Release DetailsLABEL Century Media
RELEASED ON 3/22/2005
Strapping Young Lad
posted on 3/2005 By:
I would adore Alien if I didn't have to review it. Summer day, roll down the windows, throw in some Strapping Young Lad and cruise around terrorizing the homeless and elderly. Splendid. As a metal fan, that's all I want. Really, three square meals and an album I can use to shock and confuse marginalized members of my community. But as a critic, I'm supposed to be above this. I'm supposed to tell you about the inherent flaws of music so obnoxiously heavy. I also have to fill you in on some songwriting decisions that honestly don't bother me all that much, but point to the fact that Devin Townsend might be losing his edge. Apparently, I'm supposed to care.
For the uninitiated, Strapping Young Lad's most defining characteristic is the sheer volume of their recordings. At the heart, it's groove driven thrash, minus the annoying nu-metal leanings and soulless vocalist. Pound for pound, SYL have probably made the loudest album in your collection. Accordingly, these albums are meant to be played at an appropriate level. This is not relax and ponder music. This is music to hate to. It should also be noted that Devin Townsend is clearly not well. He's an astoundingly gifted vocalist possessing a range of styles in which to emote such thought provoking quips as "I can't even fucking piss!" or the utterly hilarious and perfectly placed "What the fuck was that!". Maybe when I grow up I'll fail to see the genius in lines like that. Maybe I'll get a real job, too. The eye of the storm is Gene Hoglan, who pulverizes his drum kit like there's a stash of delicious Cadbury Eggs hidden below the skins. "Possessions" is where it really all comes together. Together Hoglan and Townsend spin about the churning maelstrom created by the utterly devastating mix, unloading their entire arsenal in the process.
The supposed problem is that aside from the sedate "Two Weeks", the entire album consists of various iterations of "Possession." If I wasn't reviewing this album, that would hardly be a problem. In fact, it would probably be the album's strongest asset. But, around spin three or four of Alien, it becomes clear that these are pretty shallow songs used solely as Townsend's vent for his seemingly endless amount of rage. It's a matter of staying power. I can't imagine why anybody besides a reviewer would listen to this album more than once a month, but if you were to embark upon such an endeavor, you'll probably find yourself getting a tad disillusioned.
Strapping Young Lad's brilliance stem from a variety of factors, unfortunately, on Alien diverse and thought provoking song writing isn't really one of them. Intensity, insanity, volume, fun; these are the four pillars of SYL's sound. As a music fan I can't bash that. As a reviewer, I must. Buy this album and listen to it once, enjoy the hell out of it and put it away for a week. Rinse and repeat.
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