som SYL, as I've never heard any.

September 13th 2005


Album Rating: 5.0

Thank you. I recommend City, as if that wasn't blatantly obvious from my review.

September 13th 2005


Good review. You really went into a lot of detail for each track. Do more reviews.

Storm In A Teacup
September 13th 2005


Once again, great reveiw toaster! Nice, I'll probably pick this up first.

September 13th 2005


Nice review.This cd is good but doesnt deserve a 5.

November 19th 2005


Album Rating: 5.0


But your opinion is your opinion, thats cool.

I love this album personally. It's an absolute modern classic. ^_^

November 20th 2005


Album Rating: 5.0

This album deseves a five as it owns.

Adam Jones is GOD
November 20th 2005


Album Rating: 4.0

Great album, expecailly when watching other people listen for the first time. (Great seeing people headbang while laughing hysterically.)

February 18th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

I have seen these guys live 3 times and they always impress me. Best album from these guys in my opinion.

February 18th 2006


Strapping Young Lad is one of the most insane bands I have ever heard.

One may think they are a somewhat average American metal sounding band on the surface (I did when I got into them, based on their single from Alien, Love?). However, once you put it on, you realize that no American metalcore band can write something like this.

From Townsend's unbelievable vocals (how does he speak the next day?) to the uberheavieness to Hoglan's ungodly drums, this band is pure chaos. Absofuckingloute chaos.

And yet they make it work.

This album, compared to Alien, is loads better. Vocals are more crazy, guitar lines are a bit more interesting, drums are just as good, more electronic elements...tis brilliance.

Strapping Young Lad seem to have found a very marketable style of music though. They have enough teen angst to satisfy the mallcore crowd, yet have enough metal elements to please the actual metalhead crowd, and everyone in between who likes heavy music.

April 4th 2006


Wow. Just, wow.

I just listened to this for the first time, and I am so very impressed.

It's like my head just got blown off.

April 4th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

^ good going. you should check out all of SYLs stuff along with Devins solo stuff

April 15th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

They all look like serial killers but theyre al extremely nice guys and appreciate their fans, although it doesent seem like it with devys onstage persona, devy is a completely different person off stage. he gets caught up in the agression

Diabulus in musica
May 23rd 2006


Are the vocals anything like a death metal band??the growls where you cant understand shit??or are they more melodic??

May 23rd 2006


Album Rating: 4.0

the band can be comparable to melodic death, with both screams andf clean vocals. The clean vocals areexcellent, but the harsh vocals are not like death metal at all. They're very high pitched and can be comparable if not better then most black metal.

June 28th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

How does this album only have 16 comments!!!! These guys kick sooooooo much ass !!!! They deserve more credit. But anyway, this album it amazing. From the crushing guitars to the pounding drums, i love it all!!!!

Spoonful of Shame
July 12th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

These guys own. I am seeing them live again on the 17th.


November 5th 2006


Album Rating: 3.0

I like how nothing could be a 4.5, the ratings that weren't 5/5 were totally overcomplicated.

Great album though.

November 26th 2006


Album Rating: 5.0

City was my second SYL album. Didn't like it as much. It was more of a relief to hear more SYL.

May 15th 2007


Album Rating: 2.5

Intense...i must say

Musically brutal and compact but still melodic and technically awesome

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