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August 7, 2006 | by  | in Music |
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Strapping Young Lad

Canadian industrial metallers Strapping Young Lad have built a career from their issues. Taking their original cues from Fear Factory and Front Line Assembly, but dealing with existential everyman neurosis and playing faster and harder than their influences, they layered up their guitars and topped a literal ‘wall of sound’ with stirring synth lines and vocal melodies.


The New Black
finds SYL departing from their previous themes of madness and personal crisis, shifting to front-man Devin Townsend’s tire of touring and the macho posturing and commercialism of the metal industry. Having gone off his medication to record last year’s Alien, which recaptured the intensity and personal catharsis of their seminal work City, we return to find Townsend making a more simple kind of metal record here, but with more of his prog solo work shining through than ever.

Humour has always infused SYL and Devin’s solo work, along with his plain lyrics and the brutal honesty in song-writing, it has helped humanise this most unlikely of metal beasts. Now the joke is well and truly on the record industry. Songs like ‘Anti-Product’, You Suck’ and most obviously ‘Fucker’ satirise their unlikely ascent to stardom, while adhering to the catchy groove riffs that made previous songs like ‘Love’ and ‘AAA’ so great. Drummer Gene Hoglan (ex-Death, ex-Dark Angel) continues to outdo himself and every other ‘extreme-metal’ skin beater. Live favourite ‘Far Beyond Metal’ gets a proper recording with some fun new lyrics: oh, you ironic pop-rock fuck,

don’t you fuck with metal!”. But the standout gems are the anthemic manifesto for Townsend’s current headspace: ‘Wrong Side’ (“so let’s sing volumes for the souls that aren’t for sale!”) and the blisteringly beautiful ‘Almost Again’.

What could be the final hurrah for a band that has never gotten the attention it deserves… comes with a label sampler of inferior acts that all sell better than this band. What a joke.

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