Review Summary: The sequel to the band's best-loved album is more restrained in its ambition, and the result is a chaotic kind of brilliance.
First of all gotta say that I always found the cover art to be really beautiful and pleasing to the eyes. It is one those covers that is instantly recognizable so kudos to whoever made it. But of course this wouldn't mean a *** if the music wasn't as good. Thankfully it is. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the album and I think it's a nice time to look back at it in retrospect to see if it has stood the test of time.
After masterpiece that was 1997 album City
the expectations were sky high. Add to this a hiatus for the band while Devin Townsend was busy with his solo work and people were so very eager to listen to the first new material from Strapping Young Lad in more than 5 years. What came out was an album that is more serious in nature and almost doesn't have hints of humor and silliness of some of their other works. I'd even say that this might be the most hostile sounding collection of songs Devin ever penned to this day.
The self-titled album starts with a track Dire
which basically is an intro that sets the tone for what is to come. “Damn, this is the perfect soundtrack to the end of the world”
I thought when first listened to it all the way back in 2003 and still think so. It was exactly what I expected from the follow up to “City”. Grandiose multi-layered sound this band has become known for. The catch is that this track doesn't really represent the sound of the next 35+ minutes. The rest of the album is actually a much more stripped down affair getting rid of massive overdubbing and multi-tracked parts the last album was known for. And I think that the band made a right decision and the production suits these songs well.
The track explodes into what I regard as one the best SYL songs of all time - Consequence
. This is one epic, evil sounding track. While not quite on the “All Hail the New Flesh” level the second track is a magnificent song boasting devastating black metal style riffing, violent vocals and even hints of a very subtle melody reprising previous song's motif. «You Fail! I am Temptation... your Saviour! Now your Soul dies!»
screams Devin in a most vicious manner imaginable and you tend to believe his every word. Definitely one of the most underrated songs in the whole SYL catalog.
is probably the most well known song here thanks to being the sole single from the album with a video made for it. It's a lot more melodic than previous one and features great clean singing while still sounding very heavy overall. I never really loved it all that much but it is for sure one the strongest tracks on the album. The production is particularly great on this making it sound very thick and huge. Now while the Rape Song
may not have an especially interesting music it is saved by its dark twisted lyrics. “Rape is just cause for murdering! Rape gives strength to weakness!”
screams on top of his lungs Devy and you can feel his inner pain while dealing with this heavy topic.
Must admit that I never particularly liked the next track Aftermath
. Always felt it was too long for its own good and kinda repetitive. Still the riffs are skull crushing and I especially love the drum work here from the great Mr. Hoglan. It also features a glimpse of melody too, part of which will be actually reprized later on the album and in a more satisfying way I think. Devour
is probably the closest this album gets to sounding like “City” with its industrial style guitars, multi layered vocals and atmospheric keyboards underneath it all. It's a great song and one of the highlights on the album. «Oh God help me with these dreams, Of one hundred millions souls washed away»
These are some ***ed up dreams Devin was having...
may be the heaviest track here with its crushing riffs and inhuman screams dominating the composition. “I WANT YOUR HATE! LOVE!”
the lyrics compliment the music perfectly. This leads to Force Fed
which is one of my favorites on the album. The heavy sounding verses contrast with the mellow beautiful chorus which works great and is for sure the most melodic moment on the whole disc. “We're young, We'll find a way to love again”
sings Devin in a clean, almost operatic voice giving you a sense of hope for the first time on the entire album.
Now this would've been the perfect end to the album I feel but there are actually two more songs left here. Unfortunately they don't really stand as highlights to me. Dirt Pride
is a fast in your face kinda generic sounding metal song by SYL standards and Bring on the young
is a slow burning epic which doesn't go anywhere particularly interesting music-wise.
In the end I got to say that this album is a real grower and demands a special mood for it to shine in all its dark and twisted glory. The production is unique to all the other their works and as a result the album has a very crisp, hard as nails sound which a lot of longtime Devy and SYL fans don't really dig. At first I didn't think much of it and felt it was too inferior to “City” but after all these years I can say that it has grown on me a lot and now I'd put it on the 2nd place only after their 1997 magnum opus. I know this is an unpopular opinion but I feel it even has a slight edge over “Alien”
not to mention “The New Black” or their debut.
All in all SYL self-titled album remains a very strong effort that is hugely underrated in the metal scene and is one the best metal albums I've listened to, ever. I urge everyone who didn't hear it yet or written it off as inferior to give it another listen with a fresh open mind and maybe you'll change your perception of it. Just try to listen when in the right mood, it goes especially well when you're pissed off to no end :) Some of these songs will raise your broken spirit.