Release DetailsLABEL Century Media
RELEASED ON 7/11/2006
Strapping Young Lad
The New Black
posted on 8/2006 By:
This band really needs no introduction, most of us already know about Strapping Young Lad, are aware of their pedigree, and are familiar with their sound. I don’t know of many people who dislike them, but it’s arguable there are more people who are consistently on the fence with this band than most other groups I can think of off the top of my head. They’ve found their niche audience of sorts, established a respectable reputation, and continue to put out quality material. Personally, I’m a fan, always have been, always will be.
The New Black sounds like more relaxed, less intense SYL, which still retains much of the exciting, dynamic songwriting we’ve come to expect. Strapping Young Lad-lite? Maybe a little bit. As with most SYL albums, this is a bit of a challenge to ingest through multiple sittings, but this release is also a lot less overwhelming to the senses than much of their earlier material. Depending on the reasons why you listen to them, this could be both a good or bad thing. The New Black isn’t really brought down to a more accessible IQ level, nor overly simplified structurally, or tapping into the mainstream for inspiration, but extremity takes a major backseat as far as being all up in your face and killing your ears. The music sounds very organic, and the compositions flow naturally, unrushed, and are somewhat self-contained and cohesive. Double-edged. Heavy. Sarcastic. Groovy. All the trademarks are still there.
I hate to say it, but Devin does sound burnt out. Now, I wouldn’t say the music has suffered for it too terribly, if anything it puts a different spin on the listening experience. It isn’t pieced or patched together, and the band isn’t merely going through the motions for Ozzfest sake, but they appear to have taken this disc with a bigger grain of salt than previous releases. There’s a cathartic feel attached to each track, making for a very relaxing listening experience. This is all well and good, but it’s not what I listen to Strapping Young Lad for. Something is definitely missing, or perhaps The New Black shows its hand too early in the game. The charming unpredictability which begins to gradually fade with repeated listens, the layers of sound and subtlety that reveal secrets as more of the music is comprehended are scaled way down.
I do have to give credit to drummer Gene Hoglan, for his performance here is even more astounding than usual due to his effective execution of fascinating cymbal embellishments and busily executed footwork, some of the fastest you’ll hear from the man, truthfully. Anyone who considers Hoglan to only be an immensely capable thrash-drumming one trick pony needs to take a serious listen to The New Black, because the contrasts of brutal speed along with Gene’s deceptively graceful, nearly delicate accents are easily the most impressive thing to behold on this album. I just wished the rest of the music matched his incrediblly textured performance.
Overall, The New Black is a little confusing, for all the qualities we’ve come to know and love about Strapping Young Lad are present and accounted for, there just seems to be so much less of them to enjoy. I liked the challenge of earlier albums more, but compared to the rest of the metal scene at the moment, especially concerning the Ozzfest crowd, this release does just fine. Again, I’m saying most of this as a fan, not totally as a critic, but at the end of the day, The New Black is simply a new SYL album, and not much else.
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