Strapping Young Lad - The New Black Review
This came as a bit of a shock to me, so much so I thought it was a wrought. Alright, so less then a year after the awesome release of Alien, Devy and his Strapping crew churn out another album? Considering the gap between their two exceptional albums (1998 to 2005), this should seem more than a slight anomaly. Is this another SYL? Another rush job that we could've done without? Any somewhat perceptive Dev fan would notice that Devy has been working himself into the ground recently with Strapping Young Lad and The Devin Townsend Band. The man himself recently announced a hiatus from music for an undisclosed period of time to actually enjoy life. So, what has he given us to tide us over until he re-emerges? Let's find out.
The New Black is an odd creature; certainly diverting somewhat from the signature sound of Strapping Young Lad. As many others have noticed, its as if Devin has slightly lost focus of what SYL has always been about, and let influences from his various solo projects seep into the album. The album is definitely a mixed bag - a couple of impressive songs, a few terrible ones and too many average ones.
The album kicks off with "Decimator"; starting with fairly characteristic riffing, albeit with a tad more melody. Devy begins with some overtly clean vocals, which to tell you the truth, really, really stuck out when I first heard the album. Now after a number of listens I find the clean vocals do work well, just as they have in the past. The melodic chorus riff - which is more of a Devin Townsend Band riff - works quite well. The song progresses into the usual breakdown, a Vai type guitar solo and a crunching beatdown while voices chant "S - Y - L", of course not without a sense of self aware cheesiness. A solid song, nothing too inventive structure wise, through the melodic chorus worked quite well.
Next up we hit "You Suck," quite possibly one of the cheesiest Strapping songs recorded to date. "Tell me how much they f**king suck (hell yeah they f**king suck), you and your band you f**king suck (hell yeah you f**king suck), I don't give a f**k you f**king f**k" and so on. While the chorus is a bit of fun, the song really suffers from a couple of lackluster passages. Verdict? Average.
"Antiproduct" seems by far the most "Strapping' song so far. The intro is a great cacophony of double bass and noise. The song kicks into a mid-paced verse for an extended period which reminds me of AAA on City. The breakdown is absolutely classic - throw in a brass section, a flute solo and you've got a winner. This song seems to harness Devy's experimentation without losing the original focus of the band. Still not to the level it should be however in terms of structuring. One of the strongest tracks on the album.
"Monument" pisses me off. There are a few good riffs and sections, but there are also some that are boring as bats***. The verse into chorus is pretty sweet, but the stupid f**king prolonged and slowly rising harmony of "Do you wanna know whhhhy, because wweeee love youuu, we retuuuurrrrn, to rock you" is just infuriating. C'mon Dev, don't tell me you didn't realise how much that sucked (hell yeah it f**kin sucked)? I think I'll mark this a miss.
"Wrong Side" reminds me of that self titled Strapping Young Lad album I refuse to acknowledge exists. No thank you. Hope slows down the pace yet again. None too impressive. The overall tempo of the album is so much bloody slower than an average SYL album, it just doesn't add up. It's like only releasing the second half of City and discarding all those crushingly brutal tracks - you know the ones, the absolutely spine crushing mind raping cluster f**ks of brutality? The ones I masturbate to frequently? Yeah, well they're not here.
"Far Beyond Metal," the live classic comes off decently on the CD with the GWAR frontman on hand to add a little extra cheese.
Anyway, I can't be arsed going on any further. You get the idea; some cool songs, some s***ty songs, and no where near up to par. That being said we have to consider the context of this album. Devy has openly stated he put it together to end his contract with Century Media. He has also had a lot published on his current mindset:
I just don't want to HAVE to do Strapping ALL THE TIME. I want the energy to be pure but it's a small aspect of my personality and it can't be pure if it's forced. I could go on doing heavy music forever, but only if allowed to do it when it comes naturally.
On The New Black it is very clear that Devy isn't completely focused and has his mind on other things. After Alien the man more than deserves it, it's just a shame he had to throw out this rushed album to ride over the label. There are some good concepts scattered throughout, but none of them are fully developed. Dev really didn't have his entire heart and mind in this record - that being said, it is not without its merit. Everything Dev creates is part of his own development, part of his psyche. It is more than evident his mind and soul are drained. Let the man rest.
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Posted by Hobo:
Yeah I know. You read the new Terrorizer interview with Dev? Thats more than proof about how disillusioned he is with what he terms 'the rock scene'. This has none of the production values, thought or energy that City or Alien has. He didnt give a fvck on this one. He worked his arse off on Alien and City.
Posted by Abaddon:
To be perfectly honest, i've heard only two songs off this album (3 if you count hearing Far Beyond Metal live). This album, and i'm gonna get pelted, this album, and you're gonna hate me, but this album is as brtually spine-numbing as City. If the rest of the tracks are anywhere as good as the ones i've heard (You Suck, and Wrong Side) then my running water's gettin shut off cuz i'm gonna take the money for that bill and buy this album. If you beg to differ, and believe SYL has lost its luster on TNB, well, you could be right. Cuz, you see, Devy doesn't give a crap about metal. Sure it pays the bills, but he's got a preggnant wife to take care of and a newborn child on the way. Daddy-Devy doesn't give a crap about metal. Devy dun care. So enjoy the music. END.
Posted by Hobo:
Hey this album has Gene Hoglans double click, and Devin Townsend's angry vocals! Its must be SYL! (Just like Limp Bizkit is metal) Good to see you have only the cognitive ability to pick up on the surface noise of Strapping.
Posted by Hobo:
Mate if you cannot see the differences between SYL (off A.H.A.A.R.H.S.), All Hail The New Flesh (City), Skesis (Alien), Concequence (SYL) and You Suck (TNB) in terms of musical concepts, influences, structural complexity lyrical themes, maturity and experimentation in the 11 years the group has been releasing music - then dont worry about it. You dont and wont get it. "Duh, this album be heavy. It is also SYL. Therefore SYL is heavy, and heavyness is to be associated with SYL." Thankyou for your sophisticated analysis and unparallelled insight into one of my favourite bands. If youve only ever heard the self titled album and The New Black then you definately wont understand what I'm talking about. There is far greater depth in terms of sonic intensity, concepts and creativity in moments from City and Alien than less developed recordings like SYL and TNB. Devy has displayed the same power, flair for experimentation and genius in SYL as he has in some of his solo projects. Aside from the SYL album, Strapping has always been predomaintely Devy's work - with varying levels of input from Jed and Gene.
Posted by Matt Hensch:
I think Hobo knows what he's talking about.
Posted by cheap:
what do i think? i think hobo knows very little about syl. the new black screams syl, from the double kick to, hell, the screams. if it were anything like devins solo stuff i would have liked it much better. i dont hate the album, but i dont love it either. what is syl? heavy, so what do they make this album? heavy. what is his solo stuff like? interesting, moving, heavy, soft...the new black does not reflect that at all. how do i know? because i have ears.